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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Handling Essential Conversations by How Leaders Respond

Negative facial emotions expression. Young blonde expressive angry furious nervous woman. Emotional girl full of anger and bad feelings at work.

It’s the stuff comedy legend is made of. During a movie or television program, a situation presents itself and then a character in the show classically overreacts. They might rant or rave. Or cry. or wave their arms. More often than not they make something bad even worse by their action or reaction. It makes for great comedy but not great relationships. Certainly not great leadership. Instead of reacting, we find success when leaders respond.

Why We React

Marshall Goldsmith calls them Triggers. In his book by the same name, he describes them as any stimulus that reshapes our thoughts and actions. So some triggers can be good. If we program in our minds a trigger than stimulates the desired behavior then we can build a positive habit. Where things go wrong are the triggers that are automatic. That’s where we tend to react. Some of the things that can cause automatic triggers are

Our Emotions

Negative triggers tend to set off negative emotions. Those negative emotions, left unchecked, will set off reactions.

Let’s say, for example, that an employee comes to you with a problem. There is a major problem with a phase of your pet project. The employee says, “I don’t see any way we can proceed. I think we are just going to have to cut our losses!” What?! This was YOUR BABY!

What happens? Your face screws up and turns red. Arms and body assume an aggressive stance. The words come. “What is wrong with you people! Can’t you do anything right! You’re incompetent!”

The result is we cause a reaction in the other person. They get defensive or aggressive. Communication shuts down. Nothing gets solved.

The unconscious mind is in control

Have you ever talked with someone or watched someone who tends to let everything come out of their mouths? I refer to it as “stream of consciousness speech“. It hits the mind and it comes out the mouth. There’s no governor there. No filters. Whatever occurs to them just gets blurted out.

This occurs because left to its own, our subconscious mind has no limitations. Societal norms. Consequences. Considering the feelings of others. None of that exists there. It’s all about me. So the things we would really like to say and do in our perfect world can just come out when the unconscious mind is in control.

Mindset

Indoor portrait of funny bald european man making crazy face while standing over gray background. Actor performes on stage in play for children. Guy acts weird to avoid conversation with policeAccording to psychologists, a mindset is a belief that affects how we think about something. That belief drives the way we handle particular situations related to that something.

If we believe that all of our employees are inherently lazy and will slack off given the first opportunity, how will that affect our interactions with them? Especially if we see one of them stop to rest even for a moment?

Having a negative mindset about a subject will cause us to react instead of respond. Just having the mindset itself wells up negative emotions. Add another trigger and things explode. 

Overwhelm

While we actually have a huge capacity for information and stimuli, that capacity is affected by flow rate. What I mean by that is how fast and how much information and stimuli come at us impacts capacity. Too much too fast doesn’t allow our mind to make room for more. 

Think of it like making a water balloon. You attach the balloon to the faucet and then turn on the water. If you turn on the water to full immediately the balloon will fill fast and likely blow up from the overwhelming volume of water. On the other hand, if you control the flow of water you allow time for the balloon to expand and not explode.

Sense of Entitlement

This one doesn’t require a lot of explanation, does it? I am sure we have all encountered people who feel they are entitled to something. Especially if you have teenagers living in your home. And when we feel entitled, as if it is inherently ours, we feel the unfairness and injustice of it all when we don’t get it. The feelings of unfairness and injustice trigger emotions that cause us to react instead of respond. 

How to Change from Reaction to Response

When leaders respond instead of reacting, it’s a game changer. By choosing to respond, you permit yourself to take potentially negative outcomes and turn them into positive results. It impacts you and it impacts the people to whom to respond. You put yourself back in control – of both the situation and yourself.

Business cartoon showing a leader pulling his hair out in response to declining sales as the team tries to remain calm.As dire as the consequences are when we allow ourselves to react, choosing to respond can go 180 degrees in the other direction. Outstanding positive results are possible when leaders respond instead of react.

So how do we turn the tables? How do we choose to respond instead of react? Try starting with these simple steps.

Breathe

Always, I mean always, take a breath. The simple act of taking a breath exerts control over the reaction reflex. It doesn’t have to be a deep breath, although that helps. Just breathe in and breathe out. 

