Pleasant call. Low angle of friendly young positive team is sitting around table in office and discussing business project. Caring leaders create engaged culture.

Caring Leaders Connect and Influence

Leaders face a variety of challenges in the workplace. And most of those challenges center around people. The caring leader recognizes how people impact the organization. What are some of your people challenges?

Watercooler Wally.

Long Break Lilly. 

Perpetually Late Pete.

Social Media Sally.

Have you seen any of these people around your office?

Young businesswoman yawning while working on laptop in office. Sleepy female entrepreneur looking on wristwatch. Tired office worker feels lack of sleep because of hard and long work with documentsYou know the pattern. They show up just barely on time for work or even a few minutes late. The first thing they do is take a coffee break. They chat around with their friends for a while. They complain about their job, the workplace, the company, and life in general.

They finally (allegedly) start to work. They mess around with a few things until the eagerly anticipated lunch hour. No matter what’s going on, no matter how urgent, lunchtime is lunchtime.

When they finally return from lunch (likely a few minutes late) it takes a while for them to get back into the groove to actually get work done. They may even spend more time chatting around.

They quit at four. They go home at five. Another semi-productive or unproductive day.

The Unengaged Worker

Almost certainly you have seen these people. So have I.

Apparently, so have a lot of organizations. In fact, according to recent studies by Gallup and other groups, 70% of the workforce INCLUDING MANAGERS act like this. It has reached epidemic proportions.

The result is BILLIONS OF DOLLARS lost due to poor productivity, high employee turnover, poor customer satisfaction, and plummeting sales.

Why? Is the modern worker simply self-absorbed or lazy or dishonest? Has loyalty gone the way of the dodo?

No and no.

Leadership is the Cause

As my mentor John C. Maxwell says,

“Everything Rises and Falls on Leadership!”

Many experts claim that people don’t quit the company, they quit the boss.  The research seems to actually support that. Gallup released a studythat showed that 50% of employees leave because of the boss. While that’s only half, it’s important to note that it’s a half that could have been kept.

If you are a manager or business owner, you likely know how expensive it is to find, hire, and train a new employee to replace an experienced one who quit as well as the cost of lost productivity while they get up to speed.

In addition, other research shows that 70% of customers leave due to a poor customer experience. Not price. Not selection. EXPERIENCE. And who is providing that customer experience?

  • Watercooler Wally
  • Long Break Lilly
  • Perpetually Late Pete
  • Social Media Sally

Therefore we can’t avoid the conclusion that poor leadership is responsible for almost all disengagement. You could even make a case that the very rare inherently disengaged employee is also the fault of leadership. It means leadership did a poor job of screening and hiring the right person.

A Story of an Uncaring Leader

Right out of college I was hired into a managerial role. And it taught me the lesson that has stuck me all these years.

I was particularly frustrated by John (not his real name) who worked an odd shift. He seemed, at least in my view, to take great delight in doing the opposite of whatever I asked for.

But let’s be real. I was a bossy guy then. My expectations were unreasonable and poorly communicated. In addition, I knew next to nothing about John. Personally or otherwise. And I didn’t want to.

All I knew was that I wanted to solve a problem and the only way I could see clear to solving it was by immediately terminating John.

But I needed my bosses OK to do that. I didn’t get it. Instead, he asked me a series of questions about what I knew about John. His background and family life. His aspirations. He also asked me about how I set expectations and how I communicated that to John.

I was faced with the reality that this was to a great extent my own doing. And that’s when my manager dropped the bomb on me. He said, 

“Leadership creates all the problems. Leadership is also the only ones who can solve the problems.”

The Caring Leader The Boldly Lead WayBoldly Lead Logo

Leadership is the focal point of how we will solve the issues we face. It begins with a process that I call The Boldly Lead WayTM.

Caring leads to connecting. Connecting allows you to positively Influence. Influencing is the only way you can truly Lead.

