Friday, March 23, 2018

The Question Series - What Comes in the Way of Making Connections?

So what comes in the way of making honest connections at home, work or other places? Why are most teams - especially at work and home so fake, lifeless and shallow?

These were the questions that popped up while in a leadership coaching session. We were trying to go past the we-know-each-other and let's-be-civil-to-one-another and get-on-with -the-job attitude which is fine but not a great one for building trust and feeling fulfilled and connected at a deeper level with a team on whom we are letting our lives ride. We need to do something more and take a leadership stance here. All great leaders do make an effort to build those connections.
The light of honesty shines beautifully against the contrast of vulnerability
Simply put, can we just make this a more fulfilling journey with some trust, some honesty, some understanding, some compassion, some support and do some great work with people who I feel connected to?

In our leadership coaching session we tried to do some empathy exercises, some honesty, some vulnerability but we made no head way. We spoke in measured and guarded tones, in broad and noncommittal manners. There was zero spark in the air.

Seeing that it was going nowhere we decided to share some personal stuff  to questions as simple as - what's your favorite  movie, song, person, book, author, role model, your big dream, your biggest achievement, your big fears so on. Suddenly the room came alive, was charged with emotion. People seemed to wake up, some invisible energy filled the room and we all connected to every word that was being said.

Every word, said and unsaid, came from a deeply personal and honest space and we all felt like we know the other person better instantly. Time flew, people stopped checking watches even though it was way past time and lunch time at that. They were smiling, supporting one another and revealing themselves.

What got me wondering was this - just on the basis that we shared some basic personal stuff, we suddenly became alive. We became real people. Once we become real people, others start to acknowledge us. I wondered what would happen if we shared deeper stuff - our saddest moments, our one regret, our one weakness, our one failure, that one thing we could set right in our current life which we are avoiding. Maybe we could become even more real.
I think by opening ourselves up, we give enough space for the others to latch on to us. To help us. To connect to us. Otherwise we are like a stainless steel cylinder with no chinks, no openings, just a smooth, strong, impassive structure that people cannot do anything with, least of all help or approach for help.

If there is no opening, there can be no connection. If we open up, we others can connect.

Next session we decided to devote more time to this. Once we understand the importance of making connections, most things happen by themselves. The leader has less to do after that because the team feelS connected since they have opened themselves a bit.

What is critical however is to honour those vulnerabilites. If we listen to their dreams and fears, we are saying that we acknowledge, that we care. But if we use it to manipulate them and forget their dream and their fear and move on with our lives, we could leave them with hurt and distrust. It is important to genuinely be interested in them and their life and help them by listening, by asking questions and by offering emotional support. Most times that's all that is needed.

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