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  • Writer's pictureNancy Dering Mock

Unraveling or Knitting?

Updated: Sep 28, 2020

Much has been written about the unraveling of human connections. As more and more people work in isolation, both physical and emotional, they often feel disconnected. As more and more people interact less frequently with colleagues, they often feel less commitment to those relationships. Add the detaching effect of technology and the alienating effect of growing divides in society and the workplace, and it is no wonder employees report higher than ever levels of disengagement; they feel like their teams are disintegrating.

What is the antidote to this sense of unraveling? How do leaders restore this much-needed sense of human connectedness, especially during difficult times? How do leaders knit back together the regard, the respect, the commitment to one another that marks a strong team and a strong organization? This "re-knitting" does not happen by accident. It happens when the leader has the intent, the discipline and the skills to reverse the unraveling and begin the process of re-knitting. Here are some ways to do this:

  1. The Yarn of Dialogue: There is absolutely no substitute for the exchange of ideas, perspectives, opinions and experience among people. Leaders understand this need for human exchange by stimulating meaningful conversations. The physical distance among people can be overcome by engaging groups in discussions that encourage sharing of individual perspectives, not necessarily with an eye to reach consensus, but more to explore ideas.

  2. Bring Fresh Voices to the Table: Leaders understand the value of bringing fresh faces, voices and viewpoints to conversations. They consider those who may not ordinarily be included. This not only widens the array of possible ideas, but also engages employees who may feel voiceless.

  3. Listen for Intent: Communications experts tell us that beneath the content of messages lies the intent, the reason for the message. Effective leaders are skilled at interpreting not only "what" someone is saying, but "why." It is in the "why" that the underlying rationale, motivation, emotions, and reactions can be better understood. Being able to respond to both content and intent shows empathy and strengthens relationships.

  4. The Secret is NOT in Your Thumbs: You truly connect with people with your regard, your eyes and your heart, not your thumbs! Leaders need to increase connections more through conversation than through texts, twitter and zoom. Team members remember far more how they are communicated with and how valued it makes them feel.

One of the challenges to leaders in contemporary organizations is overcoming the unraveling and alienation that can occur between and among people and teams. Effective leaders work intently to restore these relationships, re-knitting one of the most important aspects of human enterprise: the relationships of those involved.

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

  1. Do you agree that organizations and teams seem increasingly disconnected? Describe your experience?

  2. Describe your experience with "meaning conversations" at work. Who initiated them? What were the outcomes?

  3. Do you agree that team members remember far more about a communication when they feel valued?

  4. Have you experienced a leader who was skilled at "re-knitting," restoring relationships in a group or team? What did he or she do?

  5. What are the implications for leaders? For you?

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