Thought Leadership

Connectedness: A critical future fit skill for the evolved world of work

Dr Eric Albertini unpacks ‘Connectedness’ as one of the 15 ‘future fit skills’ that are critical to being relevant and competent, if not advanced, in the future of work. 

You might have heard it said that relationships are the cornerstone of success in the workplace. With improved relationships comes improved thinking which in turn leads to better quality of actions followed by better results. This is all well and good, but relationships don’t exist without some kind of connection, and in the workplace, we call this connectedness.

Legacy Business Cultures describes connectedness as “the ability to relate to others in a manner that builds them up, encourages [them], and brings out their highest potential. Connectedness is a leadership trait associated to building and sustaining relationships”. In fact, becoming a great communicator is a process that starts with becoming a great connector. Learning to connect will improve relationships, boost personal success, and allow people to become better leaders.

In our fast-moving world, we are so busy communicating what needs to be done that we tend to forget our humanness. The ability to make a connection is, however, far more important than merely communicating. You can call it the precursor to effective communication: if you connect well, your communication will flow from a completely different place. During the Covid-19 pandemic, we began to see how important this skill is because it is a human need to connect and social distancing over this time really showed the value of this skill.

Successfully achieving connectedness also points to the importance of boosting the esteem of others, says Legacy Business Cultures. In fact, it goes further – with the connected leader seeking ways to help others develop, both personally and professionally. Mentoring and coaching are examples of how leaders can boost that connectedness. If you are such a leader, you will have a bias towards caring and supporting those around you. And soon, you will see that others prosper through the support and encouragement you give. As this kind of leader, you handle tough conversations, challenging situations and difficult feedback in a caring and supportive way.

Connectedness is identified as one of the 15 skills that the Future Fit Academy has developed to provide a comprehensive self-assessment tool that assesses how effective you are in the areas that are most important in the world of work today. These 15 future fit skills are:   

1.        Curiosity – the desire to know more about something or someone. The willingness to seek out and embrace the unknown.

2.        Dealing with Paradox– the ability to deal with seemingly opposing or contradictory perspectives; the ability to think ‘both/and’ instead of ‘either/or’.

3.        Tolerance of Ambiguity – the degree to which an individual is comfortable with uncertainty, unpredictability, conflicting directions and multiple demands.

4.        Learning Agility – the ability and willingness to learn from experience and use those lessons to perform effectively in new and different situations.

5.        Growth Mindset – the mindset that talents can be developed through hard work, good strategies, and input from others.

6.        Design Thinking Mindset – an ideology and a process concerned with solving complex problems in a highly user-centric way.

7.        Sensemaking – how we structure the unknown so as to be able to act.

8.        Creating Clarity – defining shared values and engaging people in positive action.

9.        Adaptability – having ready access to different ways of thinking, enabling leaders to shift and experiment as things change.

10.      Cultural Adaptability – an individual’s willingness and ability to adapt their manner of communicating, motivating and managing across cultures.

11.      Virtual Collaboration – collaboration between dispersed team members that is carried out via technology-mediated communication.

12.      Change Resiliency – being able to adapt well and bounce back quickly in times of stress and constant change. 

13.      Resourcefulness – the ability and creativity to cope with difficulties; the ability to deal resourcefully with difficult problems.

14.      Leading without Authority – getting others to willingly cooperate and engage, rather than following directives because of your positional authority.

15.      Connectedness – the ability to relate to others in a manner that builds them up, encourages them and brings out their highest potential.

Connectedness at work and as a leader, has a social component. If you are not connected in any other sphere of your life, it’s highly unlikely that this trait will be easy to demonstrate at work. You could fake it for a while, but social habits tend to start showing once you are comfortable. Notice that connectedness is not a skill or trait that only exists in the work environment. I also need to add that it is, indeed, something you can begin to practice.

Why is ‘connected leadership’ important?

Harold Jarche describes connected leadership as arising from a network in balance. He explains that connected leaders know how to deal with ambiguity and complexity and they have an attitude of constant awareness when it comes to the way they lead. “Connected leadership”, says Jarche, “focuses on making the whole network smarter, which in return helps the leader to be more effective”.

Connected leaders are self-aware and have mastered their personal knowledge. This sees them working and learning ‘out loud’ while thinking critically and being actively curious. They have a big picture view because they understand that the parts make up the whole, and they are able to tap into the broader organisation’s needs.

According to Jarche, connected leadership is not given from above, as there is no top in a network. Organisational and network spirit is strengthened when leaders let go of control. Connected leaders use compassion, empathy and trust to influence networked people and the atmosphere of openness eliminates the need for most traditional management control mechanisms.

These empathetic and compassionate traits are truly the new manner of leading. Connected leaders:

•             instil a sense of purpose, hope and direction,

•             cultivate trust and psychological safety,

•             collaborate, share authority and delegate decision-making,

•             establish and nurture high-performing teams, and

•             are more agile, adaptable and resilient.

