***This article is inspired by chapter 8 of “Leadershift” by John C. Maxwell – “Directing to Connecting” ***
In a world dominated by social media and electronic communication, our ability to connect well with others has been severely damaged. We’ve shifted to talking AT people rather than WITH them. Stephen Covey wisely taught in his popular book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to “seek first to understand, then be understood.” You can’t understand others if you don’t connect with them.
In order to address this leadership challenge, consider John Maxwell’s 7 critical components for connecting well with your followers:
1 – Humility – Let People Know You Need Them
While many leaders have made great strides in this area over the past few decades, it is important to remember that no one becomes successful on their own. Even the best in any industry achieve success by building on the foundation of those who have gone before them and by receiving support from those around them who want them to succeed. Be humble enough to communicate with your followers that you need their support and effort for personal, team, and organizational success. Share the credit when goals are accomplished. Shine the spotlight on those who helped you become successful. Humble leaders who value their people gain tremendous support and loyalty.
2 – Curiosity – Ask People Questions
One of the fastest ways to connect with people is to ask great questions. Be curious about your followers’ interests, families, goals, etc. Ask how you can help them have a better work experience. Ask how you can make their job easier or more fulfilling. Ask how you can be a better leader for them and the team. Ask how their families are doing. Curiosity comes from a place of caring. When you ask questions, be genuine. And when you hear something that you can do to change or help them, take action. This will show them that they have been heard and are valued.
3 – Effort – Go Out of Your Way to Connect With People
Connecting requires effort. It doesn’t happen by default. It happens by design. When you commit to connecting with your followers, you need to make it a calendar issue, as well as, an energy issue. Block time for your followers. Give them time when you are at your best and you can be fully engaged with them. Don’t give them your leftover energy. Give them your best. Show them that you care by allocating your valuable time for them. Put down your computer and phone. Be fully present when you are connecting with them. This shows honor and allows you to truly hear what they are saying so you can lead them well.
4 – Trustworthiness – Be Someone Others Can Count On
Trust is the foundation of leadership. If people can’t trust you, they won’t follow you for long. They may work for you for a season, but they won’t respect you. When trust is absent, so is loyalty and commitment. When trust is broken, it takes exponentially more time and energy to repair than it did to gain it. Being trustworthy means that others can count on you to do what you say and be consistent in who you are. Be diligent to grow in trustworthiness and you will gain loyal followers who want to go far with you on the journey toward success.
5 – Generosity – Give First, Give Continually
Generosity is often viewed from a financial perspective, which is limited. Yes, you can (and should) give rewards such as raises and bonuses. However, giving your time and attention to help your followers become better, navigate challenges, and pursue opportunities are forms of generosity that are often overlooked but extremely valuable. Invest the time to think of unexpected ways to be generous to your followers. Be creative. Talk to other leaders about how they’ve been generous to their people. Use your imagination. Generous leaders are fun to be around and endear themselves to their followers.
6 – Listening – Open the Best Door to Connecting With People
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, social media and electronic communication have altered the way that we communicate. While we have become more efficient, we’ve lost the skill to listen well. Many people desperately desire to be heard. Many times, your followers simply want to have someone to talk to about their challenges and opportunities. You can be intentional with weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual check-ins, but don’t overlook the real-time opportunities to connect with them as well. Utilize component #2 above to ask great questions and then truly listen. When you listen to others, connection happens. This is impactful and beneficial for building great relationships and trust.
7 – Encouragement – Give People Oxygen for Their Soul
The world can be a negative place. Many workplace environments can be negative. It takes effort to cultivate an encouraging environment, but the payoff is huge. When people love to go to work and be a part of a team, it’s often because they feel encouraged. Many people endure negative workplace cultures simply to receive their paycheck. However, if you desire to do something significant with your organization, commit to encouraging your people. Don’t simply catch them doing poorly and reprimand them. Keep your eyes open to catch them doing well and celebrating them. Most people want to do a good job. When people don’t care how they work and simply go through the motions, it’s typically because they don’t believe their work matters. When you encourage your followers and point out their strengths and successes, they become highly motivated to do more and better. Regardless of what role you play in your organization, commit to becoming the CEO, the Chief Encouragement Officer. Encouragers gain a loyal following and achieve great success in all areas of their lives.
Connecting with others isn’t difficult, but it does take effort. It requires intentionality and dedicated time and attention. Leaders have to fight for connection in a world that pulls our attention in many directions. Choose right now to become a connecting leader by implementing these 7 critical components for connecting well with your followers.
Until next time…make today GREAT!