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.

[tweetthis]If you don’t care you have no business being a leader or a manager. Quit. Now.[/tweetthis]

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.


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.


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)

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.

Things Bosses Believe About Employee Engagement That Are Flat Out Wrong

employee engagement imageThere are some who readily embrace the concept of how critical employee engagement is to a productive workplace. Others have to first overcome some hurdles.

I hear it often – perhaps you have heard it too. Sometimes from “old school management” fans or simply those who refuse to let go of preconceived notions.

What holds them back are firmly held beliefs that, despite research proving them wrong, they refuse to release because it is all they know. It is myths about behaviors or people or management concepts that hold them back.

Here are some of the key myths.

Mindset or Culture Employee Engagement Myths

People Don’t Engage Because They Are Lazy

Lazy is a descriptive term we apply to someone who isn’t getting the work done. Yet in a article in Psychology Today, Laura Miller says that the problem is more avoidance behavior. In other words, some emotional issue is keeping them from taking action. She cites seven things that may be the real cause of an employee not getting the job done:

  1. Fear of Failure – Better to not try than to fail
  2. Fear of Success – What happens to my life if I succeed?
  3. Desire for Nurture – No one pays attention unless I mess up
  4. Fear of Expectations – If I do well, will the boss pile up the work?
  5. Passive-aggressive Communication – Avoid conflict, just do nothing
  6. Need for Relaxation – I really just need a rest
  7. Depression – I have a real problem here

lazy office worker

Some of these are rare, some not as rare as you might think. If an employee is not getting work done, you can be assured there is an issue and it’s not their work ethic.

That Generation Just Wants It All Handed To Them

This is typically targeted primarily at “Millennials” and sometimes at Generation X, the one before them. Millennials were born from 1982 to 2004, meaning some Millennials are in their lower 30’s now. Many believe them to be a lazy generation – that they just don’t want to work. Also that Millennials are so self-absorbed that they can’t fully engage at work.

In truth, most Millennials love to work!

They are passionate about achievement and significance.

What is different is how they get there. They want to be free to get to the end result their own way.

And they DO get results. They just don’t see the value of showing up just to show up.

“Those People” Just Don’t Work Hard

Some believe that specific ethnic cultures or impoverished cultures are naturally prone to avoid work or are too wrapped up in their families to be fully engaged.

Yet research by census and the Pew Research Center suggest otherwise, indicating they are no less engaged than any other ethnicity or social status.

Myths About Employee Engagement That Block Progress

Employee Engagement Should Be Checked Annually

Many organizations rely on the annual employee survey. With the trend emphasizing employee engagement, most have taken that survey and renamed it to the Employee Engagement Survey. Problem is, all they changed was the name. I wrote in detail about that in my blog Six Reasons Your Employee Engagement Survey Fails and What You Can Do About It.

The real test of engagement is ongoing and targeted. It’s also personal. Sending out a survey once a year, which gets about 10% response in a good year, doesn’t give you the real pulse. Neither does an annual employee review, which is typically one-sided. To get the real feel for where you are, you need to tap into the line managers and individual contributors frequently.

Sam Walton (Walmart) was famous for this. He would fly into a warehouse location or store location, hop into the passenger seat of one of trucks, and ride around and talk to the driver. He learned about what they felt, how things were going, and what they could do better. And he showed employees he cared about what THEY feel.

Employee Engagement Can Be Bought

This one just doesn’t seem to want to go away. It comes mostly from the sales angle, particularly among managers who believe that salespeople are entirely driven by money. They believe if they just create opportunities for more income then that’s all the incentive they need to engage people more. Maybe it works short-term for one person, but generally fails with the rest. It is then explained away as being the fault of the employees and not the program.

Surveys conducted on sales staff and other groups repeatedly show that money is not the primary motivator. In fact, it’s not usually in the top three.

Another way that managers attempt to buy engagement is by adding workplace features. It’s kind of like someone who tries to buy your love by constantly giving you things. Doesn’t work in personal relationships either.

There is a Standard Solution to Employee Engagement

This myth is perpetuated mostly by companies that want to sell you a solution.

This engagement survey will fix it. This software program provides the metrics you need. Purchase this benefits program. Buy the secret to our proprietary system that solves employee engagement forever! 

That works if your organization is just like every other organization and your employees are like everyone else. You and I know that’s not true.

Your situation is unique. It requires an innovative approach that is entirely yours.

It is highly unlikely you will be able to develop that on your own. You are too close to the equation. The right coach can help.

