Kate Otto has a message for fellow Millennials. Her work experience at an HIV/AIDS clinic in Indonesia inspired her to research the power of personal relationships. She saw that practicing certain attitudes contributed to developing meaningful relationships at work. These relationships made her more productive and increased her feelings of satisfaction and fulfillment.
Otto went on to found Everyday Ambassador, a network of individuals and organizations that promotes putting down cell phones and tablets, and being intentional about developing meaningful relationships through in-person, face-to-face interactions. Although Everyday Ambassador began as like-minded people wanting to create social change, today it has grown into a movement and a lifestyle praised by activists like pop artist Alicia Keys. The number of Everyday Ambassador’s “partner” organizations is rapidly expanding.
Otto describes people who develop meaningful relationships as practicing “ambassadorship.” Her recent book, Everyday Ambassador: Make a Difference by Connecting in a Disconnected World, weaves in stories of people living out the ambassadorship vision.
We’re not surprised that Otto’s message resonates with Millennials. While popular belief holds that Millennials can’t get enough of technology, when global marketing firm McCann WorldGroup surveyed 7,000 Millennials in 2010, it found that 90 percent of respondents rated meaningful relationships as their greatest need.
Research supports Kate Otto’s view about the link between personal relationships at work and job satisfaction. The Gallup Organization’s research found that 30 percent of employees have a best friend at work and these employees are seven times as likely to be engaged, they are better at engaging customers, they produce higher quality work, and they have higher levels of wellbeing. People who don’t have a best friend at work have just a one-in-twelve chance of being engaged.
Below we summarize four practices Kate Otto recommends that can help Millennials boost productivity and fulfillment at work.
To build meaningful relationships, Otto recommends being present and attentive, and not being distracted by trying to multitask on smart phones or tablets. She makes the case that scattering our attention, in terms of projects, is less effective than focusing our efforts on fewer projects and in a more specific direction. “Think about your strengths and talents,” writes Otto. “Instead of trying to be everything to everyone, focus on one thing you do well, and do it.”
Otto expresses concern about “digital divisiveness” and incivility online that polarizes people, making them less considerate, and works against empathy. She advocates being intentional about considering diverse views and perspectives, as well as being sensitive to the feelings of others when communicating online.
We would add that empathy strengthens relationships because of its effect on the recipient. When we feel someone’s joy, it enhances the joy he or she feels; and when we feel someone’s pain, it biologically diminishes his or her pain. These effects of empathy develop more caring relationships that bring people together.
Being a “know it all” who tries to “one up others” works against developing meaningful relationships. Otto says this is especially an issue today because having easy access to knowledge at our fingertips temps us to become “pocket experts.” She prefers being open to ask others for advice and help, and admitting shortcomings, both of which reflect humility.
Ms. Otto writes about other matters related to humility, including the importance of recognizing the contributions of others, maintaining an attitude that you can always learn more, and that at times silence may be the best response because it is a way of admitting that we don’t know how someone feels but that we care enough about him or her to listen.
High speed does not equate to high impact. Ms. Otto observes that our fast-paced, instant gratification-oriented world is at odds with taking sufficient time required to develop meaningful relationships. “Technology might work quickly and simply, but human beings notoriously do not,” she writes. America has become a “survival of the fastest” culture. Internationally, however, patience and thoughtfulness are still viewed as virtues possessed by the wise.
Everyday Ambassador is an engaging book that provides wise advice for more than just Millennials. In the rapidly changing, hyper-competitive connected world we live in today, Kate Otto reminds us that relationships are what matter most in life and that it’s still people working together, rather than the lone ranger, who advance the human race.
Elizabeth P. Stallard, an intern at E Pluribus Partners, co-authored this article.