Good Leaders are Good Connectors
You can learn how to connect with people
By Charles Waldo
Have you had the experience of meeting someone for the first time but had the feeling you’ve been friends for a long time? Or you re-meet someone you once knew pretty well but hadn’t seen for a long time. The two of you begin talking, almost like picking up on a conversation interrupted just yesterday.
In a professional environment you’ve no doubt met job candidates with whom you instantly “clicked.” You would hire them on the spot. Or you attended a conference or seminar with several hundred others listening to a speaker many feet away on a stage. But you have the uncanny feeling she is talking with you one-on-one. Maybe you have an administrative assistant with whom you not only get along quite well but the two of you seem “joined at the hip” and are always on the “same page.”
These situations are examples of people “connecting” or being “connected” – seeing things eye-to-eye, getting along agreeably, and enjoying each other’s company. Sometimes the connection happens almost instantaneously ; sometimes it takes awhile to develop.
Connecting with others
“Connecting is the ability to identify with people – and them to you – and relate to them. It is not enough to just work hard. It’s not enough to just do a passable job. To be really successful you need to learn how to really communicate and connect with others. They are major determinants in reaching your potential. To be successful as a leader you must work with people. And to do your absolute best, you must learn to connect. That skill can be learned.”
So writes long-time author, speaker, consultant, and former mega-church pastor the Rev. Dr. John C. Maxwell in his book Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently.* Do you agree with him? What have been your experiences? To my mind one would be foolhardy to ignore the wisdom and advice of John Maxwell. Connecting is vital. Here are gems from this easily read book.
John Maxwell’s Ten Connecting Principles and Practices
Principle #1: Connecting increases your influence in every situation. “The #1 criteria for advancement and promotion for professionals is the ability to communicate effectively.” (The Harvard Business Review). When you communicate and connect with others, you position yourself to make the most of your skills and talents.
Principle #2: Connecting is, first, all about the other person. Maturity is the ability to see and act on behalf of others. Maturity does not always come with age. Sometimes age comes alone. To add value to others, you must first value others. Mutual concern creates connections between people.
Principle #3: Connecting goes beyond words. Research shows that often more than 90% of the impression we convey to others has nothing to do with what was actually said. Every message you try to convey must contain a piece of you. People may hear your words but they see and feel your attitude toward them.
Principle #4: Connecting, especially with teams or groups in a professional setting, always requires energy, initiative, preparation, patience, selflessness, and stamina. It’s much more than just smiling, shaking hands, and passing out a business card. To add value to others you must first add value to yourself and what you are trying to do that will help them.
Principle #5: Connecting is more a developed skill than natural talent or why would Toastmasters have existed – and grown – all these years? While techniques are important, genuine interest in and concern for the other person(s) is vital. Connecting is not dumb luck. How can you make the other person(s) better for having met you?
Principle #6: Connectors connect on common ground. It’s difficult to find common ground with others when the only person you’re focused on is yourself. Listening to others – really listening -- requires giving up on our favorite pastime – involvement in ourselves and our own self interests. People like people who like them.
Principle #7: Connectors do the difficult work of keeping things Simple. Good connectors get to the point before their listeners start asking “What’s the point?” In the end, people are persuaded not by what they hear but what they feel and understand. Don’t confuse them.
Principle #8: Connectors create experiences others enjoy. “Cemetery communications: Lots of people out there but nobody is listening.” People don’t remember what you think is important, they remember what they think is important. Humor helps. “A cheerful heart is good medicine.” (Proverbs 17:22)
Principle #9: Connectors inspire people. People need to know that you understand them, are focused on them, and have high expectations for and confidence in them. They need to both know and see your conviction, creditability, and character and feel your passion for the subject at hand.
Principle #10: Connectors live what they Communicate. Creditability is currency for leaders. With it they are solvent; without it they are bankrupt. As time goes by, the way people live outweighs the words they use. To be human is to mess up; to connect you must ‘fess up. When you make a commitment, you create hope. When you keep a commitment, you create trust.
The above 10 Connecting Principles briefs don’t begin to do justice to this insightful, easily read, practical book. Why not form a lunch time study group with your team and/or other staff to dig into it for both their own development and the organization’s? Maybe a church or civic group you belong to could tackle it. It takes more than one person to connect. The skill of Connecting can be learned.
Good connecting. And, as always, good luck.
(1) The publisher is the Thomas Nelson Company. A complete listing and description of other leadership and motivational books, videos, CDs, and so on by John Maxwell is available at www.johnmaxwell.com. Check him out “in person” on YouTube.