Employee Engagement is the End Game

Finally, it’s important to remember that our real goal here isn’t employee engagement. Our real goal is have one or all of these things:

  • A supremely productive workplace
  • Cohesive teams
  • Strong leadership
  • Reduced turnover
  • Higher customer satisfaction
  • Increased profits

Employee Engagement is a means to the end. You can’t have greater productivity without more engagement. And you haven’t really engaged them if they aren’t becoming more productive. It’s a symbiotic relationship.

Anything else is not productive.

What do you believe about employee engagement? What’s helped engagement efforts? What’s hurt?

Share your thoughts here or email me at

Failure to Engage

Most corporate efforts to solve employee engagement problems is making things worse instead of better. It’s an epic fail.

Here’s why.

The Employee Engagement Dilemma

employee engagement imageFor the last several years now, organizations are becoming more and more aware of the epidemic proportions of employee disengagement. It’s not just in the United States, it is world-wide.

Despite the awareness and the efforts to stem the gushing flow of blood, the problem isn’t getting better.

In fact, there are some signs that it is getting worse.

Updated research from Gallup, OfficeVibe, and others reveals the awful truth.

A whopping 88% of employees don’t have a passion for their work!

An almost equally large 80% of Senior Managers are dispassionate!

The cost to corporations is now OVER $500 Billion annually!

Calculate Your Own Impact

If you want to figure it out for your company, try this ROI Calculator from OfficeVibe.

I did a sample just to give you an idea.

Say you are a small business. If you have

  • 100 Employees
  • $50,000 Average Annual Salary
  • 45% Turnover Rate (one local company I know of actually has this)

Then you could save over

$1, 405, 641 a year

through better engagement.

Let’s take a bigger company.

  • 1,000 Employees
  • $80,000 Annual Average Salary
  • 30% Turnover Rate (better but still high)

Then improved engagement will save you

$17, 666, 485 a year!

So why, then, in the face of the wonderful financial and productivity gains to be made with better engagement; why is it that we can’t seem to make things better?

Let’s start with a little story.

Bacon and Egg Breakfast

It’s an old joke but one of my favorites because it never really loses its relevance.

bacon and eggsA chicken and a pig are walking down a street and walk by a diner. Painted on the plate glass storefront window of the diner is an advertisement for a Bacon and Egg breakfast. Probably with toast but that’s not relevant here.

The chicken proudly perks up and says, “Look! If it wasn’t for my contribution that breakfast would not be possible!”

The pig says, “Yeah, for you it’s a contribution! For me, it’s total commitment!

It’s a great story for the difference between involvement and commitment. It’s also a great reason why our engagement efforts are failing.

Failure to Commit

From researching this, the conclusion I have drawn is that most organizations are failing to resolve employee engagement issues because they have not made it a priority in their strategic plan.

They are INVOLVED in employee engagement but are not fully COMMITTED to it.

In other words, they are the chicken and not the pig.

Here’s some examples of “solutions” to employee engagement that I have seen:

  • Taking the annual employee survey and re-packaging it as an Employee Engagement Survey.
    Incidentally, most companies are taking about the same amount of action from it now as they did when it was just an Employee Survey; that is to say very little if at all.
  • Creating new metrics to study employee engagement
    Don’t misunderstand. Metrics can be a valuable information source – if you know what you actually need to measure and if they can provide guidance to resolve issues. Otherwise, it’s just numbers. The other issue I have here is it is important to remember that with Employee Engagement not everything that counts can be counted.
  • Adding new benefits to the employment package.
    This is related to the old-school thought that all you have to do to make people happy is offer them more money and more bennies. Despite the mounting evidence that is doesn’t work and never did work, people still use it.
  • They focus on improving employee happiness
    On the surface, that seems logical. Where it falls down is that it makes an incorrect assumption. This approach assumes that a happy employee is a productive employee, yet this is NO EVIDENCE to support this.

These and other approaches will likely fail. While there is no one cure-all for employee engagement, the evidence seems to suggest that until Employee Engagement is made a STRATEGIC PRIORITY FROM THE TOP DOWN that anything we try will be a failure.

What does that look like?

  • A clear and concise mission statement and corporate value set lived out (and emphasized) from the top.
  • A well-defined leadership development track that focuses less on management technique and more on real leadership skills.
  • A improved system of hiring that focuses on character traits as strongly as skill sets.
  • A structured ongoing program to equip and empower employees to perform with excellence.

It’s time to stop being the chicken and become committed like the pig.

