Most of us can recognise when there is something a ‘bit off’ with our team. We see an individual’s energy drop, they retreat into their shell, stop engaging with their team mates or giving eye-to-eye contact.
Over time, this kind of disengagement can be a sign that our people lack an emotional connection to their work. They may start taking sick days, there may be performance and behavioural issues, with extreme cases leading to disrupting the entire business.
On the flip side, when our team members feel a real sense of connection to their work, their leader and their peers, it makes them want to work and engage with others. Collaboration happens and performance thrives.
Prolific author and researcher Brené Brown, explains this kind of ‘connection’ as ‘the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard and valued – when they can give and receive without judgment’.
A longitudinal study, ‘What’s Love Got to Do with It?’, for example, shows that when employees feel free to express care and compassion for one another they are more satisfied with their jobs, committed to the company and accountable for their efforts.
This is important regardless of the industry you work in, the type of business you have, whether you’re a three-piece band or a Broadway show. In all cases, it is this connection that helps bind the team together and harness its collective power.
So the question is: How?
Listen and leverage
Firstly, being curious and interested in each individual in your team is critical to building strong connections. This means investing the time in getting to know them, to understanding what drives and motivates them, because this will differ for everyone.
Being curious about them as individuals allows you to coach them using strategies and tools that are right for them rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach. What works for one person, won’t work for another.
They also need you to genuinely listen to them, to accept that you may not know all of the answers. Part of the process of genuinely connecting with your people involves letting go of your own ego, insecurities and concerns that you do! Just because you’re ‘in charge’ doesn’t mean that you don’t have weaknesses, blind spots or faults.
Instead, recognise the contribution of others. Leverage the talent and different strengths in your team, this is what will make them feel valued. You simply can’t do this if you aren’t curious about what your people bring.
Show care and compassion
Presence expert Amy Cuddy has shown that people who project warmth before establishing their competence are more effective than those who lead with toughness and skill. This is due to the trust that is created with warmth, kindness and compassion.
People feel greater trust with those who are compassionate.
Compassion implies an interpersonal closeness that comes with responsibility, vulnerability and an absence of self-interest. There is more than adequate evidence now that leaders who practise this, and where this is valued at work, create workplaces that people want to work in and are also very productive.
You earn trust when you demonstrate this kind of authenticity. That includes showing the real you – warts and all. People don’t expect you to be perfect, nor do they want you to be. You are human, and that means you make mistakes and have flaws. Sharing yours means others share theirs in return.
Importantly, this kind of real connection has to be built up slowly. True trust takes years to build and a second to destroy. (You only have to look at the ramifications from Australia’s Royal Banking Commission for proof of that.) So don’t rush.
Harnessing the collective power of your team may take a bit of time, but you will be rewarded for it tenfold when you do.
Michelle Sales is a Premium member and highly sought-after speaker, trainer, coach and author who helps senior leaders and their teams to build confidence and maximise their leadership and performance by consciously connecting with others.