We need to work to create boundaries around the time we spend on technology. Without any established ground rules around the use of zoom call, emails and other remote solutions we risk using the precious commodity of time poorly.

When it comes to designing the future of work, one size fits none. Discovering success isn’t about a hybrid model or offering remote work options. Individuals and organizations are looking for more freedom. The freedom to choose the work model that makes the most sense. The freedom to choose their own values. And the freedom to pursue what matters most. We reached out to successful leaders and thought leaders across all industries to glean their insights and predictions about how to create a future that works.

As a part of our interview series called “How Employers and Employees are Reworking Work Together,” we had the pleasure to in Interview Leslie Yerkes.

Leslie Yerkes is a seasoned consultant, author, speaker, educator, and coach. She jumped off the traditional career ladder young and naïve looking for meaningful work, leadership, good management and the freedom to make a big difference. Being an entrepreneur is the best bootcamp in the world. Leslie has navigated her company, Catalyst Consulting Group, Inc. and her client’s organizations through almost four decades of change. She is still discovering her relevancy, her contribution and growing herself and her clients.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today.

I believe in the power of formative experiences. Asking individuals that I am interviewing “What are the formative experiences that makes you the person you are today?” is my favorite interview question. So, I have given this question much thought. The formative experiences that have contributed to who I am and how it shaped my career path are:

My experience in a dysfunction family. I was born into a family who had lost a young son. My parents were shadows of their former selves and my elder sister lost. I was the ‘fixer’ of my family from the moment I arrived. I have always been the one to jump into the void of leadership and bring my energy to the need. Today, I try hard not to fix, as people are not broken, but facilitate them in achieving their own growth.

The second most formative experience that has shaped me, is the year I spent as a foreign exchange student in Sydney, Australia. A letter could take six weeks to arrive and six weeks to return. I was really on my own to discover my values and identity far from home. I was placed in a very traditional family who accepted me unconditionally and has been a role model for love and laughter in my life. I carry my Aussie self in my pocket every where I go. “I will not ‘get too tall for my poppies’”.

In the last ten years I have had several adult formative experiences that continue to deepen my well of experience and well-being. My approach to life is to find the lesson in every experience even those most difficult.

Let’s zoom out. What do you predict will be the same about work, the workforce and the workplace 10–15 years from now? What do you predict will be different?

The first part of the question is easy because people are people and I believe that people are basically good, well-intended, able to learn if they want to and that two heads are better than one. If we work to create conditions that leverage individual strengths while working a shared mission with shared values people are very responsive.

Leadership and good management will continue to be the most important ingredients to creating the right conditions for great efforts. Add self-motivated individuals to that recipe sourced thought a robust hiring processes with support and development then together will be able to navigate any change on the horizon.

Technical skills will continue to be important. However, the competencies of emotional intelligence will continue to be essential.

As we learn to live in a pandemic world where many of our social, economic, environmental, organizational, and political systems are dying we are tasked with birthing new ways for working and living.

Though we have learned we can work remotely, we will find that there is a human need to connect and collaborate that can only be met by being together. In a crisis we can respond and work separately, however, to nurture the collective culture of a group of people they need to ground their relationships in being together to establish trust, boundaries and develop themselves together.

We have mastered the remote work world well and so will be able to span the boundaries of geography with more grace. We will seek more global collaborations.

The workforce will be very diverse. Individuals will be connecting with work longer into their lives. We will have a magical stew of many generations, ethnicities, genders, and orientations combining to make a potential rich environment for learning and performance.

Women will be more prominent in leadership and men will find themselves able to stretch and grow into new social norms.

The one constant will be change.

We will use technology. However, we will dance with the simpler ways of relating and connected. What was once considered old fashioned will be revived as valuable.

We will continue to be challenged to bridge polarization. There is a great opportunity to step up.

I have confidence that we will take responsibility for the change of our generations….nothing brings people together better than a crisis.

What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?

Accept that the environment is going to continue to change and evolve.

Be sure to ask all the questions that need to be explored before making big decisions. Observe how other companies are navigating the changes. Listen to all the voices.