CHECK THE EMOTIONS

After that breath, identify what emotions you are feeling. When a situation triggers emotions, that’s when dangerous reactions can occur. Name the emotions. When we name them, it helps us to control them. It’s okay to have emotions; in fact, it’s unavoidable. However, when negative emotions are in control there is almost never a positive outcome.

Determine your mindset

What preconceived ideas do you have that driving your emotions? Is it true? Does it apply in this particular situation? It may be similar to something you experienced in the past but is it the same? Usually, something is different. A different circumstance. A whole other person than the one involved before. How do the differences change what we do?

Consider your words

What we say when we respond sets the tone for the rest of the conversation. It affects us and it affects the person(s) on the other end. Consider these two sentences.

“That was the stupidest thing you have ever done!”

“Do you think that was the best choice?”

The first is a reaction that will consequently trigger a reaction in the other person. They will get defensive or hurt. Their reaction will be to fight or flight. Either way, you will not get what you want out of this. The second is a response that is non-threatening and actually has the other person respond instead of react. It leads to a discussion that finds solutions.

Question Everything – the Right Way

As in the example above, asking questions is usually a great way to avoid reacting and to disarm a potentially explosive situation. It has the added benefit of allowing you to gather more facts so that your decision making can be more informed. Let’s look at follow-up questions to the one above.

Why do you think that was the best choice?”

“What do you think you could have done differently?”

“What do you think we should do now? Why?”

If, in fact, the person’s choice was not a good one then both of you will discover it this way. And by using this method you not only are more likely to find a resolution but you will have also helped the other person learn a valuable lesson. Perhaps next time their decision will be better. Certainly, their trust in you will increase.

Leaders don’t react. Leaders respond. Because responding is how leaders are able to get the best out of themselves and others.

How can communication improve your team? RESPOND NOW and schedule a free Discovery Strategy Session to see how I walk alongside you on this journey!

 

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Active listening leads to understanding

asian man speaking woman listening isolated on white background. Active Listening

Have you ever been misunderstood? Felt like you were treated unfairly because of what you said? Remember a time where an argument broke out from what you thought was an innocent conversation.

It happens to everyone. And it happens because of a lack of listening. In fact, a failure to practice Active Listening is one of the largest causes of misunderstandings and arguments.

While we can’t control how others react or how well they listen, we can control ourselves. We can do our best to make sure that WE are not the cause of misunderstanding. 

And that’s where the practice of Active Listening comes in. Apply these tips and you will have a good head start to be an Active Listening practitioner.

Open posture

Most of the time, our body obeys our mind. Whether consciously or unconsciously, our body will do what the mind tells it. We walk, we run, we touch, we hold. Mouth moves, sound comes out. All because of impulses from the mind sent to parts of the body.

There are times, however, when the mind will pay attention to the body. Feet pointed towards a door denotes a desire to escape. The mind picks up on that and says, “Hey, we are already late!” Off you go. 

Arms and legs crossed give signals of protecting or shielding. Your mind senses danger, either physical or verbal, and goes into protection mode. It is basic non-verbal communication.

Active Listening Posture

Let’s turn it around. If you face the speaker with arms at your side or resting on a surface, you display openness. The mind picks up on those cues and therefore commands the rest of the body to pay attention. Even more so, the speaker’s mind will likely pick up on that as well. Tone and mood changes when the speaker perceives you are open to what they have to say.

Eye contact is your friend

The eyes, they say, are the window to the soul. That really stands out when you are engaged in conversation. Your eyes tell the speaker that you are anxious to hear what they have to say. Or they tell them you would much rather be anywhere but here.

When listening, your eyes should be open. Look at the speaker. You want to send the message that you are open and relaxed. Smile and your eyes and the rest of your face will follow suit. 

But Not too much

On the other hand, be careful about making too much eye contact. Too much eye contact and you look like you are staring. Use the 70% guideline. Make eye contact with the speaker about 70% of the time. More than that and you look like you are staring. 

Keep in mind, however, that the 70 rule is a general rule. A speaker who is introverted or not very sure of themselves may be actually put off by 70% eye contact. Note how the speaker reacts. If you are making eye contact and they look away, then you should look away too.

Undivided attention

Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone while they are thumbing away on their smartphone? It’s annoying! You can’t really tell if they are paying attention or not. And if you bring it up, they try to tell you they can do that and listen at the same time. They are a great multitasker!

