Reach out and Connect

I spend a lot of time thinking, talking and writing about building collaborative teams, high performing teams, teams that deliver value. I have found over time that there is one central theme running through the skills needed to achieve this peak effectiveness.


Connecting with others sharpens our social skills, teaches us about communication and negotiation. It even allows us to engage in healthy conflict. Without this connection our image of our selves and our thoughts and ideas stagnate.

I was watching TV recently and realised that most of the ads on TV were talking about disengaging, isolating yourself, being alone, not “going to” others, but actually withdrawing from interaction, being isolated, and “protecting yourself” from other’s thoughts and ideas. I thought about how most of our world tends to be screen focuses (at least in my domain) and this limits our interactions with others. I have written about this before when talking about building a safe environment.

Our team is spending a lot of time at the moment exploring Dreyfus, Dunning Kruger, Cynefin, and Blooms Taxonomy so that we can talk about Proactive Risk Management with our client teams. Each of these models, approaches and thought structures also has the theme of connection running through them. The lower levels, simple and novice stages are all very isolationist, and the wording around these levels is very much about the individual working alone. The higher levels, more complex and more sophisticated thinking and working styles very much focus on the team, collaboration and establishing the connection with others to grow thoughts and ideas.

We need others to reflect off, to bounce off, to riff off. A high performing team needs that high degree of interaction, of connection, to be able to interact at the most valuable levels. Interaction can be working together to plan, working together to deliver, or working together to improve. Each of these require trust in each other, trust comes from connection.

As a team member try to think about connecting with your other team members. Quick and simple ways:

  1. look at each other – take the time to actually look into someone’s eyes as they are talking, pay undivided attention to them for 5 minutes. Use your standard practices such as Standups or Showcases as an opportunity to really look at your team.
  2. Listen closely to what they are saying, and think about it. Ask yourself questions about what they are saying. Give them your opinion on what they have said. Retros are a perfect place to practice this.
  3. Look at body language – see how people are holding themselves and see if you can assess how they are feeling. Do they look open? If not, how can you help them feel safe enough to have open body language.
  4. Pay someone a compliment – it makes people feel good, but make it honest and sincere.
  5. Smile – it’s great to lead the way with a smile, show your inner happiness and it will viralise. Even smile at strangers to build a wider connection.

Trust is the cornerstone of a High Performing Team

Humanity is very much wired to work together, to be part of a community, to establish a sense of belonging. High Performing Teams foster and grow this connection, it becomes a definitional aspect of the team.

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