Even if it doesn’t make sense, after seeing a pattern, one has to admit that there is something there, right? We have seen a pattern in what people have told us in dozens of interviews and client meetings and virtual courses. The pattern is increased connection...in a time of isolation.
“A human being is a part of the whole, called by us 'Universe,' a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.”
-- Albert Einstein
None, who we interviewed, expressed happiness with the forced isolation that has come from the Pandemic of 2020. All expressed a desire for more face-to-face contact, but many told stories about how they increased connection in some surprising ways. They were fighting the “delusion of consciousness...restricting us” that Einstein described. In one interview, the CEO of a services company talked of starting daily meetings with her executive team and finding, with significant surprise, that all of them enjoyed the increased connection! Although the meetings were on Zoom, members of this C-Suite found that they understood better not only each other as individual humans, but understood better the roles that each of them played. The head of the creative department would give the financial update. Having heard it so regularly from the CFO, it was now easier to talk to the “numbers,” something a “creative” might never otherwise do. The executive team became...well, a team. Something it had not been in an important way before.
Roxanne experienced something similar with the Association of Change Management Professionals (ACMP). As the President of the Board of Directors, she had to lead the team through the beating that the Pandemic of 2020 laid on many nonprofits. This included the cancellation of the annual conference which was one of the prime money-making endeavors for the association. Without it, the association could easily go bankrupt. She instituted daily meetings with the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors and together they saved the association, but also found something else. The group of four became better connected than they had ever been. It started with meeting cats and dogs, then children were introduced as the schools closed down. People talked about their families and their neighbors, they shared their hopes and their concerns. They sought and were granted connection.
The idea of a silver lining goes back to the poem, Comus, by John Milton.
Was I deceived, or did a sable cloud
Turn forth her silver lining on the night?
I did not err; there does a sable cloud
Turn forth her silver lining on the night,
And casts a gleam over this tufted grove.
A “sable cloud” meaning very dark, nearly black, cloud is certainly appropriate for 2020. Perhaps we don’t live in a place we would call a “tufted grove,” but there does indeed seem to be a silver lining with this unexpected increase in connection during isolation.
It’s hard to regard all that is happening around us and not think about the aphorism:
“Necessity is the mother of invention”
Although it is difficult to attribute the origin of this phrase (Plato wrote something very close to this), it does, nonetheless, seem true in this case. This year has been horrible in so many respects, but we invented new ways to connect. For our own classes on change for practitioners (Change & Joy in the Workplace) and for leaders (Savvy Change Leader), we have employed the Zoom whiteboard technology, breakout rooms, and polls. We’ve created a lightboard that allows us to use markers to draw on a board but make it visible on camera. We’ve amped up our writing in blogs, on Medium.com, and with Entrepreneur.com. We’ve created hours and hours of videos for both our classes as well as on our YouTube channel. All of this focused on connection.
2021 will not quickly bring a return to “normal.” We have much further to go, billions of vaccinations to give, and many more struggling people to help. All of us are not front-line medical workers or others considered essential, but that does not mean we do not have a part to play. We can connect. With mental health professionals regularly talking about the ill effects of loneliness and separation, now is the time for all of us to connect.