At the Future Fit Academy, we believe there are two interrelated components to connectedness:

1.            Connecting to self, which MUST precede

2.            Connecting to others

Connection to self

As we get caught up in the daily grind it becomes easy to lose sight of our inner selves. A connection to self may be sorely missing for many of us, but what is it and what can it mean for us? According to Tim Sitt, “the practice of self-connection is a combination of insights, concepts, and skills that help the individual access their resources of awareness, wisdom, choice, and trust to transform their experience”.

We do not achieve self-connection by defining ourselves by our jobs, weight, money, children, achievements and so on. If we accomplish our hefty to-do list everything will not necessarily be magically OK. As Sitt points out, “external outcomes or the good opinion of others is temporary, conditional, [and] not a solid basis for the self”.

Sitt describes the self-connection process as “living from within yourself not trying to find yourself externally, but always returning home to the life energy inside and making choices that express and manifest your unique self”. The 3 stages of this process are:

1.            Acknowledgement – this is all about accepting yourself for who you are

2.            Awareness – concerns the experience you have (without relating it to you as a person)

3.            Action – make choices rooted in yourself to create experiences you truly want and need

We begin the self-connection journey acknowledging ourselves before taking action or making judgements. With this foundation in place, we are able to be honest about out shortcomings and need for growth. Once on this journey, we find greater resilience in life because the focus is no longer on maintaining a fixed view of ourselves but rather on the learning and growing process.

Connection to others

Making a genuine connection with another person goes beyond just having a decent conversation with someone. Renowned author John Maxwell says that in order to achieve this, you need to ‘match’ in 3 key areas:

1.            Your value – a common set of beliefs

2.            Your vision – a common future or desire to work towards

3.           Your venture – a common desire to do work that builds on the values and achieves the vision

Interestingly, Andrea Blundell tells us that “true connection can happen without words and with someone we don’t even know. On the other hand, constant contact, such as working with someone every day, is no guarantee of actual connection”.

According to Scott Dinsmore in Forbes Magazine, the 7 pillars of achieving connectedness with another person all actually hinge on being helpful. They are:

1.            Be genuine – only the connections you truly care about will work.

2.           Provide massive help – sometimes even a small gesture can make a big difference to someone.

3.           Pay ridiculous attention – do your research and learn everything you can to help you connect.

4.            Connect with people close to them – spend quality time on networking.

5.            Persistence wins most battles – sometimes it takes time to develop a true connection.

6.            Make real friends – real connections have the same depth of relationship as our friendships.

7.            Remain unforgettable – how you stay in touch can reinforce the connection.

The Future Fit Academy (FFA) is a centre of excellence in SA Business School, specialising in helping individuals, teams, leaders and organisations equip themselves for changes in the world of work. We help you to make sense of the disruptors that are changing how you live and work, and help you master the 15 Future Fit skills, knowledge and behaviours required to continue to remain relevant and be effective in an ever-changing world. We use The Future Fit Index (FFI) to assess readiness in terms of a range of future skills and provide integrated solutions and developmental pathways to develop these skills.

Sources

Weichert, M. n.d. 5 common principles of connectedness I discovered by listening to the stories of people I care about, 27 January 2018. [Online]. Available at: https://medium.com/@mp.weichert/5-common-principles-of-connectedness-i-discovered-by-listening-to-the-stories-of-people-i-care-7c081220b315 [Accessed 30 November 2020].

Legacy Business Cultures.2022. Dimensions of Leadership: Connectedness, 1 March 2016. [Online]. https://legacycultures.com/dimensions-of-leadership-connectedness/#:~:text=The%20ability%20to%20relate%20to,to%20building%20and%20sustaining%20relationships.&text=The%20connected%20leader%20seeks%20ways,develop%2C%20both%20personally%20and%20professionally. [Accessed 30 November 2020].

Jarche, H. n.d. What is connected leadership?, 9 March 2016. [Online]. https://jarche.com/2016/03/what-is-connected-leadership/#:~:text=Connected%20leaders%20know%20how%20to,the%20leader%20be%20more%20effective. [Accessed 3 December 2020].

Inscape Consulting. 2022. Five Factors That Define Connectivity in Both Leadership and Business. [Online]. https://www.inscapeconsulting.com/2019/06/five-factors-that-define-connectivity-in-both-leadership-and-business/ [Accessed 3 December 2020].

Beaches Therapy Group. n.d. What is self-connection?, 21 March 2017. [Online]. https://beachestherapy.ca/what-is-self-connection/ [Accessed 3 December 2020].

Harley Therapy. 2022. Connecting with people – What it is and isn’t, and why you might find it hard. [Online]. https://www.harleytherapy.co.uk/counselling/connecting-with-people.htm#:~:text=Connecting%20with%20others%20is%20a,person%20we%20are%20connecting%20with

Dinsmore, S. n.d. The 7 Pillars of Connecting with Absolutely Anyone, 25 April 2012. [Online]. https://www.forbes.com/sites/theyec/2012/04/25/the-7-pillars-of-connecting-with-absolutely-anyone/?sh=32ad35873419 [Accessed 4 December 2020].

Maxwell, J.C. 2010. Everyone Communicates, Few Connect. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.