Thought Leader

How to Make “High-Quality Connections”

Jane Dutton, professor of business administration at the University of Michigan and author of the 2003 book, “Energize Your Workplace: How to Create and Sustain High-Quality Connections at Work”, says the key to building a healthy and energizing workplace is to create “high-quality connections.”

According to Dutton, you can create high-quality connections in three ways: respectful engagement, task enabling, and trust. Here are some of the ways you can do this:

1. Respectful Engagement

When you treat people with respect, you create a cycle of good feelings and positive energy that increase the happiness and productivity of everyone involved. Here are some of the ways you can practice respectful engagement:

Be Present.  How do you do this? Your body language can send a clear message that you are paying attention to someone. Make eye contact and relax your body a little. You can also close your book, put down your pen, turn away from your laptop, and direct your attention to the person who’s speaking.

Listening.  Effective listening lets people know they have been heard, which conveys your respect. You can do this by acknowledging their feelings and then confirming your understanding

Punctuality. Being on time for meetings is not just good manners; it also shows that you respect other people’s time, and that you understand the commitments they have to meet.

Authenticity. Be yourself. When you are authentic , you are telling people that you are honest, trustworthy and not “playing games.” It also means that your behaviour is based on your own true feelings, rather than on any external pressures or expectations.

Affirmation. It’s important to communicate your awareness and understanding of someone’s situation. Encouragement makes them feel noticed and appreciated. You can also provide affirmation by expressing how much you value team members and their skills, abilities and talents.

Communicating. The way you express yourself also demonstrates your willingness and ability to engage respectfully with people. For example, try making requests rather than demands You can also avoid miscommunication by using positive language, clearly defining terms, and setting specific objectives.

2. Task Enabling

This involves encouraging your people, and helping them perform effectively. Here are some approaches you can use:

Coaching. When you coach people, you are developing their skills and abilities. You are helping them discover answers for themselves.

Facilitating. You can help your team members understand and navigate the structure of an organization by providing them with access to the people they need.

Be Accommodating. With a bit of flexibility, you can accommodate your team members’ needs, which creates a sense of mutual support and builds high-quality connections.

Nurturing. Through role modelling and encouragement, managers can address issues such as competence and self-esteem.

3. Trust

Trust is important in any relationship, but it is essential when developing high-quality connections. Here are some ways you can build trust:

Sharing. When you share something important or valuable, you are telling the recipient that you trust him or her, and that he can trust you to give him what he needs to do his job well.

Self-disclosure. Revealing details about yourself, especially if that information is personal or may expose a vulnerability, can help to build a strong connection.

Language Use. The words you use can tell people whether you believe you are all working together as a team.

Delegating. As a manager, you can convey trust when you delegate tasks and hand over responsibility for projects to your team.

Feedback. It’s usually managers who give feedback to their team members – so if you ask your people for their opinions on your ideas, you are demonstrating that you value their points of view.

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Posted by Paul Whalley
Paul Whalley is a Professional Engineer with an MBA and a post master’s certificate in Leadership Coaching. He is a certified Management Consultant and Master Coach and is accredited with the Institute for Independent Business as well as being a Founders Circle member of the John Maxwell Team of trainers, speakers and coaches. He has over twenty five years of corporate global leadership experience and currently runs a professional services company focusing on strategy, change management, and leadership. He is a co-developer of the PowerUp range of coaching and consulting business solutions and can be contacted at
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