Recently I find myself thinking a good deal about the importance of connection; what it truly means and how to achieve and sustain it. Perhaps it’s because so much of this year has been spent living in a much smaller sphere of existence, being physically distanced from many of those we hold dear. Or maybe it’s the proximity of a COVID-limited Christmas without the usual round of social events and large family gatherings. But if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that without connection, life has no meaning.
What is connection?
Defining the importance of connection is a challenge in itself! For all the value of digital connections this year, the connection which really matters is what I might term a ‘spiritual’ one, where two or more people achieve a deep understanding of each other which can only really be defined by ‘feeling’ rather than ‘thought’. It is a many-layered sensation which is almost unexplainable. It can make you feel so big and yet so small and insignificant at the same time.
Connection is possible remotely, but such ‘feeling’ connection is so much harder to attain via a screen, which is a significant disadvantage of working from home. Whether we’re seeking a connection with colleagues, friends or family, a quiet mind is essential, along with a physical stillness which enables us to forget all other concerns and focus solely on the person in front of us. We must listen, observe, assimilate and absorb.
In doing so we make space for the other person in our consciousness.
Why connection matters
The importance of connection lies in the impact it has not just on the relationship and the deep understanding we reach with the other person, but in the ripple effect beyond that. Achieving connection requires us to slow down, to put the brakes on the fast pace of life and when we do, we perceive so much more about what is going on around us.
In slowing down, we notice the things that matter beyond the hubbub of our existence; we gain insight and appreciate nuance. This enables us to reconnect with everyone and everything. And the incredible thing about slowing down is that it has the opposite effect on our ability to operate meaningfully: we actually speed up and work more efficiently as we are no longer distracted by extraneous concerns.
Connection and leadership
From a leadership point of view, the importance of connection cannot be underestimated. Connection springs from practising deep listening, which is fundamental to being a good leader, and the ability to quieten your mind will benefit many areas of your leadership, from decision-making to self-awareness.
Achieving connection with members of your team not only enriches the quality of your relationships with colleagues on a one-to-one level but will enhance the workplace environment across the spectrum via greater employee engagement, feeling valued through being listened to, deeper trust and improved psychological safety.
It’s important to remember that achieving connection isn’t a one-time thing. It requires ongoing investment of time and focus or it will dissipate. It must be clear to the other person that you are available to them both practically and emotionally. Be alert to non-verbal clues and behavioural changes too, which are just as important as the words they say.
Reaching the point of connection is a transformational experience on a personal and professional level. Don’t just wait for it to happen; seek it out and hold onto it once you have it. Life will never be the same again!