Hold your mission, values and eyes on the vision front and center in all decisions and interactions.

Be prepared to undo something you put in place. Going backwards is not failure. Failing to recognize and respond appropriately to the need is.

Stay connected, real and transparent in all your communication.

Be very intentional in all your communication and interactions.

Embrace that good things can come from these challenges.

Stay rested and in balance. Manage the effects of stress proactively.

Don’t forget to have fun and celebrate the milestones!

What do you predict will be the biggest gaps between what employers are willing to offer and what employees expect as we move forward? And what strategies would you offer about how to reconcile those gaps?

I feel strongly that the employer who executes consistently on the fundamentals of great leadership and good management including hire well, orient with intention, stay connected, invest in their development, keep your culture on the top of the agenda, communicate, communicate, communicate, provide feedback and recognition regularly, attend to the needs quickly, be human and humane, treat them as adult partners, and work together to solve complex issues and the day-to-day needs of relationship. — these employers will retain their workforce and attract talent with their reputations.

We will be adapting how we design our working environments, our use of technology and how we convene our selves for planning, learning, and working.

But, the marketplace will settle down and the good employers who invest in their leadership, managers, culture, learning and do the fundamentals of relationship well will rise without turning themselves inside out.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t need to change with the times. Healthy organization should have equity, inclusion, and diversity top of the agenda. The time to make and commit to environmentally sustainable practices is now. Power and profits need to be shared. Let’s hospice the dying practices and be the mid-wife leaders to the 21st Century of working well with people at the forefront.

We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?

Right now, the good employees are still working hard, the moderate performers are building a lifestyle around ‘working from home’ and the poorly performing employees are still not contributing the commitment or effort. In fact, these poorly performing employee are creating issues for the rest of your workforce.

Making the decision to work remotely, in a hybrid fashion or in a shared facility should be explored regularly. Some question you should ask yourself to make these decisions are:

• What do we know about the pandemic going forward?

• What do we need to do to keep our workforce, their families, and our customers safe and healthy?

• What protocols do we require to operate?

• Do we have a structure (team) to monitor and lead the decisions and actions needed to be responsive to changing conditions?

• How do our proposed decisions support:

– Our mission?

– Our values?

– Our vision?

– Our customers?

– Our culture?

• How does the format of our work support:

– Performance?

– Quality?

– Safety?

– Finances?

– Learning?

– Retention?

– Relationships?

• What technology do we need to support the way we are working?

• What do we need to learn to succeed in the new way of working?

• Do we need to consider new ways to use email, remote meeting technology, and parameters for when individuals need to be available to their co-workers?

• Are we creating any inequities in our choices?

• Do we need to align any policies, procedures, and human resources systems to balance our flexible ways of working?

• How do we measure the effectiveness of our decision and the new way of working?

• How do we bring new employees into the fold most effectively?

• What’s working for you?

I am most concerned about the inequities that we are creating in the decisions that we are making about ‘working from home’. When these inequities create disconnects, we start to see cracks in our culture, trust, and performance.

We’ve all read the headlines about how the pandemic reshaped the workforce. What societal changes do you foresee as necessary to support a future of work that works for everyone?

Transparency in all that we do. A commitment to a discussion of values and our ‘true north’ behaviors that pulls us together and not apart or foster the ‘tug of war’. Being prepared to let go of what we have been attached to in the past and what contributes to our struggle. Finding the common ground in every situation of discord. Thoughtful, calm leadership that acknowledges the complexity of the power and systems of privilege. Holding the long-term as the measure of good decision making — how what we do will affect the next seven generations and the seven beyond that.

What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?

I do believe that individuals are basically good, well-intended, able to learn if they want to and that together we are better. It has served me well as guiding principles thus far and fuels my faith that we can find a path to a future where everyone prospers.

Our collective mental health and wellbeing are now considered collateral as we consider the future of work. What innovative strategies do you see employers offering to help improve and optimize their employee’s mental health and wellbeing?

I would love to see us all commit to a percentage of time and resources allocated to every person’s development, time for mindfulness, reflection and renewal, and proactive daily practices for battling stress. In Asia you will see groups starting their day with Tai Chi or other group exercise. It is a healthy practice that should be shared by all.

