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Our Relationships Make Us Human. And they Make Work Better.

PART 3: Develop Protocols

Sitting in a meeting, your phone tucked into your jacket pocket, you feel the vibration of a text or email coming in. You know you should be able to let it go and give your attention to your colleagues who stayed up all night preparing this presentation. But maybe no one will notice if you just check real quick….for all they know, it’s a client, your mom or your babysitter, and it’s an emergency. And who are they to judge? A bunch of people are texting under the table right now!

We all know how it feels to be the one dying to check our phone and the one trying to share our work with a distracted audience. Let’s call it Exhibit A in not honoring relationships.

And so, in order to honor relationships, the third thing we need to do is to develop protocols or rules of road to guide us. It may feel like we were born with these phones in our hands, but in reality our devices are still very new. In fact, I like to think of like we’re living in the Wild West with this stuff. And, last time I checked, there was no new sheriff coming to town.

So, leaders, ask yourselves: Do you have rules of the road in your companies or even for yourself about technology and also how you connect with people?

Leena Nair, Unilever’s chief human resources officer, knows what it takes to create a human workplace. She believes that “[at] the end of the day it’s human creativity, empathy, and innovation that takes the world forward.” [1]This explains why Nair created a crazy protocol for herself.

She neither looks at her phone nor responds to any emails during the workday. Instead, she gives “100 percent of herself” to her employees. [2]

Can you say…honorable?!

Since people know that she won’t respond to email, if someone needs to reach her, they call her or ask her assistant where to find her. And then—imagine!—they get up from their desk, walk across the room/office/campus, and talk to her.

Human beings do many things well, and quite a few things…not as well. But there’s one thing that makes us human, and gives our lives real meaning. And that’s our relationships.

When we honor our relationships, we’re bringing our human to work. And that’s good for people, great for business, and just might change the world.


[1] Morgan, Jacob. “Staying Human in a Technology-Obsessed World.” The Future Organization (audio blog). April 13, 2017. https://thefutureorganization.com/staying-human-technology -obsessed-world/.

[2] Morgan. “Staying Human.”

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