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THE POWER OF CONNECTION

Iliana Tzanaki Director of Growth & Strategy
28APR
2021

I’ve been thinking a lot about this subject in the past couple of years. Why does everyone find it so hard to “connect”? Why do we still run into these awkward meetings, conversations, dates and so on? Why do we expect to be heard, while we’re not willing to deeply listen? It looks like, for some of us, this urge, willingness and ability to connect, comes more naturally. For others not so. But it’s something we can definitely learn along the way.

The concept of connection comes with multiple meanings. Daily, you have the chance to connect with:

  • Yourself - the first and foremost aspect of connection
  • Others - partners, friends, colleagues and neighbors
  • Nature and the environment - your perception of the natural world
  • Business - a vital factor for your work-life balance

My experience as a professional athlete and team captain, along with having coached more than 30 cross-functional teams, allowed me to discover the power of connection. I realized that, working towards a common goal, makes it almost mandatory to have a group of people that are aligned, disciplined and driven to visualize the objective while putting their best effort into it. A group who find themselves on the same page, who support each other; who have a sense of belonging. In other words, a group that is connected.

Thus today, by sharing with you my personal view on the essence, the tools and the power connection has, I would like not only to focus on our nature as social beings but also talk about connecting with others in the business environment.

Before we continue: what is connection and why is it so important in the first place?


According to Jeff Klein: "A state in which two or more people engage in active relationship."

The way I see it, connection is about letting go of your ego, your goals, your agenda and acknowledge the other person as a whole.

The first thing we need to realize: connection is a choice. It is up to you to decide if you want to connect deeper with someone, since you might end up in uncharted waters.

Delving deeper into the subject, I tried to define the right formula and identify the “magic" steps, as I like to call them, on the connection process.

Awareness

Awareness is the first step to begin the journey to connection. Self-awareness, in particular, plays an important role in building shared understanding and collaborative action.

Through awareness, we gain a better understanding of the environment, the other person and the context of a conversation. It seems pretty easy, but most of the times we are not fully present. We enter conversations and meetings, while at the same time, we run through millions of thoughts about issues at home, personal insecurities or you name it. Give yourself 5’ from one meeting to the other. Let yourself pause. Don’t rush everything and don’t try to squeeze things just for the sake of finishing your to-do list!

It is through self-awareness that genuine communication finds space to grow.

Deep Listening

We think we listen, but very rarely do we listen with real understanding, true empathy. Yet, listening, of this special kind, is one of the most potent forces for change that I know.

Carl Rogers

Listening leads the way to true connection. It requires genuine interest and attention to the other person, as well as the temporary suspension of judgment. Deep listening does not come easy to many of us and it’s definitely not something we are typically taught growing up.

Sometimes we get impatient and hurry conversations, barely containing ourselves until the other person has finished talking. However, the outcome of deep, active listening is so powerful! It allows you to engage without any assumptions, establish trust with each other and show to the other person that you really value what they have to say, cultivating authentic connection.

Collaboration

In all team sports there are clear roles (coach, physiotherapist, team manager, players, etc) with specific responsibilities, setting common goals and a mutually-accepted set of rules and action points, in order to accomplish these goals. This is an organized Way of Working together model - and a very successful one, since it’s clear to everyone why, when, with whom and what they need to do at every step of the process, in order to walk towards victory.

It’s funny how we forget that working with others in a business environment is exactly the same thing. Instead, we make it very complicated! All of these rules, steps and procedures, create a safe space for everyone and spark collaboration! If you sometimes sense that the environment is not right or something feels “off”, speak up, be honest and give feedback to your colleagues.

Connection

Once you’ve switched on awareness, deep listening and collaboration, you know you’re on the right path to achieve true connection. But is that all there is to it?

We can spend hours and hours trying to define connection and it’s countless ins and outs, but it is through our actual life experiences that connection begins to makes sense!

The funny thing is that most of us believe we are “connected” to our family, friends, partner or colleague, when, in reality, we are not. In today’s busy lifestyle, it seems hard to invest time in others, to take a step back and listen. It’s even harder to connect with ourselves. No wonder why meditation, deep breathing and myriads of other related apps are trending right now! Sometimes what we just need is to slow down, listen to our inner voices, trust and connect.

So, join me in trying three (3) things, that I trust will help you achieve a true-er connection to others:

1. Be authentic. Expose your true self and don’t always try to fit in. As Oscar Wilde said it: "Be yourself, everyone else is taken."

2. Be vulnerable. Embrace vulnerability and realize that it is not a weakness, but a superpower!

3. Be open. There are so many fascinating truths to be found out there, if you just let them in.

As I said at the beginning, connection with others is just one of the many aspects of the matter. You need to connect the dots - pun intended - for an organic, straightforward, real connection with others AND yourself AND your environment AND your workplace, to truly achieve balance. Looking into all aspects of meaningful interaction, you can harness the power of connection, and build a well-balanced, empowered life.

It all comes down to you. So, how about starting with yourself?

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