As we have mentioned before, multi-tasking doesn’t work  . For anyone. If someone you are talking to tries to multi-task, you have a right to ask for their full attention or talk another time. If someone is speaking to you, you owe them the respect of your full, undivided attention. If you are unable to give it at the same, you owe them the privilege of getting it another time.

No Interruptions

Psychologist listening to her patient and writing notes, mental health and counseling. Psychologist consulting and psychological therapy session concept, toned photoEmail stays there until you look at it. Phones have voicemail. Let them be until you are done. Unless you have an urgent family matter pending, there should not be a reason to allow a speaker to be interrupted. 

And YOU shouldn’t be the interruption either. Sometimes you will hear things you feel you need to react to right away. Don’t. What you want is to be able to respond, not react. Almost always when you react instead of respond things do not go well after that.

Don’t react. RESPOND.

And the time to respond is after the speaker has finished, not during. Don’t spend time trying to formulate your response while they are speaking either. You are spending time and space in your mind coming up with your response, which means you aren’t listening anymore. Stephen Coveyonce said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply.” Is that true of you? Take some more advice from Covey. “Seek first to understand, then be understood.

Affirm the speaker

Feedback is valuable. As John Maxwell says, “Feedback is currency for leaders.” It’s pretty much valuable currency for anyone. When you are engaged in a vital conversation, it’s important there too. While the other person is speaking, they will pause occasionally; sometimes to catch their breath, other times to gather their thoughts. 

This is the perfect time to provide a quick affirmation. You want to let them know you are interested, that you are paying attention, and you want to hear more. You can learn a lot of phrases but the best response is a genuine response based on what they have said so far. “That’s interesting!” or “Tell me more.” or even “Really?!” It can even be as simple as a quick little “uh-huh” or “OK” or “yes“. 

Keep in mind the objective is to encourage the speaker, not stop them in their tracks. Use language that is natural for you and don’t use the same one every time.

Question for clarity

When the speaker completes a thought, take the time to ask a question. Your objective here is seek understanding. So your question should require more than a yes or no response. You also want to take great care not to make your question a challenge or rebuttal. Look to fill in the blanks that may be left by what the speaker has said so far.

Tell them what they said

Once the speaker has finished it is the perfect time to respond. Start by repeating back what they said in your own words. “So what I hear you saying is…” and then repeat it. One of two things will happen. Either they will confirm your understanding or they will correct your understanding. Either way, it’s a win-win. They know that you actually paid attention and you know have a clear picture of what you are responding to. 

Search the Feelings

Words have meaning. Part of that meaning is conveyed through the way that they are said. A study by Psychology Professor Albert Mehrabianonce discovered that WHAT WE SAY accounts for ONLY 7% of communication. The rest is handled by the WAY WE SAY IT and WHAT OTHERS SEE when we are saying it. So to really get meaning, we also have to get feeling. Listen and look for emotional content. A tone of voice, volume, and emphasis. And also

Look for Cues

Cartoon of business people who are having a non-verbal communication meeting.Body language also contains a good amount of context and content. Some say it is as large as 68% of meaning. A growing number of people are disagreeing with that. Whatever the number actually is, there is no denying that non-verbal communication is critical to your achieving understanding. Gestures, stance, and facial expressions all convey intent and emotion and meaning. 

The more you pay attention to the whole picture in communication, the more meaning and understanding is gained. Communication actually occurs. That is practicing Active Listening.

Need help building excellent communications within your organization or team. Schedule a free Discovery Strategy Sessionwith me today to see how we can help you.

 

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Habits Help Define Us

Old Habits - New Habits signpost in a desert road backgroundDid you know that your brain is programmed for efficiency? It will naturally find a way to turn routine actions into habits so the brain can rest more often.

I learned this as I went through Charles Duhigg‘s book The Power of Habit. It’s not a new book – been out for a few years – but my list of books is so large I have to vacillate between older and newer books I read or listen to or simply peruse.

So your brain creates habits out of routine. Sometimes that is good and sometimes not so good. One of the things I got from Duhigg’s book is that the way to defeat a less desirable habit is to break the routine by choosing different actions and rewards. It is something that requires daily effort to establish or destroy habitual behaviors, whether good or bad.