Notice it starts with caring. If you want to solve the problem of disengaged workers you become a caring leader. It is only through caring for our people that we create a culture that promotes engagement. The employee still has to make the decision to engage, but when we create the right environment we make that decision easy.

How to Care

Get Personal

A full-time employee will spend eight or more hours a day at work. Out of a 24-hour day, if you are getting your prescribed sleep then you sleep for eight hours. Many don’t, so let’s call it seven hours. So you are awake for 17 hours. That means almost half of your waking hours are at work! One-third of your total day!

Can you just turn life off and put emotions in check for 8 or more hours a day?

Neither can I. No one else can either. We are emotional beings. Emotions are personal.

In addition, you want people on your team that are engaged. That involves passion and a sense of significance.

So reject the idea of impersonal business relationships. Everyone wants to know that they are important, that they matter, that they are part of a family and that they are significant. You’ve got to get personal to do that.

Care About What They Care About

What people really want to know is that what they care about matters. If advancement in the organization is a hot spot for them, it should matter to you. What can you do to encourage and help them? 

And this is not limited to workplace issues. If feeding the homeless is a passion of theirs, you need to care enough to support them in that. Does that mean you have to join the board of the local homeless coalition? Not unless you want to. Does it mean you support and encourage your employee in their cause? Without a doubt.

Know Their Family

What is the name of their spouse, partner, or significant other? Do they have children? How many? What are the children’s names? Do you know the birthdays of all of them? What are the important challenges their family is facing? 

The caring leader knows their family. It’s their WHY. An intrinsic part of their motivation. 

Listen Carefully

At the end of the day, people don’t really want you to solve their problems. They really just want to be heard. They want to know that you care enough to hear them. We listen to those we respect and love.

Nothing shows love, respect, and esteem more than the intent listening ear.

Find out more about becoming a caring leader. ACT NOW to get a copy of my e-book 15 Innovative Ways to Show Employees You Care. This valuable resource is my gift to you!

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Team Building Through Connecting

Connecting with others yields big benefitsAlthough an often misused buzzword, connecting with others is one of the most critical leadership skills. If you are not connecting with your team and they are not connecting with each other you have trouble. Maybe not immediately, but very soon. Without connecting then communication, collaboration, and execution become significantly harder, if not impossible.

What is connecting? Simply put, it is the ability to identify with people and relate to them in a way that increases your influence with them

Why Are You Connecting?

So why is connecting and increasing our influence important? Influence is the precursor to success with people.

Jay Hall of the consulting firm Telometrics studied the performance of 16000 executives and found a direct correlation between achievement and the ability to care for and communicate with other people. In other words, caring and communicating translate to influence and leadership which translates to success.

Benefits of Connecting with Your Team

Increasing Influence

As we mentioned above, a primary advantage of connecting is building influence. We all influence; some big and some small, some positively and some negatively. Where we win with people is developing our influence to be greater and greater and always positive.

Strengthening Trust

When we reach the level of connecting with others they learn to trust us more. And we learn to trust them. Trust is the foundation for any group of people to be able to work together effectively and productively. Not fear. Fear has short-lived results and disastrous long-term results. Trust builds.

Meeting a Basic Human Need

Believe it or not everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, desires to connect with others. Introverts, extroverts – doesn’t matter.

Personal Accomplishment

According to a Harvard Business Review article, “The number one criteria for advancement and promotion is the ability to communicate effectively

Why Aren’t You Connecting?

Bosses and leaders have trouble connecting because they don’t lay the groundwork. But why don’t they lay that groundwork? While the answers may vary, generally I believe it falls into one or more of these reasons:

You Don’t Care

This is the biggest barrier. If you don’t care, you can’t connect. And frankly, if you don’t care there may be nothing that can help you. To be blunt about it, if you don’t care you have no business being a leader or a manager. Quit. Now.

Or look inside yourself and realize you really do care and the reason must be somewhere else.

You Worry About Changes in the Relationship

When someone has or moves into a position of official leadership there is a concern that there must be some kind of invisible wall there that separates us from them. The wall is our protector because if we actually care for and connect with our team then we risk emotional impact when they leave – no matter the reason they left.

