How to build a connected, collaborative team

Matthew Matheson is The Speaking Coach and founder of 3C Events, hybrid event specialists who put connection between people at the centre of what they do. Following from our recent podcast, he shares his thoughts on how to design connection into our work practices.


noun. the act or state of connecting. the state of being connected

We know that when we are connected as individuals, as teams, around a shared goal or purpose, we perform better, we’re happier, we get the results that matter and we all feel like we have an equal slice of the pie.

How often during our working days do we feel consciously connected to the people we work with?

That feeling that you are aligned with one or more people working towards the same goal – when a sense of flow between two or more people emerges and the work almost seems effortless?

I bet it’s not often.

Indeed, it’s most likely that if you cast your mind back through your working days, you will be able to see it in hindsight and recall these moments of connection, but identifying situations, spaces and conversations that will be rooted in connection in advance doesn’t tend to happen so much.

  • How do we make this happen more often?

  • Why is this that sometimes this happens by chance, rather than by design?

  • And what can we do to design greater connection into our working lives?

Let’s start by looking at why it tends to happen by chance.

We are busy, we have lots going on, COVID has removed our ability to relate in the same room together and we’re all working hard to keep things afloat. From time to time, we may align and results happen, but due to the auto-pilot (and dare I say it, reactive) ways in which we’re working, we’ve lost sight of the value of pre-meditating connection into the situations where it’s most needed.

So, as with most things in life, we dive in and then, if we’re lucky, it will go well and we might reflect on it, but we’re not designing these moments.

So what does this actually mean?

It means we need to be thinking consciously, in advance, about designing connection into our daily work and life rather than leaving it to chance.

To hit the sweet spot of collaboration and performance in the moment, you need some semblance of connection between everything.

That’s a big ask, so let’s break it down to three types of connection – as discussed in our podcast.

  1. Connection to yourself

  2. Connection to each other

  3. Holding a space for connection

Let’s take each of them in turn

Connection to yourself

Connecting with your authentic self and beliefs is crucial to success in connecting with others.

When you are authentic, honest and speaking from a place of emotion and truth, this will shine through to those you are speaking to and you’ll enter into the conversations that matter, quicker.

How do you do this?

  • Ask yourself how you honestly feel about the situation, topic, task or question that has been posed, then explore why you feel that way. This will lead to an authentic response.

  • Start to write down what you really believe in and review what you write down to see if it’s different to the thoughts in your head

  • Value yourself – validate your inputs, counter the thoughts that suggest your input is not valued, search for evidence that shows an authentic response is needed. If you struggle with countering negative thoughts check out Martin Seligmans ABCDE Model, which is designed to help you re-frame your relationship with negative though processes.

  • Make a list of the times in which you have felt most valued and successful in your role – write these down and look for the common thread – it’s likely it was you being authentic.

  • Be an example of authenticity, and others will follow.

Which leads me to…

Connection to each other

Entering into your conversions and actions with an intention to connect makes a big difference to the results you will get. You can do this as an individual, no matter where you sit within the organisational hierarchy.

How do you do this?

  • Set an intention to connect with the people you are speaking to before the meeting – eg an intention to listen, or to ask questions, or to be curious, or to encourage. Write this down on a card and have it in front of yo. Find an intention that builds connections, rapport and conversation.

  • Listen intently – listen to understand, rather than to respond.

  • Ask questions – be curious and encourage input from those around you

  • Validate, reflect, encourage – identify what you like about the other persons suggestions, reflect this and build upon by adding something to grow the suggestion

  • Talk openly, with transparency and follow the principle of speaking authentically, as described above

  • If you are in a senior role, model this behaviour, so you start to hold a space for it to emerge

Which leads me to…

Holding a space for connection

For this to happen, two pillars need to be in place:

  1. People must have the confidence to speak up (be connected to themselves and to others)

  2. The processes and structures must be in place to encourage these behaviours.

How do you do this, as a leader or manager?

  • Re-structure your meeting formats to focus on asking questions and generating conversation rather than broadcasting one to many

  • Move to a model of co-creation around visions, roadmaps and goal setting

  • Delegate and encourage those with specific skill sets, passions and desires to work on the areas they feel most naturally aligned to

  • Work with your team to develop a team manifesto – a written set of behaviours and principles you will hold dear when working together

  • Above all, model the behaviours you wish to see.

Within a leadership role people will look to you consciously and subconsciously for guidance not just in the hard skills of their role, but in how to navigate working with others.

It’s your role as a manager to nurture, support and guide those around you to work in an effective, collaborate, connected manner. Not only will this produce better financial, economic and efficiency outcomes, it will also improve employee wellbeing, increase retention and most importantly, foster a sense of ownership and belonging within your team.

Break the old school ways of top down leadership and unlock the potential of your people by connecting them.

For more thoughts on connection, listen to our podcast with Matt here. For more management thinking, subscribe to the Management Learning Podcast here.