Human beings are wired for connection. Research shows that feeling disconnected causes pain.
In a hybrid workplace where we have tools for connection like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, it’s still easy to lose connection when some people are unintentionally excluded. With new understanding, leaders can consciously create more connectivity.
In this post, I’m sharing six observations so that you can identify problem areas. With each observation, I’m also offering a mindset shift and a specific skill set you can use to consciously increase connection in the new year.
1. Share the mic
Observation: Being a participant on many Zoom meetings in 2021, I couldn’t help but notice how often some were unintentionally excluded from the conversation. Often one or two people dominated the conversation with questions, insights, additions, and ideas. They barely took an appropriate breath to allow for interruption.
The dominant engagers seemed unaware that several people had not yet allowed opportunity to contribute. This tendency to dominate arises from a lack of awareness about the time allotment or perhaps an unconscious belief in time scarcity.
Mindset shift: There’s time for me and for others.
Skill set: Self-awareness. Note how much time you talk versus others. Feel the discomfort of allowing others to speak before you speak.
2. Stop trying to impress others
Observation: When you notice someone using big words, one-upping others in a conversation, discounting another person’s success, or over-complicating processes, they are likely trying to impress others.
Trying to impress others comes from a lack of self-worth and the need to get approval. Unfortunately, this behavior does little to impress others; instead creating further disconnection. If you observe this tendency with an employee, you might need to coach them and reassure them that it’s better to be impressed by others than to try to impress others.
Mindset shift: I’m enough just as I am.
Skill set: Noticing insecurities and thoughts of needing other people’s admiration or approval. Sincerely acknowledge other people’s success as often as possible.
3. Choose curiosity over certainty
Observation: I’ve coached high-level leaders on initiating difficult conversations, and a common objection is, “I already know what they’re going to say.” What I explain is, while you can predict a pattern, you don’t really know what someone will say until they actually say it.
The reason we avoid conversations is because we make predictions based on past patterns. What we don’t realize is that we’re also in a pattern: a pattern of assuming, which contributes to the predictable outcome. Avoiding the elephant in the room only deepens the disconnect.
Mindset: I could be wrong about how I’m seeing things.
Skill set: Learn the art of radical listening. Acknowledge and inquire. Say something like, “That’s an interesting point of view. Tell me more.” Then close your mouth until you’ve really heard what the other person has to say, not what you assumed they would say.
4. Stop getting distracted
Observation: Some business meetings drain your energy. That’s because the conversation resembles popcorn in the wind. There are too many priorities, multiple left-hand turns, and no action items to follow up on.
This happens at group meetings on site, Zoom meetings and one-on-one meetings. Allowing distractions makes people dread meeting with you; therefore, they disconnect before the conversation begins.
Mindset: There’s an intention and a desired end result for every meeting.
Skill set: Planning the conversation’s intention and goals is the key to avoiding distraction. Decide in advance where you want the conversation to go and the kind of tone you expect. What’s the final outcome? What action items require follow through? How long will the meeting last?
5. Create space
Observation: When there’s no space in the conversation, it’s easy for participants to drift and disconnect. While facilitating some livestreams on LinkedIn, I watched my recorded video. I had my fair share of filler words and run-on sentences.
Mindset: It’s OK to feel discomfort. I don’t have to fill every space.
Skill set: Watch your video replay and count the filler words, qualifiers and run-on sentences in the first 10 minutes. It’s painful but worthwhile.
Observation: Sometimes on video calls, you’ll be invited to participate in groups without a designated facilitator. The result is often no organization, frustration and lots of wasted time.
Mindset: Someone has to take the lead. If no facilitator was assigned, my suggestion is to jump in and say “I volunteer to facilitate unless someone else is dying to do it.”
Skill set: Assess the time allotment, create a mini-agenda and mark how much time is allotted to each person. If you’ve been designated as the facilitator, explain that each person gets a certain allotment of time and then facilitate a round-robin — with a timer, if necessary.
In a technological world with many tools to create connectivity, many still feel excluded. Leaders with the awareness and skills can consciously contribute to a culture, a department or an experience where everyone feels more connected.
Marlene Chism is a consultant, international speaker and the author of “Stop Workplace Drama” (Wiley 2011), “No-Drama Leadership” (Bibliomotion 2015) and the forthcoming book “From Conflict to Courage” (Berrett-Koehler 2022). She is a recognized expert on the LinkedIn Global Learning platform. Connect with Chism via LinkedIn or at MarleneChism.com.