What Are You Doing Today?

John Maxwell says that “The secret of your success is determined by your daily agenda.” In other words, success as a leader means that you are establishing habits through your daily routine and the decisions and priorities you make. Becoming a great leader is a process and not a momentary flash of brilliance.

The more we establish daily practices of leadership behaviors we create routines. These routines then lead to habits. We find ourselves unconsciously doing the right things and adding value to our people.

Four Every Day Habits for Leaders

1. Growing 1%

Now here is a real challenge for us. We KNOW we need to be working on our growth yet we tend to relegate it to the “spare moments” of our time. How much spare time do you find yourself with during the workweek? Yeah, me too.

So if finding spare time is not a real possibility, then logically (and emotionally) the only real alternatives are to schedule it in as a priority or do absolutely nothing.

Doing nothing carries substantial penalties.

When we DO work on our growth, it is usually in frantic spurts of energy, unfortunately followed by extended periods of inactivity. The results are less effective because we get it in so rarely and want to therefore get through as much as we can. It overwhelms us and the outcome is that we remember practically nothing. Certainly we didn’t apply it.

Instead of overwhelm, we apply the principle of elephant eating. You have probably heard the old maxim, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!” That’s the secret here. Just focus on activities EVERY DAY that help you grow just 1% a day. Read a few chapters of a non-fiction book, such as a leadership book, or one on relationships, or a biography. Practice a skill you are trying to master. Just focus on the routine of the 1% growth and create the habit.

Just remember it must be intentional and it must be scheduled.

2. Looking for Good

As leaders our instinct is to walk in and find out what’s going wrong and what needs to be fixed. We spend too much time on the problems. We lose sight of all the people who really fix the problems and keep things going.

So instead of going in looking for problems to solve develop the routine of looking for people to compliment. As the saying goes, “catch people doing good.” When they do the right thing at the right time, when they go the extra mile, when they soothe over a customer, when they help a teammate out. Look for the behaviors you want them to repeat. Immediately then make a point of recognizing it according to the individual’s comfort level. Some folks, like me, want to be recognized publicly and loudly for the good things they have done; others prefer a quiet “well done“.

The results of this will be a brighter outlook for you on the day and a boost in morale not just for the individual employee but for those around them as well. Think what it would be like if your employees were all striving for a compliment from you. Sure, you may end up spending an inordinate amount of time complimenting people but if you can think of better things to do with your time then you need to go back to Leadership 101.

3. Meeting One-on-One

Tilt view silhouette of two people meeting one-on-oneLeaders need to be able to care about their people enough to be open to connect with them. Without caring, you can’t connect. Without connecting, you can’t influence. Without influence, you can’t lead.

You learn to care by spending time one-on-one getting to know them better. Ask questions and then….shut up and listen. Ask about their dreams, their family, what they do in their spare time. So each day you meet with one person to listen to them talk about their favorite subject – themselves.

This needs to be a daily habit because leaders need to keep in the know. Things change. We often have to be reminded of what we learned before. They need to know you mean it; that you truly care and it is worth keeping in touch regularly. It doesn’t need to take more than 15-30 minutes of your time each day and yet pays huge dividends.

4. Ridding Yourself of Work

So where will you find the time to work on personal growth, compliment others, and meet with individuals? Simple. Find something in your work load every day that you can hand out to someone else to do.

You see, as leaders most of our wasted time during the day is doing things that someone else could do just as well or possibly even better. In fact, experts estimate we spend 80% of our time doing that. We have held on to them for various reasons; because we enjoy it or because we have always done it or even for the sense of control it gives us.

Spending time doing things others could do takes away from our ability to do things only we can do or should do. Therefore, each day find something to get rid of and lighten your load.

By The Way

One quick note on what you read here.  I attempt to add value to you with what I write.  I choose my topics based on

  • what people tell me
  • what I think I would like to hear
  • what I read
  • what I need to hear myself.  I figure if I need to hear it, perhaps you do too!

If you want me to talk about a topic you haven’t seen or go into more detail about one, drop me a message. Unless you tell me otherwise, I’ll even publicly recognize you for the great idea! Just email me at psimkins(at)BoldlyLead.com.

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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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