Encourage professional connections outside of your current team.

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One of my more controversial views regarding relationships (excluding marriage) is that someone should ideally stick with you not because you forbade them from looking but because they’ve looked and decided you were their best option. Alignment and details matter, as with many things, but this view can and probably should be true for employer-employee relationships. We will get back to this in a second.

I am ashamed but I definitely wish I could have done better keeping in touch with previous coworkers I valued working with. Although it may come naturally for some, it didn’t for me. With work demands, we pay good attention to our family responsibilities (rightfully so) but maybe not so much to previous coworker connections. Perhaps I missed it or needed to pay more attention, but we rarely get reminded of or encouraged to do it. Fortunately, seeing John Mandel (someone I look up to) do it more regularly and well inspired me to do better. I encourage you to do it, too, even if it’s been too long and awkward. It makes it worse if you do this while in between jobs, and you’re concerned others would judge you that you do it only to gain favor even if that’s not your intention. Regardless, do it anyway, and many will be glad you did. It’s been one of the most rewarding things I have done lately. It is and will always be a work in progress but we’ll get better.

With that said, what I really wanted to share here is we can also make a nudge here as managers and leaders; while we create a culture of support and psychological safety within our organization, we should also encourage our team members to stay connected with their network outside the team. These connections bring fresh perspectives, new ideas, and potential collaborations, which can greatly benefit our organization. Encouraging employees to maintain healthy relationships with their families, keep in touch with their networks, and create new connections can enhance their personal and professional growth. Remember to model this behavior and advocate for it but not enforce it.

Moderation is key. Too much passive consumption of social media, including LinkedIn, is harmful. But no one should have to hide, make their calendars private, or call in sick days to maintain connections. Trusting in our team’s ability to balance their responsibilities to your company yet keep professional connections (even with your competitors) shows maturity. I do hope the next organization I become part of supports this or at the very least wouldn’t mind.

Fostering these connections may seem like kryptonite for companies purely in it for profit. Even for those who genuinely care about their employees, many may still see this as risky. However, healthy relationships are built on trust and not fear, and this should not be any different.