Work is a social process. We create our social environment and our successes one human transaction at a time, every time. An era of innovation, collaboration, and attention to quality relationships is here. Aptitudes to build productive relationships and teams are no longer “soft skills” but are now the lifeblood of organizational resilience. These tips will help you put the quality of your social connections at the forefront of ongoing success and sustainability.
Listen with full attention. In a world of sound bites and tweets, gaining and holding each other’s attention has become nearly acrobatic. The simplest and most profound way to cultivate connection is to offer others the respect of your full attention, regardless of their position or role. Listening fully requires a steady and receptive presence, to receive what lies beneath words and content. Attentive listening cultivates a depth of quality and meaning of our time together, contributing to more expedient meetings and shared understanding.
Convene conversations purposefully. Make every meeting, phone call, e-mail, and conversation crystal clear with your intention and desired outcomes. A clearly stated intention helps to magnetize thought and action around where we are going together and what is needed from us. For those meetings that have become routine, reenergize them by clarifying the intended purpose and outcomes with the group. How we talk about the work is reflected in the quality of the work we produce. Convene every conversation with purpose and focus.
Integrate “Yes … and …” into your speech. For cultures of cooperation and collaboration to arise, we need to become skilled at thinking and speaking with “both/and”—speech that unites diverse views. Competing colleagues typically think in “either/or” terms, using “no…but…” in their speech. Receive and validate what others say with a “yes,” and then add your views to it with “and.” Shifting to additive rather than eliminative language enables new knowledge to be created out of divergent views.
Cultivate ongoing appreciative regard. We amplify what we talk about. Using language to complain and blame amplifies its presence in our relationships and filters into our work. Use language to amplify what you want more of. With every person and in every conversation, commit to seeing the good first and then amplify it with words. Appreciation needs to become embedded in our everyday language and not reserved for awkward closed-door reviews. Speak regularly about what you appreciate and it will grow.
Balance advocacy with open inquiry. Hierarchical organizations have bred competition into our social fabric, as more employees at the bottom must compete for fewer opportunities above them. This competitiveness has embedded itself in our speech. We become experts at advocating for our own views while trying to invalidate the views of our colleagues. Use inquiry to search for common ground. “Do you really think that’s wise?” has inherent judgment in it, which invites a defensive answer. “What do you see is possible with this decision?” is an open question that invites the respondent to share how they see reality, and orients the response toward possibility rather than problem-amplifying speech.