Heading into London later than usual a few weeks ago I watched a young man, maybe early 20’s, jump on the train in front of me. He looked dishevelled, as if he’d slept rough that night.
As he walked through the carriage, silently trying to find a place away from anyone else, I noticed two things. Firstly, tucked into his sleeve was an aerosol can. My instinctive reaction was that he was going to graffiti the train, but he didn’t. Secondly, I noticed how my fellow commuters lowered their eyes and turned away as he walked past hoping not to draw his attention. Once he found a seat, rather than deface the train he raised the can and inhaled some of its contents.
Whilst it’s easy to speculate about how and why this young man found himself in this predicament, what struck me most profoundly was how isolated he seemed to be. Even just being in proximity to others caused them to recoil away from him for no other reason than their own fear.
Minutes later, on the same journey I saw a little girl of 7 or 8 years old who appeared to be heading into the city for an adventure with her father. Just after getting on the train her father showed her a film that the girl’s mother had sent for her to see. In the message her mother told her how much she loved her and that she couldn’t wait to see her the next day when she got home from being away for work. The smile on this little girl’s face as she cuddled into her father to watch the clip for the second time, made it clear that she felt loved.
When considering such contrasting experiences in a single train carriage on a random morning, I’m reminded about how important human connection is for us. Many studies, including those involving orphans, have shown that human connection sustains life. It is not just a nice to have, it’s essential. Even Facebook has recognised that more meaningful connections are what humans want (1).
As leaders, responsible for the wellbeing of those we lead, we can recognise the need to help people feel connected. Unlike in our personal lives, this connection isn’t about having intimate contact. It need only be a simple hello, and, how are you? It’s about taking the time out of our day to show an interest in not just the work they are doing, but them as a human being. As we know for ourselves, when a leader does this it helps us feel recognised. It helps us feel like we matter!
Something to consider…
Think of a time when a leader took an interest in you as a person. How did they do it? How did it make you feel?
Something to try…
Across those you work with, plan how you will spend more time in getting to know them as human beings.
At Muru we help you focus your time and energy on that which matters most. Through ‘The 3 Questions’™ we help you focus on your sense of identity and purpose, and then, help you direct your energy in a more mindful way to bring these to achieve the success and fulfilment you desire.