‘Our ability to connect with others is a vital skill that impacts the results of leading organisations’.
This was the premise of my whitepaper The Connection Deficit published in 2019. Back then, I quoted studies showing a widely spread problem with connection in most workplaces with dreadful statistics, such as the following, making us quiver:
Since, additional pressures have mounted in our ever-changing working landscapes – managing team communication and engagement across different time zones, responding to customer demands on diverse offline and online channels, building relationships and influence throughout matrix structures – all while under pressure to perform more, with less.
Add to this the complexity of managing different generations with different expectations. A gender gap that has taken a step or two backwards as a result of the pandemic and a workforce still reticent to wholeheartedly return to work. Our concern is that our connection problems may have taken a turn for the worse.
The good news is, hitting rock bottom in that department, with the terrible effects of disconnection on everybody’s wellbeing has certainly shaken many into paying closer attention.
In our model, From Disconnected to Connected, presented in the whitepaper, we looked at the levels of engagement and performance of employees from the very worst case of disconnection to high levels of motivated and connected high performing teams. On the vertical axis of the model, measuring the levels of connection, a key driver, Trust.
What our model didn’t include, and we now incorporate is that in a similar way along that axis we can measure wellbeing.
At a -40% disconnected level you will find not only a level of distrust and low performance but also a critical lack of employee wellbeing. As you climb the ladder toward more trusting, engaged and connected teams, comparative levels of employee wellbeing also rise. They are connected, pun intended.
Connection is critical for wellbeing
If you ask any leader what the key element to success in their organisation is, you will 9 times out of 10 hear the same answer, the people; or human capital as some would refer to. The well-being of this “asset” is front and centre of many organisations’ business strategy and culture development. So here are a few ways to improve employee wellbeing through a focus on connection across three dimensions.
Connection to self
Foster a deep understanding of employees’ values, strengths and behaviours. Self-awareness, one of the first elements we work on when developing connected leaders, is the foundation to alignment and fulfillment in life and with work. A deliberate commitment to who you are derives a sense of wellbeing both physically and emotionally that cannot be found any other way.
Connection to others
Connected leaders enhance their bond and relationship with their people through compassion, humility and curiosity. Compassion implies an interpersonal closeness that comes with responsibility, vulnerability and an absence of self-interest. Horizontal connection is as important. Humans seek to belong to a team or tribe with whom to share both work and life related experiences. This sense of belonging is hardwired in us, and it provides the necessary basis for another human need key to wellbeing, that of a psychologically safe environment. If you would like to read more about the importance of Psychological Safety at Work, we recommend this Center for Creative Leadership article on the topic published earlier this year.
Connection to the world through purpose and impact
Leaders should use connection not only to connect with their people but also connect them to their why and purpose to drive performance, engagement, and wellbeing. A sense of satisfaction with the work you’re producing, with the impact you are having for the team, organisation and beyond, enhances wellbeing otherwise likely to be missing. An emotional connection to the overall mission of the workplace and the alignment each employee finds to it through clarity of purpose and set expectations are key.
Feeling connected is the ultimate human condition. Employees are able to be their best possible self and feel valued and rewarded for this. They feel understood at an individual level and there are clear on the contribution they are making to the performance of the organisation. They love what they do and they connect to each other, their customers, leaders and the organisation in a very human way.
This feeling of connection is critical to wellbeing. This is the best possible result for both leaders and employees, teams and organisations.
As we approach R U Ok? day, this Thursday 8th of September, we encourage you to meaningfully connect both with yourself and others to check-in. Be compassionate and curious, listen intently, and remember that ‘a conversation can change a life’.