Articles & Publications

By Nicklas Balboa and Richard D. Glaser, PhD
Published in: Life Science Leader

"When it comes to growing your business, navigating the future is a wiser strategy than working on fixing the past. We have been trained to ‘fix problems’ and success will follow. Well, this is not true in the world of rapid change.” — Judith E. Glaser (1946-2018)

What are the best practices for nurturing organizational culture in a world of displaced spaces? Enter COVID-19, the pandemic that radically transformed organizations overnight. Without a physical space to hold the conversations that drive growth, innovation, and engagement, leaders are now tasked with cultivating success within their organizations through the virtual realm. Leaders are all asking the same questions right now: “How can we survive and thrive in this new world of rapid change? What is the best platform for success?”


A 2020 CMI survey reveals that it’s not where we work that matters; it’s how we are managed. In other words, trust, effective communication, and inclusion are the key factors that influence happiness and productivity in employees. The data also highlight an interesting peculiarity: While nearly half (49%) of senior leaders believe they’re engaging employees in decision-making, only a quarter (27%) of employees actually feel that they are more engaged in the organization. This gap in perspectives points to a need for managerial “gut checks” in everyday practices.


To institute change that inspires employees and brings them together to work in engaging and creative ways, we need to change our conversations. Fostering connection and trust at a distance is possible, but it takes time, practice, and some finesse to take on the unique challenges the world demands. Here are the most important conversational skills for leaders in a virtual world:

  • Tailor communications. Engaging people is an exercise in human connection. When it comes to virtual conversations, the key is to tailor the communication style and tools (Zoom, phone calls, Slack, etc.) to the preference of the individual or team you’re connecting with. It’s a considerate, intelligent way of speaking someone else’s language. It shows that you are aware of and care about their work-style preferences. Setting the tone for a truly shared space encourages others to open up and reduces fear and stress.
  • Address uncertainties. Uncertainty is the crucial fulcrum between trust and distrust. When our brains are uncertain of something, we often search for an explanation that will anchor us in certainty, even if the answer produces a negative reality. By addressing uncertainties, you raise the quality of conversations.
  • Ask questions for which you have no answers. The best leaders focus more on asking than telling. Their priority is bringing out the potential in others, which inspires commitment and ownership of the future. Asking questions ignites thinking and excitement and empowers others. Experiment with leadership practices that create a culture where every individual makes a genuine contribution to the whole.
  • Make sure you never mislead anyone. A recent headline in a news aggregation website read:

“Pfizer: ‘No data’ to show single dose of vaccine offers protection after 21 days.”

Was the headline true? Yes, the headline is true; however, it is not the whole truth. The article further states:

“Pfizer confirmed in response that although some protection appears to begin as early as 12 days after the first dose, two doses of the vaccine — separated by three weeks — is the only regimen that proved to be 95% effective in Phase 3 trials.”

Misleading statements erode trust. Use credible, vetted, and complete evidence to open a dialogue of trust and prime conversational partners for connection and bonding.

NICKLAS BALBOA is a researcher and journalist at The CreatingWE Institute. Key interests are the brain and language.

RICHARD GLASER, PH.D., is a biochemist who works in the Pharmaceutical/Biotechnology Industry, and is founder of The CreatingWE Institute.

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