Laysha's Lessons

Laysha’s Lessons with Laysha Ward

We’ve been hearing about “The Great Resignation” for months, and a recent EY study provides some insight around why people are leaving their jobs in such large numbers. The top three reasons given by employee respondents when asked why they quit their jobs? Not feeling valued by their organizations, not feeling valued by their managers, and not feeling a sense of belonging at work. 

These answers suggest to me that we need “The Great ReConnection” - a rekindling of relationships and a renewed focus on community. After living and working in unexpected and socially distanced ways for nearly two years, many of us are ready to deepen our connections with others. 

Your “connection currency” – the social capital you accrue by developing authentic relationships – has likely been diminished following the events of 2020 and 2021. While the past two years have proven that it’s feasible for many (but not all) to work remotely, they have also underscored the importance of personal connections. It turns out those simple hellos in the hallway, conversations between meetings, and group interactions (coffees, happy hours, offsites, etc.) were a more important part of work than many of us realized. The unmooring of these workplace norms has left a lot of folks feeling a bit untethered – and anxious about reconnecting. 

And it’s not surprising. Social belonging is a fundamental human need, “hardwired” into human DNA. When employees feel like they belong, they deliver better job performance, fewer sick days and are more likely to stay. Connections at work help individuals feel like part of a team, and they can make work easier. Brene Brown captures the essence of belonging best. She says, “Fitting in is the greatest barrier to belonging, because fitting in says, ‘Be like them to be accepted.’ While belonging says, ‘This is who I am. I hope we can make a connection.’”

Making authentic connections is what The Great ReConnection is all about. In an increasingly digital workplace, without the benefit of more proximate in-person conversations, our connections need more intentional care and feeding.

Making authentic connections is what The Great ReConnection is all about. In an increasingly digital workplace, without the benefit of more proximate in-person conversations, our connections need more intentional care and feeding. And in an increasingly polarized society, where civility and respect often feel like bygone values, authentic human connections are the pathway to kindness and decency.

But many people are feeling a bit rusty when it comes to social skills. And that’s okay, because we can improve. Knowing relationships are essential to our well-being, we must give them the attention they deserve. With our commitment to “Care, Grow & Win Together,” Target has made team connections a major priority. Even though Headquarters team members are largely working from home, many of us make frequent (masked) visits to our stores and check in on a regular basis to show our appreciation for our stores and supply chain teams, who are unwavering in their outstanding service to our guests.

I rely on both new and old school methods to sustain authentic connections. For example, I check in frequently – via text, phone call, instant message or a handwritten note – to let people know I’m thinking of them. I find these small actions benefit me as much as the recipient. And if you’re feeling anxious about reconnecting, a thoughtful text or handwritten note can be a fairly easy way to step back into social connectivity. 

And from a digital currency perspective, we have a lot of options for keeping connections alive. Through LinkedIn, for example, I’ve made new connections with people I may never meet in person but who have helped fill my cup during the past two years. And as part of the “Mocha Moguls” – a group of 10 Black senior executive women leaders from all over the country – I stay connected through Zoom and an active text conversation to a group that has become a trusted and safe space. The group was born of the pandemic, fueled by the murder of George Floyd and too many others, and cemented by authentic conversation. We haven’t been together in person as a group since the beginning of the pandemic – and yet our digital connections have strengthened us personally and professionally in meaningful ways.

We have an opportunity to make 2022 the year of authentic human connections. Because we need genuine human relationships now more than ever. We need The Great ReConnection.

We have an opportunity to make 2022 the year of authentic human connections. Because we need genuine human relationships now more than ever. We need The Great ReConnection.

This is a very personal journey, and to move forward, we need to meet each other where we are. Some of us are eager and ready to see each other face to face and others still feel most comfortable with virtual options – and others, like me, feel firmly planted and rooted in a hybrid world, leveraging both. Listening and valuing these different perspectives is an important part of nurturing our community of connections.

Start your journey to reconnection today. Make a list of the people you miss and want to reconnect with in 2022, as well as those you want to get to know and why. As you make your plan, ask yourself, “What’s my goal? What do I want to teach, give and accomplish? What do I want to learn and receive?" And then take the first step. Set up a conversation, in person or virtual, or pick up the phone for a chat. And know that it’s okay to feel anxious or uncertain. Remember, the last couple of years have been rough on everyone, in one way or another. We can help each other find our way back by reconnecting. 

By committing ourselves to The Great ReConnection, we just might find ourselves blessed with the right people in our lives, who challenge our assumptions, celebrate our wins, comfort us in defeat, and keep us moving forward, in the direction of our purpose.

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