Entrepreneurs need a community to foster innovation, cultivate resources, and build strong company cultures. This sense of community holds even greater importance in digital-first environments. Erik Mitisek, CEO of insurance software company Highwing, believes the ever-changing sport of entrepreneurship requires leaders to humanize the digital world, now more than ever. On the Forge Ahead podcast, Erik shares his strategies on how to build and maintain People-First communities in a world of remote work.
1. Be Present
Digital environments provoke a heightened sense of urgency—the clock on the corner of the screen serves as a constant reminder of your impending schedule.
Erik says if you want a healthy, thriving work community, you need to be fully present and engaged in employee conversations. “Allowing those [conversations] to happen in real traditional time is critical. And letting yourself go and just engaging in the discussions, not necessarily the time, is critical,” says Erik.
While entrepreneurship requires you to always be ten steps ahead, people-driven cultures need leaders who can slow down, be present, and get personal.
2. Emphasize Empathy
Digital interactions limit the expression of attitude, body language, and intention. In order to engage with employees in a meaningful way, leaders need to be empathetic.
It is your responsibility to ensure employees feel understood and cared for. “It requires a tremendous amount of empathy, but it also requires a tremendous amount of recognition that even though we’re not here, I see you, I feel you, I understand you, and I’m with you,” says Erik.
Take the time to engage with and understand the people on your team. Empathy will not only help bridge the gap between digital and in-person interactions but will help create a stronger internal community.
3. Express Vulnerability
Entrepreneurship requires a tremendous amount of vulnerability. While it’s in our nature to celebrate the wins, it is equally important to highlight the losses.
Shared highs and lows can be uniquely motivating. Erik explains, “I think [the lows] are incredible opportunities to bring people together and say, ‘This is the facts. If we want to win, let’s rally. It’s hard, but let’s do it together.’ That can be just as unifying as the high-fives around the fire.”
This level of transparency allows you to create a close-knit community of employees who feel they are an integral part of the ups and downs of the business.
4. Practice Makes Permanent
Perfection is not the goal. In order to build community in a digital-first environment, Erik believes, “Practice makes permanent.”
Whether it’s your communication style, leadership engagement, or emotional availability, practice those skills over time to continue to grow and evolve your community.
Don’t forget, employees are human. Those who allow people to feel validated, included, wanted, welcome, inspired, and recognized are going to come out on top.