It’s harder than ever to make genuine connections with people. The pandemic has isolated many of us from our workplaces, communities, and families. Perhaps you’ve felt the sense of disconnect take hold as you stare at a screen for hours at a time, wondering if any of your digital interactions really matter on a human level. Or maybe you’ve wondered what percentage of the conversations in your life exist only as tools for selling, exchanging, or expediting.
A Global Closeness Deficit
Isolation comes with real consequences, especially for leaders. We need to care about closeness, because, as Joshua Bollen, President & CEO of Business Roundtable said, “You can’t take care of your shareholders unless you’ve taken care of your customers, employees, andcommunities as well.”
Transactions vs. connections
Contributing to the closeness deficit is the fact that many of the interactions in our lives have become transactional. The more transactional interactions become, the less distinguishable they are.
Suppose you’re at the grocery store and the person checking you out merely pushes you through the line, more concerned with speed than conversation. Perhaps you’re also busy or distracted and you don’t bother asking them about their day. Will you remember that experience later? Would it even make your list of human connections?
The impact of our increasingly digital lives
The prevalent sense of isolation has only been amplified by the growing quantity of electronic transactions in our lives. More people than ever do the bulk of their purchasing online or take advantage of self-checkout lanes at the grocery store. It’s convenient, but it isn’t personal.
As our workplaces shift online, it’s even easier to slip into a state where interactions are less personal and more transactional. There’s no water cooler or coffee pot where team members can meet and share casual stories about their weekend. Instead they might ping each other with lists of what they need and when they need it.
Center Caring and Purposeful Interactions
When team members feel like resources rather than people, it reduces their sense of belonging and they’re less inclined to care about issues larger than themselves. They’re also more likely to engage in reckless or selfish behavior, creating a negative impact on the larger work culture.
As leaders, we need to take opportunities to infuse a personal element into workplace connections. When interactions are kind, caring, and purposeful, people get excited. There’s a different quality about those moments, and team members begin to feel they share a purpose, vision, and goal.
How Can a Leader Encourage Connection?
It might seem harder than ever to create culture-forming moments, as workplaces begin to evolve and take on a variety of forms. However, the core principles of fostering connection haven’t changed. Norms and values are the same, whether teams work face-to-face or at a distance.
Be kinder than necessary all the time
No one improves when you shout at them or when they know that you’re irritated. An environment where negativity is the norm prevents team members from doing their best work. Instead:
- Be kind to one another
- Be caring with one another
- Be good to one another
When you are kind to your team members and you encourage them to be consistently kind to each other, meaningful connections are the natural result.
Assume positive intent
When you assume positive intent, it means you assume the people you’re working with are doing their very best. That creates a baseline of respect where, even when friction occurs, everyone still moves toward a common goal. It’s not so hard to stay aligned when things are simple and going well, but when challenges begin to emerge, assuming positive intent maintains important connections.
Be professional in every interaction
Ensure that all of your conversations are infused with professionalism, and your team members will understand that is the standard you expect. Letting your professionalism slip opens the door to gossip, toxicity, and workplace strife.
When you are professional in every interaction, when you are kinder than necessary, and when you assume positive intent, there’s no room for negativity or shallow, short-lived connections. Instead, interactions are about listening, providing support, and coming up with solutions to common problems.
It Starts with You
Model this behavior and your team members will follow your example. You cannot demand they follow norms and values when you do not. But, when you lead with an eye toward fostering meaningful connection, your team members will be right behind you. Studies have shown that people have a deep desire for shared experiences, and they want to build social connections. If you can help them get there, you’ll create a flourishing work environment where team members are happier, healthier, and more productive.
Are you ready to maximize and amplify your leadership skills? Reach out today.
Author, Speaker, and Change Agent.
Chris leads a dynamic team of passionate change agents who are dedicated to partnering with organizational executives to create cultures that inspire, engage and ignite the best in people. Our work is dedicated to harnessing the power of culture to equip leaders, build amazing teams and align operation practices to delighting the customer and drive breakthrough results.