Short learning bursts. Year-long leadership academies are obsolete when employees are leaving in droves and new employees with little to no experience at the company or managing people are being promoted. New managers need an infusion of skills and energy and they need them quickly.
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 interview Madeline Schwarz.
Madeline Schwarz is a Strategic Communication Advisor and founder of the B.U.R.S.T. Formula to communication.
Her 4 step formula infuses leaders and teams with new skills and energy to reduce conflict, increase creative output and reenergize teams.
Madeline has helped hundreds of introverts speak up at work and partnered with professionals across industries to get their message across clearly in meetings, pitches, conference talks, panels, difficult conversations, and everyday life. She’s worked with organizations including Mastercard, Etsy, the Jewish Museum and Fancy LLC and when she’s not dreaming up ways to make communication more fun, you can find her roaming art museums, community organizing and playing legos with her 8 year old.
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 was going to my first client meeting in my first week at a new job. As we were leaving the office, my boss turned to me and the other new hire and said “Don’t speak at the meeting.”
Months later, the same boss who instructed me to keep quiet informed me that I was too quiet and that it was weird that I didn’t speak up more in client meetings.
It was a painful experience and one that I see repeated all too frequently with my clients.
Telling introverts that they’re too quiet or that they need to speak up more may be well-intentioned, but the delivery rarely has the desired effect. It’s often feedback the receiver has been given before and it fails to acknowledge all the reasons they’re not speaking up, or might be trying to speak up, but aren’t being heard.
Shining a spotlight on my quiet nature didn’t make me more vocal, it made me more self-conscious.
This was before Susan Cain’s book, Quiet, had been published, before introversion was a trending news topic, and before I knew anything about personality type.
What I’ve learned in the years since this experience are principles that guide my work now:
1. Listening can be our greatest asset as a leader
2. Introverts bring unique strengths and perspectives to the workforce
3. Creating inclusive work environments requires intention, humility, and creativity
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?
I think there will still be a disconnect between the traits that companies say they want — curiosity, creativity, and entrepreneurial thinking — and their ability to cultivate environments and cultures where those traits thrive.
What will be different is:
There will be more quiet leaders.
There will be more women in leadership.
There will be more flexibility in where and when people work.
What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?
Communication is the single most important skill regardless of how teams are working or where they’re working.
Communication needs to go beyond a technology strategy that focuses on the platforms your employees use and include a people strategy that facilitates the conversations you want employees to have and the skills you want them to build.
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?
No amount of monetary compensation can make up for poor communication and dysfunctional cultures. There’s a fundamental gap between what employers are offering and what employees want — connection, appreciation, meaning, and career growth. Failure to invest in your people because you fear they will leave is a failure to keep your people.
We simultaneously joined a global experiment together last year called “Working From Home.” How will this experience influence the future of work?
Employees all around the world have demonstrated they can do their jobs and be productive from home. Many are unwilling to return to traditional 9–5 in-office jobs at the sacrifice of their health, personal lives, and families.
There’s a clash happening between the people who want to return to offices (often extroverts and executives who miss the social aspect) and the people who prefer to work at home (often introverts who thrive in more quiet work environments). If we don’t create office environments, cultures, and communication practices that work for all, we will miss out on the ideas and talent of people who don’t feel heard. Creating these environments requires a radical rethinking of how teams communicate and collaborate, in offices, across offices, and from their home offices.
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?
In order to keep women and working parents in the workforce as well as to sustain the growing gig economy, the U.S. needs to catch up with the rest of the developed world and invest in paid parental leave, childcare and healthcare.
What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of work?
Necessity is the brainchild of innovation.
While working from home doesn’t work for every person or every company, what it has done for future generations is to normalize working at home while pregnant, nursing, caring for children or other relatives, or navigating personal health challenges while holding down a job.
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?
1. Recognizing that emotions and mental health have a place at work.
2. Focusing on emotional intelligence and resiliency instead of just productivity and output. 3. Increasing flexibility so people have more control over their work hours and workplace.
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?
There has never been a greater time to communicate with your employees, to openly engage in conversation, to ask how they like to work and give them choice in how they work best, to map out their career track and growth, and to invest in your culture.
Let’s get more specific. What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Work?”
1. Quiet Leadership. It is essential that leaders recognize that at least half of their team are introverts and embrace their unique strengths. When I interviewed corporate leaders, some recognized the advantages of virtual meeting features like chat to engage quieter employees, but many seemed to consider introversion a disadvantage.
2. Short learning bursts. Year-long leadership academies are obsolete when employees are leaving in droves and new employees with little to no experience at the company or managing people are being promoted. New managers need an infusion of skills and energy and they need them quickly.
3. The new digital body language. Companies must invest in robust people strategies, not just technology, to teach people how to communicate more effectively and lead hybrid teams. Automation and artificial intelligence don’t eliminate the need for human conversation–in fact, the human touch is more vital than ever.
4. A broader take on Diversity Equity Inclusion and Belonging strategies. Loud open offices are not a model for productive, collaborative teams and the pandemic has demonstrated that many people do their best work and thinking at home. Future DEIB strategies will expand to include personality and communication preferences.
5. Reshaping team-building. Happy hour, beer on tap, and activities focused around drinking were never inclusive. Work from home has reshaped and expanded what fun looks like and required leaders and teams to be more creative in how they connect and define fun.
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?
I love this quote from Adam Grant’s book Think Again:
“A good debate is not a war. It’s not even a tug of war where you can drag your opponent to your side if you pull hard enough on the rope. It’s more like a dance that hasn’t been choreographed, negotiated with a partner who has a different set of steps in mind.”
I’m someone who enjoys discourse and this so beautifully summarizes how I think about negotiation and communication. We would all do better if we thought of communication as a dance– a visual, full-body act–more than just words, and an act of expression that can work in harmony with other people.
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.
I would love to sit down with Susan Cain because she started the Quiet Revolution and has done so much to educate the world about the power of introverts.
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?
Readers can connect with me at:
Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.