What engagement fails have you seen? What hurdles do you see in implementing real solutions? Share your thoughts here or email me at

Inspired Leaders Have GRIT

On October 10, 2014 I was blessed to be a host for L2:Learn-Lead, the new annual leadership simulcast produced by the John Maxwell Company.  In the last post, I shared the opening keynote by John C. Maxwell to initiate this series.  Today, I want to share some of the thoughts from Linda Kaplan Thaler.

About Linda

Linda Kaplan ThalerLinda is the co-founder and head of Publicis Kaplan Thaler, a marketing and advertising firm.  She is definitely a leader within her industry; creative and innovative.  She knows how to get things done.  Among the many claims to fame she has is the creation of the Kodak Moment, the AFLAC Duck, and the Toys R Us Kid jingle.  She is also co-author of a few books, including The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness.

GRIT Creates Extraordinary

Linda spoke on GRIT: How Ordinary People Become Extraordinary.  GRIT is an acronym for Guts, Resilience, Industriousness, and Tenacity.  Here are some of Linda’s thoughts from her talk:
  • 98% of highly successful people were considered average.
    • Walt Disney was fired from his first job for being “uncreative”
    • General Colin Powell was a C- student
    • Michael Jordan wasn’t good enough to make his high school varsity basketball team
    • What makes the difference is their GRIT.
[snaptweet]Anyone with perseverance and pluck can go from ordinary to extraordinary. -Linda Kaplan Thaler[/snaptweet]
  • If you are brave enough, stop dreaming and start doing!
[snaptweet]I never spent one minute dreaming about success. I worked for it. -Estee Lauder[/snaptweet]
  • Overprepare and outwork everyone else
  • We get easily distracted and need to refocus on where we are going.

Four Keys to Help Stay on Track

  1. SOLVE SMALL PROBLEMS – when you resolve the small problems that pop up regularly, it prepares you to solve the big problems.
  2. MAKE YOUR BED – Military recruits are taught early on how to make their bed first thing every morning and to make it neat and precise.  Part of the reason is discipline but a good deal of it is that you accomplished something immediately.  If you accomplish nothing else that day, you made your bed.
  3. FINISH WHAT YOU START – With busy schedules and competing priorities, it’s easy to jump from one thing to another and not really finish anything.  Successful people finish.
  4. FORGET WILLPOWER – No one has enough willpower to stay the course consistently simply based on their will.  Develop habits and create situations that take willpower out of the equation.
Next post will cover Tim Sanders thoughts from L2:Learn-Lead.

Action Items:

  1. How will you apply this to your life?
  2. What do you need to change?
  3. What should you share or teach to others?

Welcome Aboard, Thrill-seekers and Danger-lovers!

Much of my background is as a professional trainer.  Early on I learned the value of learning through others.  Where did I get started on that?

The Jungle Cruise!

That’s right!  This is Jungle Paul!

Working at Walt Disney World while in college at UCF found me on the one ride in the park where my personality fit to a “T”.  Standing up with a microphone and making a fool of myself for 10 minutes at a time, eight hours a day, was right up my alley.  I was not Skipper Dan by any means, but I loved the schtick!  I was trained and watched and learned from my trainer.  I spent time learning through others; what they did well and what they didn’t do well that I could improve upon.

By learning through others I became good enough that they assigned me as a trainer on the ride.  I had even more passion for that and poured myself into creating the best training experiences I could.

Jungle Trainer

One of the techniques we applied was a standard formula for the training business:

  1. Tell me how it’s done
  2. Show me how it’s done
  3. Help me to do it
  4. Allow me to do it on my own

Notice the key there.  We didn’t just throw them on the ride and say, “Okay, talk!”  We explained and demonstrated first.  In Boy Scout training, this is called EDGE (Explain, Demonstrate, Guide, Enable).

They watched and learned how to do it right by learning through others.  They absorbed a model to help them do it right.  It allowed them to confidently believe they could do it too.  This saved them some of the pain of doing it wrong consistently until they finally get it right.

[snaptweet]No matter what you do, learning through others do can help.[/snaptweet]

This is especially true when you pick the right people to learn from.  Find people who excel and study them.  Read books about them if they exist.  Interview them if possible and ask about failures more than successes.

[snaptweet]It’s in failures where the greatest lessons are learned.[/snaptweet]

Take what they do well and add your own flavor to it.  Take what they learned from their failures and design ways to avoid it yourself.  Save yourself some pain.

Who can you study today to help you become better at what you do?  How will you apply their failures to your life?  How will you apply their successes?

Comment Below.