Last weekend, my two older bros and I took a road trip to Nelson Lakes. This 24-hour excursion was about hanging out as siblings and remembering our dad, who died seven years ago.
Our time together was filled with reminiscing about our beloved father. How he loved chocolate and whiskey. How he would vacillate between mischievous antics (like stuffing a whole lamington in his mouth in the queue at the coffee shop) and the low level (but sometimes crippling) anxiety that prevented him from taking up a Rhodes scholarship overseas as a young academic.
In between homemade lasagne and bottles of pinot, we shared memories of our childhood. So vivid was our trip down memory lane there were times when I was transported back to our childhood home on Trent Ave.
It was 24 hours filled with laughter, good food, gentle ribbing and love. It was 24 hours of connection.
The power of connection
In our hustle-bustle-jam-packed-agenda-filled lives, connecting with little purpose other than to be with each other gets little airtime. It’s a luxury to be squeezed in between kid’s sports games, folding washing and that never ending work to-do list.
But connection is indispensable to a life well lived. A lack of human connection can be more harmful to your health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure.
And it’s not only in our personal lives that connection is critical. Connection at work is paramount to success. As Ron Friedman of HBR says,: “Employees with close connections at work are more productive, creative, and collaborative. They also report being more satisfied with their job, are less susceptible to burnout, and are less likely to leave their organization to pursue another role. In other words, not only are they better contributors, they provide more stability to a team.”
But making time to connect is too often the ‘icing on the cake’ instead of the cake itself. Connection with no purpose other than for itself is rarely honoured in our organisations. It seems wasteful and worthless. Connection for its own sake is shoved into the corner. It’s a luxury, an afterthought, an add-on Friday drinks once in a blue moon.
Instead, we revere action plans, project updates and meetings stuffed to the brim with next steps and important topics to be discussed at pace.
The irony is that when a team comes together with connection as the primary purpose – when the agenda is loose, wide and short – magic emerges. This type of coming together creates room for deeper conversations, getting to know each other, and for judgement to be replaced with understanding. Whenever I facilitate executive team workshops, it’s the time spent together that is most valued and valuable.
Building connection into our teams
How can we honour connection more in our teams? How can we prioritise time together as a noble pursuit in itself? Not (only) to improve team performance or move towards organisational goals, but merely to make our lives richer? To buffer against loneliness? To laugh and have some fun?
For this week’s Leader’s Digest blog, I don’t have five tips on how to do this, or six practical ways to make time for connection. You’ll know better than me about what will work for your team or organisation. At most, it’s a plea to leaders to see why it’s so important to connect as a team without a frightening agenda to get through.
This is more a reflection on how powerful connection is – and why we must absolutely prioritise time for connecting with each other. I hope you’ll find ways to have your own version of my “hanging out” weekend. Let’s recognise the merit of time spent together purely for the purpose of spending time together – and start to discover what magic happens we do.
Related: Learning To Pause When Things Go Sideways: A Guide for Tense Conversations in Teams