I often ask teams that I work with about the value they give to the relationships they have with their co-workers. Many of them respond with some version of this sentiment:
"If I feel like if I know the people I work with and like them, I just like going to work more."
I also frequently work with teams who are under distress, either because of big changes to the team itself or big transformation happening around the team, which is always challenging to manage through. When I ask them the question about why they stay, I often here some version of this sentiment:
"I stay because of my team and the people I work with every day."
How much you like your co-workers certainly isn't the only driver of what keeps employees engaged, but it certainly is a big one. When asked, most of us (even the most introverted of us who genuinely value time away from people) talk about how important relationships are.
Then some practical realities of life in the business world these days set in. The pace of the business world isn't slowing down. Many people feel as though it is actually accelerating. The list of things to get done isn't getting any shorter either. There is more to do and at a faster pace. Add technology into the mix, and you can very easily end up re-prioritizing the time required to make strong human connections from the "need to have" category to the "nice to have" category.
Here are two research-based reasons to make sure that doesn't happen to you:
1. Human connections make you more influential
Regardless of the roles any of us have in companies of any size, there is a constant. That constant is that we always are having to influence people.
A good amount of research into the "science of persuasion" by some of the biggest names in that field, including Dr. Robert Cialdini, have shown one thing to be a key driver in our ability to persuade and influence. That things is the ability to find common ground. Interestingly enough, it turns out that the science and the research points to all of us being hard wired to become more easily persuaded or influenced if we have common ground with the other person.
Common ground isn't the beginning of the influence value chain, though. It is the result of the human connections. Essentially, taking the time to form strong human connections almost inevitably results in the establishment of common ground (most of us can find common ground with most other people), which then allows us to become more influential.
Played in reverse, if we don't take the time - or don't feel like we have the time anymore - to focus on creating those human connections, we end up sub-optimizing our ability to be influential in whatever role we have.
2. Human connections make you more effective at collaborating
Similar to influence and how pervasive it is in any role and any company these days, there aren't many companies or roles out there these days where you don't have to collaborate with others.
There has been a good amount of research into what drives effective collaboration and high-performance teams as well. Iconic leadership and organizational effectiveness writer, Patrick Lencioni, potentially most well known for his groundbreaking book years ago, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, describes key elements that lead to high performing teams. Trust is the foundation of that performance pyramid. Trust enables the ability to engage in the right level of conflict, which we often need as part of collaboration on highly complex, difficult business issues that require that collaboration. Doing both well often leads to superior outcomes. Without the trust, we can't have the right conflict, which negatively impacts performance.
Similar to the common ground example related to influencing, though, trust isn't the beginning of the value chain even though it is at the foundation of the pyramid. Trust is also the result of taking time to formally focus on human connections. Human connections create trust, which allow for us to have better conflict and therefore better collaboration, which ultimately drives better results.
Here's the good news. Making human connections doesn't require a huge amount of time. It can be done in small bite sized pieces that fit into the ever accelerating world of business.