“Hi, I’m Paul—do you have Wi-Fi access?”
Paul was the first one of his team to arrive at Interact Studio for a course in authentic communication. I gave him the code and he beelined it for an outlet and plugged in his charger.
As his teammates arrived, they said their brief hellos and went heads down with their devices until the class started.
This isn’t unusual. Many of the executives we meet are fatigued by their workload and a constant avalanche of electronic communication. They arrive stressed and tethered to their devices, squeezing out that last email.
But after the first day of having rich, face-to-face communication, they arrive the next morning in a different state of mind. Energy levels are up, and they are looking each other in the eye. They are in the moment and they are connecting.
Over the course of two days, we watch people in our classes telling stories, speaking spontaneously, listening deeply, coaching and being coached by their teammates. We see them become the confident and powerful communicators they were meant to be.
The Human Connection as Prescription
Human connection is an energy exchange between people who are paying attention to one another. It has the power to deepen the moment, inspire change and build trust.
Dr. Ned Hallowell is a leading authority on what he calls “the human moment” and disorders such as depression and attention deficit disorder. His research shows that for the majority of people, the two most powerful experiences in life are achieving and connecting.
Hallowell warns that people who are highly driven to achieve while relying on electronic forms of communication can neglect making real connections and become isolated, suspicious and depressed.
In the same way, teammates who communicate electronically without the opportunity to spend meaningful time together won’t experience the cohesiveness that drives team performance.
5 Ways to Harness the Power of the Human Connection
Bring your team together at least twice a year for an off-site experience that allows for genuine conversations. Being together helps connect teammates to the big picture and to one another.
Watch out for becoming irritated by a request for human communication or support when it threatens to throw you off your own personal agenda of emails and other tasks for the day. You will miss all the “tells” that something is wrong (you may need to exercise and practice more self-care when you feel too stressed to connect).
Have at least one meaningful conversation a day. Superficial pleasantries or simply sitting beside someone don’t count. Conversations are most impactful when they stimulate your understanding of the world. They require that you put aside everything else, pay attention fully and make yourself available for an exchange.
Create a culture that values people’s time. Don’t allow interruptions or late arrivals to team meetings. Make sure important topics are discussed. Don’t waste time with boring rounds of reporting out or using meetings to check emails.
Show up for people–in person. Attend events that are important to friends, family, and teammates whenever possible. When you’re there, demonstrate healthy off-limit times to text or email. They will feel the connection and so will you.