Pay attention. We are coming to the end of the Information Age and have now entered the Age of Relationships. The signs are everywhere. It permeates every industry. It is part of the globalization of everything from business to governments to resources to weather to our very survival. The younger generations were raised with collaboration and that sense of being interconnected. Relationships give you motivation, inspiration, ideas, and encouragement. Yet, in many industries, including the construction industry, this is something we have yet to embrace. Perhaps it is because of the technical nature of the industry. Perhaps it is because of the typical emotional intelligence profile of the people in the industry. Empirically, relationships are not our best thing. Every single group I have ever worked with over the past 12 years have the same profile. The three lowest scores on the EQi are ALWAYS emotional self-awareness, empathy, and interpersonal relationships. The three highest scores are ALWAYS assertiveness, independence, and self-regard. This is a recipe for relationship disaster. No wonder it’s such a hard business.
It’s time that we tackle these tough people issues and embrace these collaborative concepts. Focusing on relationships is no longer touchy-feely. Neuroscience is verifying many of these concepts of connection from a physiological standpoint. We all have mirror neurons in our brains that mirror the emotions of the person sitting across from us. They light up and connect us together whether we are aware of it or not. We can no longer ignore these interpersonal connections.
In South Africa, they have a philosophy called Ubuntu. It is a sense of being connected to everyone else on the planet. When two people greet each other, the first person says, “I see you.” The second person responds by saying, “I am here.” There is real significance in that exchange. Without the acknowledgement from the first person, the second person doesn’t even exist. Imagine the power of that if you walked down the hallway and was pre-occupied with something and didn’t greet the other person. What you would be saying is that they don’t exist. I believe that this philosophy prevented South Africa from devolving into a bloody civil war after apartheid ended. The black South Africans merely moved on and embraced the end of apartheid without retribution, without punishing the whites. It is because they feel so interconnected. They believe that if they harm someone else, they are harming themselves.
Can we move toward this sense of being connected? Can we embrace this new way of collaborating? Can we change the industry for the better by focusing on people and relationships? Time will tell. As Ben Franklin said, “We must hang together or we shall surely hang separately.”