The neuroscience of building connections for success

We are seeing a few trends emerging where leaders are concerned with decreased revenues and loss of business opportunities from their front-line staff. Increased bottlenecks in workflow, and increased staff turnover are also some of the problems causing concern for leaders.

I’ve heard of numerous situations where financial services salespeople are “working from home” and found to be doing only 1-5 meetings a week – on Teams!

I’ve also heard leaders say that workflows that used to take 2 weeks to complete are now taking 4 weeks.

As for unwanted staff turnover – well – there’s so much to say that it’s probably a whole other article.

Why is this happening?

While there are a myriad of reasons (and solutions) for these issues, we are certainly noticing that digital transformation and the shift to remote and hybrid working seem to be decreasing the ability of people to build and deepen connections with co-workers and clients.

So whether you are looking to increase the effectiveness and cohesiveness of your team, or to increase the number and quality of client relationships across your business, building connections with others is a super important skill.

It allows your and your team to tap into a vast network of resources, knowledge, and opportunities that are imperative for business success.

What to do

You really can’t beat the power of face-to-face for building deeper connections in the quickest way. This can be explained by the “mirror neuron system” in the brain which is a group of specialised neurons that help us to “mirror” the actions and behaviours of others. For example, when someone smiles, it prompts us to reciprocate that smile.

This system helps us to understand the emotions and intentions of others, which goes a long way to building and deepening relationships.

Studies have shown that the impact of mirror neurons is significantly muted on a video call when compared to being in the same room. This is due to reduced visibility and sound on a screen, as well as increased ambiguity. For example, if someone randomly switches their camera off or looks the other way, it can lead to distrust rather than relationship building.

So it’s highly recommended that where possible, especially in the early stages of building connections, to spend time in the same room. I would probably go so far as to suggest that if your salespeople won’t go and see clients especially in the early stages – maybe get new salespeople. If your competitors get in the same room as your potential or early-stage clients , they already have an advantage over your team.

As for the workplace, it takes a lot longer to build connections with new team members if people aren’t in the same room. So where possible, especially in roles where collaboration is required, it makes sense to increase the time people spend together as much as possible, especially in the early days of working together.

And how do you build connections if you can’t be in the same room?

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a massive fan of Zoom, and our team is based in different countries and we have clients in 15 countries, so we certainly can’t be in the same room every week. So here are a few ideas:

  • Set clear boundaries for video meetings

Discuss how people should conduct themselves on a video call to reduce ambiguity and increase engagement. For example, get the cameras on, and use platforms where it’s easy to see everyone, promote the use of breakout rooms, and switch off notifications. Being on a meeting with someone who you can clearly see is reading something else on the screen at the same time doesn’t exactly scream “I’m really valuing what you are saying right now”.

  • Upgrade cameras for better visual quality

The clearer the picture the easier to activate the mirror neuron system to build connections. And best to ditch the blurred background. You want to build connections, not make people ponder “what are you hiding?”

  • Build in virtual socialising

This could be at the start of virtual meetings, or it could take place in separate sessions altogether. These are chances to discuss something personal, meet each other’s pets, or any other fun things to help you to get to know the people you work with as diverse humans.

  • Make extra effort to celebrate

Whether it’s achievements, great client outcomes, workflow humming along or anything else going well, be sure to look for every opportunity to say thank you or give great feedback to people.

  • Discuss issues in real time

Make sure feedback and opportunities for growth are delivered in real time. When you need to make the effort to pick up the phone or get onto a video call, it’s easier to get lazy and think – “Oh I’ll let that go for now”, compared to when the person is right beside you. However in the long term that’s not such a helpful strategy.

It’s only going to get harder to build connections

As the world gets more and more digitised, and with people working in more dispersed locations, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to build human connections. Without making an effort to spend more time together, or at least making an effort to work differently in order to make up for the lost benefits of being in the same room together, we will expect to see an even further loss of profitability, lower engagement and increased staff turnover which is all costly to businesses.

We often say, having everyone working together 5 days a week in an office is an environment which is a lot more forgiving of sloppy leadership skills. A remote working environment calls for much better leadership, focused on building connections in different ways and leading for outcomes.

If you would like to discuss how to foster deeper connections in your business for optimal performance, why not book a no obligation in person or virtual Performance Call?