Every interaction between people has the potential to create and spread energy.
And research shows that whenever people are asked to describe their most positive and negative experiences, social interactions consistently have the most positive impact on their lives.
The relationships and networks we create at work are a vital source of ideas, learning and self-development, as well as a means to ensure effective collaboration, innovation, stimulation and performance within, and beyond, our organisations.
Our working lives increasingly rely on brief interactions – face-to-face or virtually – that are key to producing great performance outcomes; leaders have a vital role to play in creating the conditions that will foster great relationships and connections between people.
Jon Gordon, in his book The Power of Positive Leadership (2017), says: ‘You can be the smartest person in the room but if you fail to connect with others you will fail as a leader.’
The Henley Leadership Programme encourages participants to connect with each other in order to exchange experiences, perspectives and learnings. This happens at every ‘touch point’, including coffee breaks, walking to lunch, enjoying a meal or socialising in the bar, and emphasises the importance of making every interaction we have – no matter how brief – really count.
Moments of connection create energy
Many empirical studies on psychological wellbeing demonstrate that one thing consistently emerges as a reliable foundation for happiness – the quality of our relationships.
And in The Power of Moments (2017) Chip and Dan Heath describe ‘defining moments’ – meaningful experiences that stand out in our lives and endure in our memories – and suggest that they possess at least one of the following elements:
1. Elevation – an out-of-the-ordinary boost to our sensory pleasure, often including an element of surprise;
2. Insight – rewiring our understanding of ourselves or our world;
3. Pride – moments of achievement, courage or recognition that capture us at our best;
4. Connection – social interactions, strengthened because they are shared.
Expanding your network to expand your perspectives
The Leadership Challenge (2017) by Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner refers to ‘outsight’ as being open to innovations that can come from anywhere, even from beyond the organisation:
‘Insight without outsight is like seeing with blinkers on; you just can’t get a complete picture.’
In other words, if we don’t seek out new perspectives, we are less likely to come up with anything new. They encourage leaders to be out and about, networking, making connections and establishing relationships.
Making it happen
Regular and effective interactions with our colleagues and others can enhance our health and wellbeing, energy and job satisfaction. Here are a few themes to stimulate your thinking about what will work for you:
Reciprocal disclosure, which builds rapport and connection between people, and involves a willingness to be more open about ourselves and to encourage the other person to do the same. Examples of exercises to stimulate this could include:
- Sharing answers to personal questions; defining moments in your life; your personal heroes;
- Ask open questions that encourage people to share their thoughts, views and feelings, which in turn makes you listen more deeply;
- Share perceived strengths, capabilities and contributions with each other.
Routines and rituals – a team coffee with remote team members on video, a lunch with a team member/colleague or a fun team activity once a month can work wonders.
Willingness and commitment – making a conscious choice to make our next interaction a positive one, and creating a ripple effect across the organisation and beyond.
Positive intent and focus – positive exchanges boost the production of oxytocin, which increases our ability to communicate and collaborate with others and enable us to think more expansively and take action.
Assess strength of networks – mapping your networks can help to assess what changes or additions are required.
Virtual working – and whilst the foundations for building strong connections remain the same, we should put even more effort into building and strengthening our relationships.
The message is… connect to succeed
Making every single interaction count is in our own hands!
As Chip and Dan Heath (2010) say, ‘defining moments’ don’t appear by chance – it is possible to create them. What it takes is action and intention.
So when you are chatting to a friend, family member or colleague, move beyond small talk and share something real with the, such as a challenge or struggle you are facing, and see what happens.
Doing this will help you create your own defining moments of connection.