Connectedness: A critical future fit skill for the evolved world of work

By Dr Eric Albertini from Future Fit Academy

You might have heard it said that relationships are the cornerstone of success in the workplace. With improved relationships comes improved thinking, which in turn leads to better quality of actions followed by better results. This is all well and good, but relationships don’t exist without some kind of connection, and in the workplace, we call this connectedness.

Legacy Business Cultures describes connectedness as “the ability to relate to others in a manner that builds them up, encourages [them], and brings out their highest potential. Connectedness is a leadership trait associated to building and sustaining relationships”. In fact, becoming a great communicator is a process that starts with becoming a great connector. Learning to connect will improve relationships, boost personal success and allow people to become better leaders.

In our fast-moving world, we are so busy communicating what needs to be done that we tend to forget our humanness. The ability to make a connection is, however, far more important than merely communicating. You can call it the precursor to effective communication: if you connect well, your communication will flow from a completely different place. During the Covid-19 pandemic, we began to see how important this skill is because it is a human need to connect, and social distancing over this time really showed the value of this skill.

‘Successfully achieving connectedness also points to the importance of boosting the esteem of others,’ says Legacy Business Cultures. In fact, it goes further – with the connected leader seeking ways to help others develop, both personally and professionally. Mentoring and coaching are examples of how leaders can boost that connectedness. If you are such a leader, you will have a bias towards caring and supporting those around you. And soon, you will see that others prosper through the support and encouragement you give. As this kind of leader, you handle tough conversations, challenging situations and difficult feedback in a caring and supportive way.

Connectedness at work and as a leader, has a social component. If you are not connected in any other sphere of your life, it’s highly unlikely that this trait will be easy to demonstrate at work. You could fake it for a while, but social habits tend to start showing once you are comfortable. Notice that connectedness is not a skill or trait that only exists in the work environment. I also need to add that it is, indeed, something you can begin to practice.

Why is “connected leadership” important?

Harold Jarche describes connected leadership as arising from a network in balance. He explains that connected leaders know how to deal with ambiguity and complexity and they have an attitude of constant awareness when it comes to the way they lead. ‘Connected leadership,’ says Jarche, ‘focuses on making the whole network smarter, which in return helps the leader to be more effective.’

Connected leaders are self-aware and have mastered their personal knowledge. This sees them working and learning “out loud”, while thinking critically and being actively curious. They have a big picture view because they understand that the parts make up the whole, and they are able to tap into the broader organisation’s needs.

According to Jarche, connected leadership is not given from above, as there is no top in a network. Organisational and network spirit is strengthened when leaders let go of control. Connected leaders use compassion, empathy and trust to influence networked people and the atmosphere of openness eliminates the need for most traditional management control mechanisms.

These empathetic and compassionate traits are truly the new manner of leading. Connected leaders:

– instil a sense of purpose, hope and direction,

– cultivate trust and psychological safety,

– collaborate, share authority and delegate decision-making,

– establish and nurture high-performing teams, and

– are more agile, adaptable and resilient.

There are two interrelated components to connectedness:

– Connecting to self, which MUST precede

– Connecting to others

Connection to self

As we get caught up in the daily grind it becomes easy to lose sight of our inner selves. A connection to self may be sorely missing for many of us, but what is it and what can it mean for us? According to Tim Sitt, ‘the practice of self-connection is a combination of insights, concepts and skills that help the individual access their resources of awareness, wisdom, choice and trust to transform their experience.’

We do not achieve self-connection by defining ourselves by our jobs, weight, money, children, achievements and so on. If we accomplish our hefty to-do list everything will not necessarily be magically OK. As Sitt points out, ‘external outcomes or the good opinion of others is temporary, conditional, [and] not a solid basis for the self.’

Sitt describes the self-connection process as ‘living from within yourself not trying to find yourself externally, but always returning home to the life energy inside and making choices that express and manifest your unique self.’ The 3 stages of this process are:

Acknowledgement – this is all about accepting yourself for who you are

Awareness – concerns the experience you have (without relating it to you as a person)

Action – make choices rooted in yourself to create experiences you truly want and need

We begin the self-connection journey acknowledging ourselves before taking action or making judgements. With this foundation in place, we are able to be honest about our shortcomings and need for growth. Once on this journey, we find greater resilience in life because the focus is no longer on maintaining a fixed view of ourselves but rather on the learning and growing process.

Connection to others

Making a genuine connection with another person goes beyond just having a decent conversation with someone. Renowned author John Maxwell says that in order to achieve this, you need to “match” in 3 key areas:

Your value – a common set of beliefs

Your vision – a common future or desire to work towards

Your venture – a common desire to do work that builds on the values and achieves the vision

Interestingly, Andrea Blundell tells us that, ‘true connection can happen without words and with someone we don’t even know. On the other hand, constant contact, such as working with someone every day, is no guarantee of actual connection.’