We need to recognize issue of stress and mental health and have strategies, systems, and structures within the workplace to attend to the needs proactively and responsively. The stress is not going to go away. It is an enemy to battle back all the time with balanced efforts. We should work to remove stigmas that prevent us from embracing the needs of our humanness.

It seems like there’s a new headline every day. ‘The Great Resignation’. ‘The Great Reconfiguration’. And now the ‘Great Reevaluation’. What are the most important messages leaders need to hear from these headlines? How do company cultures need to evolve?

It is our ‘Great Opportunity’ to rise and commit to doing the fundamental of work and working relationships well. Those organizations that do will attract and retain their talent and continue to flourish. Those that look for the ‘quick fix’ or ‘silver bullet’ will struggle. The marketplace is shedding organizations that cannot adapt and rise to the new standards. This will create new opportunities for us all. Are you ready to do the hard, yet important work?

Are you ready to seize the opportunities that come from big shifts?

Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”

• Are you feeling an insatiable fatigue and sense of overwhelm that causes you to resist committing to RSVPing for engagements until the very last minute — if that? If you are trying to convene a group of individuals, are you finding it hard to garner a solid commitment to the activity?

• Is your calendar a moving target of changing commitments? Do you feel like you have lost your full agency over your time? Do your feel the need to be perpetually flexible in how each day will shape up and what commitments will hold and not stay in place? Is your calendar more chaotic than a Rubik cube with moving parts even more complex and quicksand like then before the pandemic?

• Is your email inbox a black hole warping minutes into hours of lost time? Does our dependence for doing work via email or zoom calls contribute to losing one’s hold on the email inbox, fatigue, a lack of time for reflection and integrative thinking, and an on-going sense of stress of never being caught up?

• Do you feeling running away from it all and going ‘whole-hog’ into the pent-up need for a vacation.

• Are you finding yourself saying ‘No’ more often and scaling back on commitments to find renewal and a clear, intentionality around purpose?

• Have you observed that those around you and even you yourself have lost some fundamental core skills that you used to use daily but now have quietly faded away with low use? In the third year of a new way of working, have you observed any loss of capacity?

• Are you watching the ‘push-pull’ of responses to the political and economic climate with some people choosing to isolate and hoard while others choose coming together with shared resource strategies (carpooling, group purchasing, etc.)? Which is your first instinct? What is the culture of your workplace and what direction are people naturally pulling or pushing?

We have access to more content than ever before with schools and universities creating on-line solutions with thought-leaders reaching out via technology. If everyone takes advantage of the wealth of content, it could act as an equalizer when there are economic disparities. The secret is access.

We need to work to create boundaries around the time we spend on technology. Without any established ground rules around the use of zoom call, emails and other remote solutions we risk using the precious commodity of time poorly.

Lastly, we are returning to 19th and 20th century solutions. These include gardening, canning foods, making bread, and starting business that pull us back to specialty shops instead of big box solutions. Maybe both can co-exist. Not everything can be bought on amazon.

I keep quotes on my desk and on scraps of paper to stay inspired. What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? And how has this quote shaped your perspective?

“A career is a scavenger hunt for love.” Marcus Buckingham, author, Love + Work.

“Everyone is replaceable but not replicable.” Marcus Buckingham, author, Love + Work.

“Unless commitment is made there are only promises and hopes; but no plans.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He, she, or they might just see this if we tag them.

Could we make it a three-some with Michelle Obama and Sir Richard Branson. I always learn from all interactions. I admire Michelle as she has found her voice and ways to contribute in very meaningful ways regardless of obstacles and serious challenges, yet she maintains an abundant, inclusive, wise approach to creating well-being in all her domains of influence. I think we would have fun and some laughter to be joined by Sir Richard Branson who is my best example of an organizational leader who inspires with creating BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) and committing the resources to make them a reality.

Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?

I too love a conversation, especially one from which I can learn and expand my thinking. The best way to start a conversation with me is via email: [email protected]

Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.