Tricia Karp Tricia Karp
17 February 2015

The art of connection at work (and why it matters)

I dream of connected, collaborative workplaces, where everyone’s driven by a purpose that truly matters to them, is inspired to give their best, produces results beyond their wildest imagination… and has a ball in the process.

The reality though is that connection – real connection – doesn’t seem so simple these days.

I know you’ve heard it all before. Instant access to people right around the world yet not enough presence. Email the go-to choice for communication rather than picking up the phone. Being buried in a laptop scrolling through a Facebook feed and unable to hear what the person next to you is saying.

What does it even mean to connect these days, let alone create a culture of connection that takes into account – even embraces – differences, and capitalises on strengths?

I have a lot to say about this. For now though, after sitting with a client who’s a senior leader in his organisation and who bravely asked me the question, “How do I connect with my teams?” I want to offer the following, courtesy of my daughter’s behaviour on three recent occasions that was so very insightful.

After a discussion at school about our dear old cat, my girl decided the next day to take in her mini photo album that had a picture of the cat standing next to her when she was a baby, sitting on the floor.

She wanted to show it to her teacher, she told me. So she did. Her teacher said, “Did you bring that all the way in to school just to show me?” She nodded and beamed, and he thanked her very much.

That’s connection.

It just so happens that that photo album also included a picture of my mum and dad’s old pug dogs that are no longer with them.

One of the mums at school and her daughter saw the photo and started espousing the wonders of pugs, and said their family had ordered one from a breeder and couldn’t wait to bring it home.

The next night at choir practice my girl took along her pug handbag (it looks just like the real thing) knowing that the pug-lovers would be there and enjoy seeing it.

That’s connection.

One of my friends dabbles in jewellery making. She made a bracelet for my girl, as a special gift, with beads of amber and green malachite.

Gently fingering the beads, my daughter remembered that, when she was a baby, she wore an amber necklace (it’s meant to help relieve the symptoms of teething. I lived in Byron Bay then. Enough said).

She ran up to her bedroom, dug out the necklace from an old jewellery box, and rushed back down to show my friend.

That’s connection.

It’s so simple.

If you’d find a formula useful, try this: Ask people questions. Find out what they care about and are interested in. What are their personal stories, their professional hopes? Listen. Remember what they say. Show interest in them by referring to something they’ve told you, to show you were paying attention. Focus on building the relationship.

Connection creates positive bonds between people. It brings out their best. It energises them, increases productivity, and reduces stress.

Make it your mission to focus on the art of connection – and reap the rewards.

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