Connection Matters

Connection & Leadership at Work

written by Drew Bonfiglio, Emzingo, and Jill McLaughlin, ReVision Energy

ReVision’s commitment to learning extends beyond our electrician apprenticeship program. In 2019 we worked with fellow B Corp Emzingo to develop a leadership training program that all employee-owners would complete. It focused on communication, employee-ownership, trust, and connection. And then, just before we could roll it out, the pandemic hit. And connection became more important than ever.

Nationally, 40% of office workers reported feeling lonely at work, even before the pandemic. Relationships are the leading contributor of workplace wellbeing, according to a 10,000 person study from the Myers-Briggs group. Gallup found that we are 7x more likely to be engaged in our work if we have a good friend at work.

As the data shows, connection is important and different for everyone. The pandemic disrupted many forms of connection, at work and at home. Every person reading this had their own unique life experience over the last 2.5 years. With that in mind, let’s pause and think about your own feelings of connectedness right now.

How Connected Do You Feel at Work?

  • How connected do you feel to your colleagues?
  • How has this changed in the last 2.5 years?
  • How much does this matter to you?
  • How does your employer facilitate or encourage connection? Is it working?

We hope that you had positive answers to those questions, but whether you feel connected or not, the fact remains that maintaining strong personal connections matter to our enjoyment and productivity at work. This seemed to be obvious to ReVision employee-owners. In a company-wide survey plus 30 additional individual interviews, it surfaced that ReVision’s mission and people were the two primary reasons people liked coming to work.

smiley crew_mc_square.jpgBut we all know how busyness of work and life can get in the way. In ReVision’s leadership program, we decided to dedicate 20% of the program to intentional connection where the participants in the program could get to know each other better and strengthen their relationships before taking on important, thought-provoking topics like Difficult Conversations and Ownership Mindset.

This resonated with employee-owners who already enjoyed working with each other and appreciated Emzingo’s philosophy of “connection before content” as a way to appreciate our “humanness” in the midst of a global pandemic. We’re happy to say that the Connection Session has remained a strong part of the program 2+ years later.

We’re now working on a way to make the leadership program accessible for all employees. During the heart of the pandemic when this type of work needed to be 100% virtual, the majority of the attendees were employee-owners who had the ability to work remotely. Now that we don’t have that constraint, we’re designing a program that will be accessible to all co-owners whether they are in the office, installing solar on commercial and residential projects, working from home, or visiting customers, suppliers, or partners most days.

To give you a better sense of what “intentional connection” means, we’ve included a few examples from the ReVision Leadership Program below for you to try out on your own.

3 Things You Can Do to Increase Connection at Your Workplace:

  1. Start your meetings with a short check-in. A few minutes connection before diving into the rest of the agenda gives you a chance to practice turn-taking, get present and centered, establish trust and empathy, and generally get to know each other better. This check-in can be anything from “What’s your favorite fruit?” to deeper questions like “Who is someone in your life who inspires you?” Start small and read the room. It can take a few tries before everyone feels comfortable, but experience has shown us it’s 100% worth a few minutes.
  2. Ask someone “How are you?”, really mean it, and take the time to listen to the answer. Sounds simple, right? But the tendency to say this in passing has become perfunctory. Create space to listen or be willing to share your own real answer to “How are you?” with a colleague. Keep context in mind. You may want to hold off and find a time when you’re not already running late for a meeting or the other person is not on their way out to pick up kids at the end of the day.
  3. Trading Cards Exercise! Try this template with a new team, existing team, as part of a retreat, or for fun with friends. Here's a really simple how-to for teams of eight to twelve people:
  • Ask everyone to fill out the Trading Card ahead of time (on a slide) with notes and a few pictures. When you get together (virtually or in person), give each person a time limit to share whatever they want to highlight about their trading card. Go around the room so everyone gets a chance to share.
  • After everyone has had a turn, split into groups of 3-4. In those groups, the participants ask each other follow-up questions and share stories about items on their Trading Cards.
  • Time permitting, do a quick debrief as a group and ask each person to share one thing they want to follow up on with another member of the group.

Trading Card example: