The Walls Between Us

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By Julie Silard Kantor, CEO Twomentor LLC. Published on Medium.com 

I’ve been walking around this week with Crowded House’s lyrics playing through my head on a continuous loop. Walls have been on my mind and how we break them down with each other

Hey now, hey now

Don’t dream it’s over

Hey now, hey now

When the world comes in

They come, they come

To build a wall between us

We know they won’t win

 

You’ve all seen the scenes that play out…

The four-top at the restaurant where the Galaxy and iPhone screens win over the menu and vibrant conversation.

The same scene but this time at work right before the Monday weekly staff meeting.

The relatives who you did not see over Christmas, Chanukah or Thanksgiving because of differing political opinions.

As I travel the globe I am inspired by the many diversity leaders, HR leaders, CXOs who are focusing on how to bring down these invisible walls that separate us. They are stumped by the disconnects they see every day. They know there is an issue. It’s hard to put our finger on it, but it is significantly impacting workplace culture.

The workplace has a key role to play in curbing America’s Loneliness epidemic. Arthur C. Brooks, President of AEI had this to share in a recent NY Times Op-ed titled “How Loneliness Is Tearing America Apart”

Why are we becoming so lonely? One reason is the changing nature of work. Work is one of the key sources of friendship and community. Think of your own relationships; surely many of your closest friendships — perhaps even your relationship with your spouse — started in the workplace. Yet the reality of the workplace is rapidly attenuating, as people hop from job to job, and from city to city, as steady work becomes harder to find and the “gig” economy grows.

When we isolate by not bringing down the walls between us we become sick. We feel sick with our concerns and challenges and forget that thousands of other people may be dealing with similar issues. The walls go up and according to Cigna’s research 46% of American’s often or always feel alone. The hardest hit is our 18 – 22-year-olds. We see that anxiety and suicide rates have gone up in our country and self-medicating the social pain with opioids has brought our overall life expectancy rates down as a nation. Gallup released a finding last Thursday that among those under the age of 35, an average of 87% felt they had good mental health in 2015 – 2016. That number, however, dropped to 74% for the past two years. A divided nation?

In a quest for a feeling of Belonging, people seek out others who are most ‘like them’ and join tribes. They push away and dismiss others quickly who are different creating more polarized societies and chipping away at years of social inclusion and diversity efforts. This is playing out in politics today and can become very dangerous according to Howard J. Ross who just put out an extraordinary book on this topic that is my Audible #1 Our Search for Belonging: How Our Need to Connect Is Tearing Us Apart. 

CAN MENTORING BRING THE WALLS DOWN & FOSTER A STRONGER SENSE OF BELONGING OR INCLUSION?

I have shared often an observation that surprises many. In most boardrooms, hotel conferences, association webinars, when I poll executives under 30% share that they have someone that mentors them. One group of senior managers at a financial institution 3, yes three out of 26 raised their hands said they have a mentor.

I’m beginning to think the word itself ‘mentor’ causes a lot of confusion for some reason. As January is National Mentoring Month, we should reflect on this and the role mentoring can play to create solid bridges and meaningful connections. Has it played a role in your life?

A mentor shares from their experience, skills, learning. “How many of you are currently mentoring someone else?” I asked the same group

I remember gulping back my own shock that so few managers had mentors and that less than 10% reported they were mentoring others.

A Deloitte survey showed that 79% of Millennials want their managers to be mentors. They don’t want to isolate. They want to learn from you and feel included as a most basic human need. It’s a WIN/WIN because they want to grow from your knowledge and experiences and add tremendous value by reciprocating.

From what we have seen, we can bring down these man-made walls with a little engineering around mentoring connections and mentoring conversations. I want you to see the joy in people’s eyes when we create the space for people to share and learn. Human helps human bringing out the best and both parties benefit. Perhaps we can modify the melody to

We come, we come

To remove the wall between us

We know that we [humanity, each other] can win…

———————————————————————————–Twomentor: Building Corporate and Organizational Mentoring Initiatives and Cultures

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Overview Prezi: https://prezi.com/p/mtpvhyrq5_op/https://prezi.com/p/mtpvhyrq5_op/