Fear of Vulnerability

Leaders need to show vulnerability if they want to connect with their team. They have to know you are a real person and that you can empathize with what they are feeling because you are or have felt it yourself. However, some equate vulnerability with being weak and think that showing weakness opens you up to attack or challenge. It goes back to the us vs them mindset.

Trust Issues

If you basically believe that everyone is lazy at heart, if they automatically try to get away with doing as little as possible, and will take advantage of you the first chance they get then certainly do not trust them. If you do not trust them, connecting with them does not seem like something you want to do. And it’s definitely something they don’t want to do because if you don’t trust them they don’t trust you.

Self-Esteem

If you don’t like yourself, it’s hard to like anyone else. As I researched this, I ran across several forums where people were talking about their inability to connect with others. The biggest reason for it was that they just didn’t like other people. Most of them also expressed that they didn’t like themselves very much either. It runs from the inside out.

You Don’t Know How

Many just do not know how to connect with others. They are terrible at “small-talk”, are uncomfortable with revealing questions, and are simply not sure where start.

Connecting 101

So let’s work with that last one on the list of reasons: you don’t know how. It’s somewhat understandable. To people who are task-oriented connecting with others just seems like fluff and they never bothered to learn. Others have varying levels of social awkwardness and even social anxiety that make it difficult.

But connecting IS a learnable, very learnable, skill. It starts with just a few simple techniques.

Connecting Requires Finding Common Ground cartoonStart with Common Ground

This should be the first technique you try because it is easy and you can do it right now. Find something that you have in common with the other person. What seems to be small-talk about significant others, children, activities, and so on are actually very important topics for finding common ground with others. Remember, too, that common ground is ALWAYS personal. Just working in the same place is not usually a good connecting point.

Keep It Simple

Too many people want to make what they say seem important by making it complicated. Yet simpler is better. Sometimes, simpler can be harder to do. The mathematician Blaise Pascal once wrote to a friend, “I have made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it short.

People generally see through our attempts to cloud things with complexity. Remember that good connectors bring people clarity, bad communicators leave them confused.

Be An Encourager

Just like we all want to connect, we also want to be encouraged. No one rejects an encourager. And people willingly connect with an encourager. A caveat: be genuine with your encouragement or you will have the opposite effect.

Focus on the Other Person

Be interested. Listen carefully. Dale Carnegie in his flagship book How to Win Friends and Influence People puts it this way: “If you want to be a great conversationalist, be a good listener. If you want to be interesting, be interested.

Disconnect

Put down your smartphone, stop tapping on your keyboard, and pay attention. We make better connections with people when we aren’t connected to anything else in the moment.

What’s the biggest challenge you have connecting with others? Can you think of someone who connected well with you? What did you learn from that?

Comment here or send our thoughts to me at psimkins (at) BoldlyLead.com.

Want to learn about caring for employees more? Get my eBook 15 Innovative Ways to Show Employees You Care and Not Break the Bank. It’s my gift to you.

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Networking – Not Connecting

It is inevitable, whether you like to be in groups or not, that for a small business to succeed you or someone representing you are  involved with some networking groups.  These groups are typically formed with the primary purpose of introducing people and collecting contacts and therefore, in theory, generating leads.  There are lots of these groups around pretty much anywhere you are; literally hundreds of them.  BNI groups abound, groups like WOAMTEC that cater to a specific gender or genre, community service clubs like Rotary and Kiwanis have networking aspects to them, chambers of commerce sponsor groups, trade associations create them, and sometimes just someone with a mind for a target audience will create them.

