Lead with empathy, not with authority. Unfortunately, there are still leaders who are lacking empathy when dealing with organizational and team members’ concerns or conflict.

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 Marion Weiler.

Marion Weiler serves as Executive Advisor, Growth Strategist, Branding Expert, and CEO at Weiler International LLC. She advises and guides people-centric businesses and leaders to realize their full potential and create new levels of brand loyalty internally and externally based on a culture of teamwork and collaboration, and as a result achieve high impact and sustainable growth. As a global citizen and former Senior Executive working and supporting industry-leading global brands such as Sotheby’s International Realty, BMW and IBM, serving on executive boards and leading multi-million dollar business divisions, teams and projects, Marion has gained valuable insight into what works and what doesn’t across industries, and has a deep understanding of the opportunities and challenges businesses and leaders face as they navigate through the complexities and biases of corporate environments, particularly complex when dealing with intercultural differences and sensitivities. At the core of her success is her intuitive talent for understanding people, bridging gaps and putting puzzle pieces together to recognize strengths in team members and leaders, and structure organizations and teams informatively, effectively and positively on an international scale.

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.

Growing up in a happy home in Southern Germany, I was fortunate to have parents who always supported me. At the same time, I was also formed by the environment into how to conform to societal norms and “how things are done” within the given structure that had clear gender roles. When I was in my early twenties, I took the opportunity to work abroad and decided to leave behind a seemingly perfect future and life that was “meant” for me. I knew deep down that there was more out there for me to experience, and ultimately more for me to “be” than fitting into the traditional gender roles.

Another pivotal moment for me came from sports. While playing tennis, my Hungarian trainer exposed me to new experiences and simply doing things differently based on a culture that I knew very little about up to that point. It didn’t take long before I was exposed to and embracing cultures from people all over the world. Being part of a team, I quickly learned that it doesn’t matter how well you’re playing individually, you’re only as strong as your weakest link. This mindset continued to grow, and my passion for understanding and integrating new experiences began to grow as well. During my university years, I decided to go into intercultural business management and quickly realized how complex it is to navigate intercultural differences and effectively communicate with each other despite our cultural differences.

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?

We’ve noticed current shifts in remote and hybrid working and believe they will continue to grow or be streamlined among various industries. I believe the demand for healthy, well-balanced work environments will potentially reach an equilibrium and companies that adapt to this culture will thrive while other organizations failing to put people at the center of their organizations will suffer.

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

Start with a strong foundation. A strong foundation in any organization can withstand immense change regardless of industry or market. What I mean when I say a strong foundation is an organizational structure that is built upon clear values and expectations and puts people first.

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?

We’ve seen that financial incentives alone aren’t doing the trick anymore, and I believe that gap will continue to grow, especially if business leaders do not actively listen to the needs of their employees. People want to feel valued and heard, and transactional interactions between employer to employee will continue to push that gap further apart. I would offer strategies that focus on intentionally listening and creating ways for employees to feel more purposeful in the organization. Do they feel included? Are they encouraged to prioritize their personal lives and mental health over their work? Proactively having these conversations with employees and being openly honest about these topics can help close those gaps and make employees feel heard, valued and understood.

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

As far as expectations are managed regardless of industry, the work from home model of working seems to continue, and largely impact workers and their families in many ways. We’ve also seen positive shifts in productivity, mental health and adaptation to new ways of accomplishing our daily tasks, and I believe more companies will embrace this change and it will become even more normalized. However, office culture dynamics that offer positive experiences such as collaboration and interaction between employees might suffer, and over time employers will need to find creative solutions to avoid a sense of “lack of community” among their teams, along with blurring lines between work and home life that has potential to add stress and overwhelm.

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?

It is no secret that we’ve all been impacted by the pandemic in one way or another, but as leaders we must recognize this impact and the individual experience every member of our organization may have had. I believe we can support the future of our work through creating strong foundations and being adaptive to changes. With each member of our organization having unique experiences throughout the pandemic, it is important for leaders to create an environment where expectations are clear and there is an element of familiarity, consistency, and support.

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

I believe that the pandemic has brought to light a lot of the toxic and unhealthy behavioral patterns within the corporate world. I also believe this will allow companies to make the changes deemed necessary to retain employees for the better. I also believe the future of work will allow for more conversations that effectively relate to the better well-being of employees and business outcomes.

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?

Programs and incentives that allow employees to feel heard and that they are being cared for will outweigh the old financial incentives that we deemed shiny and exclusive in the past. For me, the greatest thing we can do as leaders to shape our workplaces as an environment that promotes a healthy well-being for our teams is to be a leaders who others are inspired to follow. If you are the leader who never takes time off, or stays late and constantly is out of touch with your emotional regulation, you are likely going to attract and create employees that do the same. Leading by example with a clear vision will inspire, encourage and motivate your team members to be at their best.

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?

The greatest lesson leaders can learn from these various headlines is to listen and to recognize change is inevitable. If you’re ignoring obvious trends and thinking “this isn’t me” or “this isn’t my organization”, you’re on track to get blind-sided by employees who either don’t feel comfortable enough to discuss their concerns with you- or you’re going to lose your employees to the leaders changing their organizations for the better. Take a step back, have those tough conversations with yourself and with your teams, and genuinely listen.

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

  1. Lead with empathy, not with authority. Unfortunately, there are still leaders who are lacking empathy when dealing with organizational and team members’ concerns or conflict.
  2. Preference To Remote Work: Let your employees have a part in the decision (of course where the role allows), and you’ll be surprised how much more productive they can be when they are empowered.
  3. The Human Factor. Leading with people at the center of organizations, not the product or service.
  4. Accountability. Changing something means recognizing that something no longer works. This requires taking ownership and accountability in your organization. Displaying this vulnerability can help bring your employees closer to you and in return builds trust.
  5. Retention. If you are experiencing scarcity among employees and talent in your business, you might be leaning on your top talent to accomplish more. Now is the time to show your appreciation for them before you risk losing them as well.

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?

“You can’t reach what’s in front of you until you let go of what’s behind you” -Jessica Park

We all come with a story, and often we relive the same negative experience repeatedly, because we have not yet learned the lesson. I truly believe the only way to get past that is to address the work we need to do on ourself. It can be relevant to both personal life and professional, because at the end of the day your character is defined in both.

This applies to organizations as well. When companies get overwhelmed with conflict or crisis that is difficult to deal with — it rarely goes away on its own. More often we’ll have to face it head on so that we aren’t dragging it along and letting it impact the team or organization in a negative way. In my experience, the longer we put off taking these experiences by the belt, the larger they grow and become even more overwhelming to deal with.

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.

Marie Forleo has been a big role model and mentor for me. Her resilience, hard work and over-delivery of everything she does inspires me. I’ve been part of her B-School ever since I first played with the idea of starting a business 5 years ago. Her mantra is that the world needs the special gift each one of us has, and I’ve finally mustered up the courage to launch my business last year in pursuit of finding better ways for the corporate world.

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?

Yes! They can visit www.weilerinternational.com/news, or follow me on Linkedin (https://www.linkedin.com/in/weilerinternational/), Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/weilerinternational), or Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/weilerinternational/).

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