Ask yourself, “What groups of people do I know that could benefit from being better connected”? Whether your thoughts went to work, community or family, we can easily identify connections that are strong as well as connections that are weak.
Why are human to human connections so important?
We are genetically and socially programmed to be connected to others. Evolutionary theory developed by Charles Darwin and widely accepted as having some scientific validity theorized that in order for a species to survive it must be driven to behave in ways that promote Survival and Reproduction. Because of these two basic “Survival of the Fittest” drives humans have continued to evolve specific adaptive behaviors to stay connected and Thrive. Believe it or not, even though the news of current events catches our focus, we are actually living in the most peaceful time in history according to historians looking at 100 plus year periods. Survival is actually getting easier to do. Reproductive adaptive behaviors drive what we are attracted to and can unconsciously effect our interpersonal behaviors, not just as mates but how agreeable or valued we see each other, how accepted we feel, how much automatic trust we place in each other and many other unconscious psychological dynamics.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; Physical, safety, security, love and Belonging, Self-esteem, and Self Actualization; all depend on solid close social connections. One failure to Maslow’s model is that we have examples both in the animal and human world where social connection is chosen over food, water and shelter. A study by Lunstad, Smith, and Layton at Brigham Young University and published in the Journal of Medicine https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1000316 showed that a lack of social connection has a greater detriment to your health than obesity and smoking. On the positive side strong human connections have been proven to lead to a %50 higher chance of life longevity, strengthened immune system, lower rates of anxiety and depression, higher self esteem and greater empathy towards others. Social connectedness creates reciprocal connections that affect our physical and emotional well-being. We live in a time where a lot of people do not feel connected and technology seems to be pushing us even further from the authentic human connections we all need in order to thrive.
Most people’s primary social group is their work. This is where a lot of us spend 40 – 60 plus hours a week for the majority if not all of our lives. This is not including the time spent ruminating about work issues. Like it or not this is where we get most of our social connections. For those teams where the connections are strong, you are enjoying higher levels of endorphins, strengthened immune systems, overall sense of wellbeing, higher productivity, lower costs and very possibly a longer life.
For those teams that are struggling to connect, unfortunately the opposite is true. You will experience higher levels of fear and stress hormones (adrenalin, cortisol, and nonadrenalin) resulting over time in exhaustion, maladaption, burnout and dysfunction decreasing results at higher costs, and very possibly affecting the quality and quantity of life. (effects of chronic fear)
So… since developing strong connections is so important, how can we improve connections in and between our teams, groups, and families? Whenever I am asked the question “How can our team or organization improve its peoples sense of belonging”? I first ask “How do people in your life know that they belong”? I think too often at work we try to make human connection way to scientific and technical. True bonding and connecting with others is first emotional and second practical.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Use Greetings and manners, smile and acknowledge others, use people’s names, give compliments, apologize and forgive, offer help.
- Be the teammate you would like to have, be reliable, thoughtful, timely, authentic, and sensitive. Intentionally include others and acknowledge their importance.
- listen to others attentively, show genuine interest in what others think and feel.
- Share things about your past, present, and future with each other. Trust only comes from practicing vulnerability.
- Structure team building time, do a community service project together, plan informal social gatherings, include family at some of them.
- Establish a strong purpose at the individual and team level that gives teams a reason to want to connect and stay connected. Keep that purpose front and center.
- Ground the team with clearly shared goals that drive connection, make sure division of roles and responsibilities and accountability are mutually understood and the connections are regularly discussed.
- Assure that everyone is getting to use their talents and strengths in contribution to the teams objectives.
- Create a culture of true psychological safety where teams feel free to exchange passionate ideas, disagreements and dreams leading to synergistic solutions. A place where teams can feel free to be themselves without fear. A place where they can connect safely on an emotional level building Trust and creating a strong group identity.
- Define and establish measures of success, regularly discuss progress. Strong teams are interested in their scorecard.
- Support each other when the occasional hard work does not yield intended results.
- Celebrate, have Fun, show love and caring for each other.
If you could use some help connecting your people and teams contact us at www.oecleadership.com