I have belonged to several over time and visited many others.  They all have the their advantages and disadvantages and most are at least a little productive eventually.  The biggest issue I have with most of them is that the participants really don’t know what they are doing and it becomes more of a mingling than a networking.  The fatal flaw is that you aren’t connecting, you are simply meeting and greeting.  Some of the common mistakes I see are:

  • business card poker is NOT connectingPeople who show up and pass out their business cards like they are dealing poker.  Sometimes they include some type of greeting but usually it is just their brief pitch.  The assumption that I am going to do business with you or refer you to anyone else just because I have your business card is a fatal flaw.  That’s supporting your printer, not connecting.

Keep the card in your pocket, I don’t want it.

  • Shooting for quantity of contacts over quality.  I have seen people come in, make a point of talking to every single person in the room briefly, collect cards, and rush out confident that they have done their job.  Like the example of passing out the cards above, you have done nothing to further your cause other than collect some additional names you will probably add to your list to spam until they get sick of it.  Again, not connecting.
  • The assumption that you are going to do business with anyone in the room.  Yes, on a VERY RARE occasion that may happen, but it’s not the purpose of your being there.  Think about it:  did you go to the meeting to buy from anyone there?  What makes you think they did?  The purpose of networking is not to do business.  We’ll talk about that purpose (connecting) further down in the post.
  • Relying on your “elevator speech” as the entire moment of contact with anyone in the room.  I am not a big fan of elevator speeches for this very reason.  In case you don’t know what an elevator speech is, it works off the theory that if you were in an elevator with someone you really wanted to contact you basically have 30 seconds to impress so you need to present a clear, concise summary of who you are and what you do.  It works off the assumption that if someone in the elevator or at a networking group asks you what you do they really want to know.  Chances are they don’t; they really want to tell you what they do.

Connecting – Not Networking

I have spent time going around to networking groups and pointing out these fatal flaws and proposing that they do something different.  If you tire of this merry-go-round that gets nowhere, why not try connecting instead of networking.  Connecting is all about building REAL relationships with people, not just acquaintances or business card collections. You make friends, not contacts.  And that’s what networking is really all about.  You don’t have to go anywhere new, you can still attend the same events, but your intentions, purpose, and approach are different.  The only thing that will change is you.

The idea is that you want to spend more time being interested than interesting.  At the heart of it, people want to know that you find them fascinating.  They don’t want to know that you have a new, revolutionary product or service; they want to know that you can help them, that you care about them, and that they can trust you.  Take this approach and in just a short time I believe it will amaze you at how things change for the better.  Better authentic relationships with people, leading to better referrals and increase in closings.  Just changing this mindset makes a world of difference.  As Dale Carnegie said,

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

Here are some tips to get started:

  • Be one of the first to arrive and the last to leave to maximize your contact time.  Budget your time so that you aren’t rushed.  Being hurried shows up in your attitude, your speech, and your body language.  No one thinks you care for them when you are in a hurry and you aren’t really connecting if you are in a hurry.
  • Set your goal before you walk in the door to focus on 2-3 quality contacts.  If you meet more, and your certainly will, then great.  But focus on actually initiating a relationship with 2-3 people where you are really connecting with them.
  • Ditch the elevator speech.  Marketing Guru Seth Godin says no one buys anything in a elevator.  Give short, concise answers to inquiries about you and quickly turn it around to ask questions about them.  You want them to talk the majority of the time you spend with them.  People who let other people talk about themselves are regarded by them as the best conversationalist in the world.
  • When you do talk, share more personal information than business information.  Real connecting with people happens on common ground and that is always personal.  You may find you went to the same school, at both natives to the area, have kids, etc.

Commonality makes connections.

  • Here’s the biggie: instead of looking for what you are going to get from each relationship, look for what you can give.  What can you do for them, especially if unrelated to your business.  Can you connect them with someone who can solve a problem you don’t address?  Perhaps they need a good medical specialist or are looking for a new church or a good place that serves authentic viking food.  How can you add value to them.  Ironically, when you do that you will eventually receive value in return.  It is really true, what goes around comes around.

Action Plan

  1. Think about your next meeting.  Pick two or three people you will focus on building a relationship with this week.
  2. In your conversation with them, find one thing you can do for them THIS WEEK and then DO IT.
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