Connection is about more than seeing and hearing, we connect emotionally too and we don’t necessarily have to be physically close to connect. Technology has massively increased our ability to connect with others, at the same time it has the power to disconnect from the emotions of others too.
Here’s an excerpt on connection from my book Leading through uncertainty…
Some people only feel connected when they are physically in the same location whilst others feel connected at a distance and out of sight. My 30-year-old thoroughbred horse Opus is formally retired from working with clients as he was finding it too tiring. He typically spends the day out in the field when I work with clients. Despite that, he is always connected to me and always pays attention. If I mention his name, he will lift his head and start to walk towards the gate. This always surprises clients. They ask if he heard me mention his name when he is at least 50 metres away. He doesn’t, but he senses when he is being spoken about, just as you sense it in the office too. This is the power of connection.
Each of the horses connects in very different ways. My mare Kalle often connects in a maternal and nurturing way when she senses someone needs to be supported. By contrast, she will head butt you into next week if she thinks you need to be put in your place! Both are forms of connection, providing different feedback in different ways according to what she senses you need. There is no self-serving leadership here. She is leading in service of the whole.
Opus connects by being around us, by missing nothing and coming when he is spoken about. He will strut down the yard, ignoring everyone. Contrary to Kalle’s way of connecting, he shows no tenderness in these moments, instead, he commands respect and reverence for his elder wisdom. The connection is no less deep, even if he is not gazing deeply into your eye in a loving way.
Every leader has a different way of connecting. When you know what your default pattern is, you can see the impact you have on different people and flex your style according to what is needed. Connection is a two-way process, and not everyone wants to connect in the same way. If someone rejects the connection, it is not necessarily a personal affront, rather a difference to be curious about, understood and embraced.
How do your team members connect with you and each other?
Opposites often attract so everyone will find it easier or more difficult to connect with different people. The challenge as leaders is to foster an environment where everyone feels safe to connect in their own way, by bringing all of themselves.
When clients experience the depth of connection they get with the horses, they feel the power and also the vulnerability of being in connection. Once they have experienced connection in this way, they are less afraid of it and return to the workplace knowing how to connect in a variety of ways according to different needs.
As a human species, we are more connected and also more disconnected than ever before. Technology enables us to connect with people all over the world. The list is endless of how we see people, connect, share stories and information. People bare their soul on social media, but there is a sense of disconnection from the heart, from community and from family.
We use technology to disconnect when the connection or the learning is uncomfortable. It acts as a comfort blanket, something we can rely on to make us feel better in uncomfortable situations.
Families are widely dispersed globally. As a child growing up, we were in and out of each other’s homes, sharing the laughter, the joy, the pain and sadness too. Connection was obvious and effortless, and our sphere of connection and community was local.
Now we are connected all over the world. Technology gives us opportunities to connect in different ways, and it can also be used to disconnect. You hear stories of people being fired by text message. How cruel is that? For the person sending the text, they avoid seeing and feeling the emotional pain of the person on the receiving end. How sad that we feel the need to disconnect emotionally from one another and cannot be with each other’s pain.
It’s essential for leaders to develop their emotional capacity to feel their own feelings and lead through and with them, as well as empathising with others and supporting them through their process too.
For every action, there is an impact. When we stay connected to the core of humanity, we walk beside each other, have empathy and recognise that what we think, say, feel and do has an impact.
How well are you connecting?
What’s the impact you are having?