Strong connections lead to strong communications and successful outcomes, so it’s important that we listen, understand, and respond in ways that are supportive.
According to Charles Eames, “Eventually everything connects – people, ideas, objects. The quality of the connections is the key to quality per se.”
We can interpret the above quote in different ways. We think about our interactions, and how we relate and communicate with colleagues and clients. But oftentimes, we don’t think about how our ideas and even objects around us can affect how we connect with others. Another interpretation could be that for quality design and operation of a facility, we need to connect adequately to infrastructure like pipelines, electrical systems, and the internet. The bottom line is that everything can be interpreted through the connections we have or the connections we are creating in the process.
How do we achieve these connections? Connecting with infrastructure can be straightforward, as infrastructure doesn’t have feelings; it doesn’t talk back, disagree, or challenge our ideas. Clients and colleagues, on the other hand, can challenge us at every pass. But it is these connections that can give us perspective and help us to grow. Connections begin by reaching out, building a team, asking for help, researching, and analyzing the possibilities presented. It’s what we do as we journey through life that can lead to enduring connections.
Here are a few strategies for building strong connections:
- Be in the moment. In our technological age, with internet, Teams, and Zoom meetings, we have many tools that are intended to help people connect. However, the best way to really connect is by actively listening and being fully engaged when someone is talking with you. Put the phone down, close the laptop (unless they are communicating through a video call, of course), and focus on the individual.
- Build trust. Being reliable gains trust in others. Show reliability in your listening skills by repeating back key ideas from your conversation. Share an experience you’ve had that shows some vulnerability and understanding of their situation. Nothing builds trust more than demonstrating empathy toward others.
- Offer support. As consultants, we should always listen for ways we can support our colleagues and clients. With colleagues, is there a way we can help with something, or offer a different perspective without judgement? With clients, can we offer examples of similar situations and how a successful outcome was achieved? Each situation will offer opportunities to serve and support others.
- Self-care. It is important that we come as our best self to each interaction. That means that we are taking steps to care for ourselves physically and mentally. When we feel good, it’s evident to the people around us and leaves a favorable impression on them about our character.
- Respect. It is important to think before we speak. What pressure has this colleague/client been under, what are they really asking of us? They may just need a listening ear. Think about your response. Is it framed in a way that will be productive; is it something you would want to hear if you were in their situation?
When completing project post-mortems, the number one cause given for project failures is lack of proactive communication. Strong connections lead to strong communications lead to successful outcomes.
In conclusion, maintaining connections in the workplace relies on our ability to listen, understand, and respond in a supportive and respectful manner. And building or maintaining those connections starts with each and every one of us.
Kevin Bertrand is a project controls manager at SCS Engineers. Contact him at email@example.com.