Ed Pilkington: Connection is the secret sauce for effective working

Collaboration is critical in business but central to its success is connection.

As a graduate I was told that in business no-one does anything alone. Collaboration is essential in all we do. For many of us our role is to bring together complementary skills to deliver brilliant work. We need to get people to collaborate. Yet collaboration is a word that can be overused. Collaboration isn’t just a cross-functional workshop – it is much deeper than that.

At the heart of collaboration has to be connection. We spend a lot of our time talking about how best to connect our brands with consumers, but how much time do we spend thinking about the internal connections we need to make in order to achieve this? We need to connect to connect.

Connection is a basic human requirement. Nearly all of us need it – in work and out. Part of being connected is a sense of commonality, sharing and belonging. Working together in a deeply connected way ensures we get the best outcome possible.

Working collaboratively through deep connections does not equate to being in some form of work commune where decisions are not made.

Deep connection results in greater levels of ownership for the work, which leads to better delivery. I am sure we can all think of examples of when we have delivered fantastic results as part of an extremely well-connected team, and we can also probably think of examples where a lack of connection led to poor work and poor results. Someone recently described connection at work as “the secret sauce” that we all need. We should bottle it.

I recently wrote about risk and what holds people back from taking risks and being bold.  Without rewriting that article it is worth thinking about the role connection plays in taking risk. Simply put, courage to act is so much easier when connected – because we are in together, as one.

Practice makes perfect

Connection is not just a theory; it needs practice. We can all get better at it and it isn’t an extrovert or introvert thing – everyone can do it. If you think of the leaders you respect the most, they tend to be the ones who connect with us – and it’s not a question of time spent with them, it’s a question of the connection they create and how you feel.

An old boss of mine used to be fond of the phrase “collective intelligence”,  bringing together complementary skills and knowledge to deliver a result. The person who does this (probably the leader) needs to choreograph the group and inspire and encourage the connection. In a powerful group where collective intelligence is present you should get a variety of ideas and thoughts that ultimately lead to a better result.

Deep connection results in greater levels of ownership for the work, which leads to better delivery.

A warning here is that the brainstorming and connection-forming can mean the front end of a process feels longer, but in the long run you should save time as you will often save repeated work and normally accelerate to a finish. Once connections are formed they tend to last beyond the project or the time spent on a brand or business.

Working collaboratively through deep connections does not equate to being in some form of work commune where decisions are not made. Teams still need decision-makers, but often the decision at the end of the collective work will be easy and clear to all because of that sense of ownership.

It may seem obvious, but in a hectic world where we need everything done by tomorrow (or yesterday) the importance of collaboration can be forgotten. When we work in collaboration – with real connection – it often doesn’t even feel like work.

Ed Pilkington is marketing and innovation director, Europe, at Diageo

Hide Comments2 Show Comments
  • Andrew Boddington 13 Dec 2017 at 8:42 am

    It’s the ‘how’ to get the internal connection that makes the difference, and for me that means owning a project but being open to the ideas and contributions of others, and sharing status activelty and transparently to avoid colleagues feeling like mushrooms.

  • Bart Black 18 Dec 2017 at 11:42 am

    To connect you need to be vulnerable. Easier said than done. Best feeling there is though, when you are part of connected team.

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