“No one can whistle a symphony.
It takes a whole orchestra to play it”
H E Luccock
Covid has wreaked havoc with relationships; people have not been able to get together with those they choose. Leaders with weak or unhelpful relationships have resulted in losing valuable staff. Online meetings have emphatically drawn leaders’ formerly personal and private lives into the professional realm (hello zoom-bombing pets and children).
The need for quality human connection and social cohesion in our organizations has never been stronger. Fortunately, those two elements are strongly related.
A new leadership model is required
Informal relationship patterns within their organization have a dramatic effect on results, which is why birds in flight manage to alter course without bumping into each other. Relationships and collaboration are primarily a matter of principles and process and not personality and content.
Leaders can learn to mine the brilliance that already lies within their organizations if they learn to refresh and re-generate new patterns of informal and personal relationships relevant to their business. What have previously been private and personal conversations are now central to implementing new strategies, products and services.
But here is the truth.
Informal relationships cut across the formal lines of decision making and authority–these are peer human bonds based on shared personal experience and values and not job titles.
These informal relationship networks form the lifeblood of every organization; as people get to know one another they discover:
- who to listen to,
- who understands what is going on,
- who they confide in when the going gets tough, and
- who looks out for them.
Pre-covid, Opportunities for connection formed at coffee machines, social events, and team dinners as people privately shared personal stories of their hopes, their cares, and what and who are important in their lives and they discovered significant connections.
It is time in our organisations to regenerate interpersonal connections so people have a sense of belonging, not just with the leader, but to one another.
Three ways to stimulate human bonds for greater cohesion.
- Kick start newcomers’ entry
- Forming new groups and refreshing existing groups
- Shift meeting preparation from focusing on content to focusing on making it easy for people to contribute.
1.Kick start newcomers’ entry
With special-purpose teams as well as business as usual, leaders can simply ensure new appointees are successfully and rapidly inducted into their leadership team, the business group, and the organization by personally introducing and making clear:
- Their name and role
- The main impacts the leader wants the person to have
- The reason why they chose this person
- Three or four qualities or experiences the leader knows the individual brings to the organization
- The results they want from their appointment
- How they want the team to work with this person
Whether online or in-person, this format ensures the best entry and rapid acceptance of any newcomer. Hearing the leader’s reasons for their choice clarifies the vision for both the role and the individual involved. Leaders who overlook or avoid this process watch informal connections emerge based on nebulous pecking orders. The integration of any new people becomes haphazard and the chance for rapid alignment is lost.
2. Powerful personal introductions for new groups
Special purpose teams are the new norm. When participants know who is at the table, or on the zoom call, and the experiences they bring, fresh conversations thrive. Leaders can generate these in their everyday interactions. One or some of the following introduction invitations generate working relationships rapidly:
- One of the experiences they have had that draws them to want to improve the team/company
- 3 – 4 qualities they bring to their work
- An experience that motivates them to contribute to x
- 1 – 2 people or groups who have been influential in how they lead
Each of these invitations requires self-disclosure, which in turn rapidly increases the group’s knowledge about one another, and enables group members to make interpersonal connections based on their own experience. Working in this way deepens the level of sincerity of discussions and the level of collegial intimacy while increasing participants’ commitment to getting to the heart of the matter.
Leaders can create their own password to Aladdin’s cave and hear for themselves the gems group members bring. For this to work, the content of these conversations remain private to participants.
3. Shift your meeting preparation from content to helping people participate.
How many meetings have you left feeling unsatisfied? You are not alone. We have people, a room or zoom to meet in, a start time, and an agenda. What could possibly go wrong? None of those things is wrong. They are all essential, but they are just not enough. These elements provide the infrastructure, but they don’t take into account that people and their interactions are central to productivity and success.
It is a simple truth that leaders are not taught how to lead groups, and unsurprisingly, without simple structures and invitations, people don’t know how to participate. These dynamics create the perfect storm from criticism and disengagement.
Leaders, don’t focus preparation on content, focus on what your audience needs to make decisions and take action. If you want to lead and implement change, creating simple processes for people to participate with their experience and expertise is essential.
Leaders can no longer avoid the soft side of relationships. In fact, as we return from covid restrictions, regenerating relationships need to be front and centre of every leader’s interactions.
What interactions can create to help people reconnect during this fracturing time of the covid pandemic? Who are you actively seeking out to connect with?
© Diana Jones