We’re familiar with “getting a connection” thanks to our obsession with the Internet. But how well do we connect both with ourselves and those around us?
Our connection to our working colleagues can be a bit hit and miss. You may think it’s simply the luck of the draw. But there are things we can all do to make those relationships more productive.
The first and most important skill in connecting with your colleagues is an obvious one but rarely practised well: listening.
If you can combine good listening with genuine curiosity about your colleagues you’ll be well placed to run better meetings and to be a better leader.
There are three types of listening to think about: competitive; passive; and active listening.
Competitive listening means that although you are hearing the words being spoken to you, in reality you are simply waiting for the other person to finish speaking before you say what you want to say.
You’re not thinking about the speaker or their feelings, you are thinking more about your own opinion and simply waiting for your turn to make a point. Sometimes you may not even wait your turn and you interrupt the speaker either because you disagree, you think you know what they are about to say or you are overly eager to get your point across.
A passive listener pays attention and may even nod to show they’ve heard what’s being said to them. From the outside, it might appear that they know and understand exactly what the speaker is trying to communicate. They might venture the occasional ‘a-huh’ to suggest they are listening.
But the passive listener doesn’t ask any questions or give any feedback about what’s being said. If the passive listener doesn’t understand something, they won’t ask for clarification and won’t try to ask deeper questions about the subject.
An active listener is not just paying attention to every word that is being said, their body language is fully engaged and perhaps mirrors that of the speaker. They give frequent positive physical and verbal cues that they understand the speaker, asking open questions and encouraging the speaker to continue without interruption.
If the active listener doesn’t understand something they will say so and repeat things back to the speaker to make sure they have grasped exactly the meaning of what’s being said. They will also be attuned to the way the speaker feels through other physical cues and the emphasis given to some words over others. The active listener is acutely aware of the emotional content of what’s being said.
Actively listening to your colleagues will not only help you to understand them better, it will also communicate your empathy for them. Everyone benefits from the power of being listened to and genuine active listening is rare in the world of work. Listening effectively requires time and a good deal of effort, but the results in terms of building great relationships with your colleagues can be far-reaching.
BE CURIOUS ABOUT YOUR COLLEAGUES
The confidence that you gain from your own healthy inner dialogue can make you curious about – and open to seeking out – other people. The phenomenon of ‘silo working’ – when departments fail to communicate with each other – is all-too-familiar.
But looking for opportunities to connect with people you don’t know in your company or asking questions about what it feels like to work in another team, can really help you to connect more widely. Being curious about yourself makes you curious about others too. This can be a powerful driver that sits well alongside cross-functional project teams or inter-departmental working.
Running and chairing meetings in an active listening frame of mind will encourage a greater sense of involvement as well as convincing participants that their views are important, whatever their role.
If you can successfully put your own inner dialogue to one side and concentrate fully on understanding the points of view around the table, your colleagues will feel actively involved and genuinely understood.
BE A BETTER LEADER
Finally, if you are leading a team, your colleagues have the right to expect to know where they stand with you and will appreciate consistent authenticity in your relationship with them. If you are comfortable with your own inner dialogue and firmly connected to your own internal compass, you will be in a much better position to communicate with them.
Your inner connectivity controls everything from your mood to your decision-making and no-one appreciates an erratic or inconsistent leader.
My-Fi: How To Connect With Yourself And Those Around You, by Ken Kelling and Chris Wood, is available to download as a free e-book here.