Karen Darrin

In last week’s blog, I wrote about office politics and how important it is to make “high-quality connections” throughout your organization.  Here I will dive deeper into what these connections look like and how you can make them part of your communication style.

Think about the last time you interacted with someone who drained the energy out of you. What characterized that interaction? Most likely, the conversation was predominantly, if not solely, negative. There was lots of complaining and bringing others down. The ‘conversation’ was one-way. The other person shared their thoughts, but when it was time to listen, he or she glanced down at their iPhone. Not surprisingly, these exchanges wreak havoc on the internal effectiveness of organizations.

Now, transpose the above scenario with an encounter that leaves you wanting more. Afterwards, you continue to brim with passion and your energy has shifted significantly upward. You feel a sense of vitality, acceptance, and momentum that is tough to ignore.

These “High Quality Connections” (HQCs) benefit us on more than just an emotional level. Research from Jane Dutton and her colleagues from the University of Michigan has shown these relationships to improve our cognitive functioning and creativity. HQCs also motivate employees to exhibit higher levels of organizational citizenship behaviors, which are those actions that involve going above and beyond the call of duty. Not surprisingly, there are also advantages to these behaviors at the organizational level, where greater overall efficiency and performance has been found when these relationships are in play.

How do we create these relationships at work?

1. Be present when interacting with people
This involves turning away from our computers, smart phones, etc. It is tough to feel truly appreciated and understood when someone is glancing at a screen or typing out a text message or email. If you cannot commit the attention to the interaction, it is better to postpone the meeting or conversation. It will be worth it.

2. Engage in active listening
There are several components of active listening that are important for building HQCs with our colleagues. Paraphrasing what someone just shared by summarizing what you felt you understood, is a powerful technique. It allows the other individual to correct you if you are mistaken and also facilitates ‘checking in’ to ensure you are receiving the message appropriately. This expressed level of concern demonstrates your interest to the speaker.

3. Listen with empathy
A key defining characteristic of an HQC is the sense of being heard and accepted by the other party. What better way to demonstrate this level of concern than through the lens of empathy? Staying focused on understanding the world through the eyes and heart of another person is a gift that can facilitate strong, positive connections.

4. Make it about the other person, not about you
Dutton and her colleagues found that a critical element of building HQCs is in our mutual support of each other. When we feel that other people are looking out for our best interest, a deeper and more connected relationship is possible. Suspending our agenda for the benefit of others very much adds to the quality of relationships we experience.

5. Reward HQC behaviors
If you are a leader within an organization, make it a point to reward and recognize the expression of the above behaviors. Taking the time to highlight their value and reinforce their importance within the culture can leverage the dividends discussed earlier.

Building a positive and vibrant culture is essential for organizations. Not surprisingly, human relationships are at the heart of this equation. Preliminary research strongly indicates that creating High Quality Connections within our work environments brings tremendous benefits to everyone involved. Rather than draining the energy of co-workers, building and maintaining High Quality Connections will boost the motivation and sense of connection within the workplace, facilitating growth and productivity.

For a deeper dive, read Jane Dutton’s 2003 book, Energize Your Workplace: How to Create and Sustain High-Quality Connections at Work.

CALL TO ACTION:  Would you like to expand your high quality connection skills? Let’s outline strategies together. Schedule a Free 30-min Consult or email me at karen@karendarrin.com.

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