Joanna Swash Group CEO of penny. Moneypenny handles outsourced phone calls, live chat and digital communications.
Connection – authentic, qualitative connection – is crucial in life. It builds long-term relationships and trust. It is formed when people feel seen and valued. And you feel heard and understood.
People are a social bunch. And if you need even more convincing, I turn to Abraham Maslow and his theory of the… hierarchy of needs, which places “love and connection” (or connection) at the level just above physical and security needs; Belonging must also be achieved before someone can reach the level of self-esteem/respect and self-actualization that will make you the best you can be.
It follows that because work is a big part of life, connections are also crucial in your professional life. So why is it just not the case in many organizations?
This isn’t some fluffy idealistic rant either. There are endless scientific articles advising us on the benefits of being connected. Connections between your team can affect the resilienceas well as employees well-being, involvement and quality of work.
So my conclusion is that many leaders simply don’t know how to achieve connectedness in the workplace, not that they don’t see its infinite value and potential.
Connected vs Connected
Before I go any further, there is one point I need to clarify. Being connected isn’t about being connected to this 24/7 digital world, nor is it about checking your emails before bed and firing off a quick reply while it’s fresh (something we’ve all been guilty of).
I believe connection is about relationships and putting people first and empowering everyone to reach their full potential in the way that works best for them. Fostering connection is one of the most valuable investments a leader can make.
How to promote connection?
If I were talking to a friend who was going through a hard time and wanted to connect more with others, or even if I were talking to one of my kids as they embark on their next adventure, I would give them the following advice: Be brave. Find people who share similar interests. Smile and be positive. Open up. Don’t bury your head in your social media account. Working on it.
It’s really not that different for business.
1. Create a safe environment in which your people can excel. This doesn’t just mean keeping up with the latest office furnishings; this means making sure your workplace has a mental space where people feel safe and valued and can express their views without fear of judgement. Lead with empathy, trust, and compassion, and work to ensure it seeps through the organization to every manager and team leader.
2. Understand and evaluate your goal (if necessary). This is the foundation of a strong culture and a thriving culture is built on connection. When everyone understands what their daily work goals contribute to the overall strategy of the company, they can align with the values and purpose. Everyone can work together towards the same goal.
3. Treat people as the individuals they are. My team calls this “manufactured personalization,” which refers to the personal details that matter to people now more than ever. It’s what our culture thrives on. Treating your employees as individuals can include things like a pick-and-mix scheme, individualized training and development, and personalized birthday gifts, not just the bulk voucher. It’s treating your people like celebrities.
4. Don’t hide behind technology. Instead, use technology as a way to empower people to have better conversations. Listen to your people. What helps them do their job better? By fully linking the circle back to my first point here, create a safe space for people to envision and discover new and better ways of working. Not only is there a deep sense of belonging and ownership, but this growth mindset can also make you agile and progressive as a company.
5. Make connections. Connecting people is not a project that can be planned with the latest all-singing, dancing planning software. It’s something that needs to be worked on. It evolves and the goalposts shift.
Connection is all-encompassing and requires everyone’s involvement. It’s about building trust and making people feel respected and heard. It’s about putting people and relationships at the heart of what you do and your culture. This in turn has a positive effect on both personal and business results. It recognizes that people are not just a number and supports them to become the best they can be. It’s about going the extra mile and making that the norm, not just for your people, but also, by innate association, for your customers. In a constantly changing world, resilient, long-term relationships on all fronts are the ultimate gain.
I’ll let you think about that for a moment. If you have an entire organization of great people who are the best they can be, think about the power and advantage you give.