As we discussed last week, if you want to be a successful leader, talent and knowledge are simply not enough.
If you want to reach your full potential, you must learn to work with people.
If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
~ African Proverb
The greatest leaders have more than just a vision. They have the ability to make that vision a reality, and they do that by building a team of individuals who have chosen to follow them to a new destination.
Connecting is the ability to identify with people and relate to them. When you learn to connect, you will also be able to increase your influence.
Influence is not reserved for those building a team. Selling a product, promoting a new idea to your boss, asking for a promotion, interviewing for a new job and encouraging your child to do their homework all require influence. The first step in developing influence is connecting.
A train engineer cannot take rail cars to a better destination if he doesn’t first back up the engine and connect to those cars. Once connected, he can take all the train cars – with their potential value – to a place where their value can be unlocked.
A connecting leader does the same thing. They lead their followers – with their potential value – to a better destination. They take their followers to a place where their value is unlocked.
If connecting is so important to gaining influence, then what are the barriers that keep people from more easily connecting with others? I am going to explore some of the barriers I see that keep people from connecting with others.
Connecting does not come naturally. Studies show that roughly 50% of the population tends towards a task-oriented style versus a relationship-oriented style.
Someone with a relationship-oriented style will tend to start with connecting and a focus on establishing a relationship. Connecting comes easily to this group.
People with a task-oriented style must be more intentional about connecting. A task-oriented style tends to walk past the people. They skip connecting and want to get straight to the task at hand. This is especially true when they are in a stressful situation or have a tight deadline.
Like the train analogy above, if the task-oriented leader does not take the time to connect, they may be heading towards their vision without anyone following. Read last week’s blog for specific strategies to more easily connect with others.
If your natural style is relationship-oriented, then I recommend giving grace to those who have a task-oriented style.
Connecting isn’t possible when we judge others. I have learned that it is very difficult to gain influence over someone when we are judging them. As human beings, we are gifted with instincts that help us perceive potential risks. Our natural survival instincts cause our subconscious mind to be on high alert for something or someone which could cause us harm. When we meet someone who is not like us, our subconscious can cause us to judge them, perceive a threat, and view them as very different from us.
If you aspire to be a connecting leader, then you must learn to fight this tendency. Instead of pre-judging, be curious. Work to find common ground. We all connect with some people but few connect with a lot of people. Great leaders, great connectors, have learned to connect with lots of people. Fight the tendency judge someone who is different from you and specifically look for ways to connect with that person.
Connecting is difficult when we are self-focused. Many people are so focused on what they want that it is difficult to see things through the eyes of another person. If you want to connect, you must learn to see other perspectives.
People are naturally wired to be self-centered. Every second of every day our senses bring in more data than we can possibly process in our brains. Because there is nothing more important to us than survival, our brain’s priority is to search for anything that could bring us harm.
Couple this with the competitive pressures in business and it is easy to appreciate the amount of intentionality required to look at things from another person’s perspective.
You can have everything in life you want if you will help enough other people get what they want. ~ Zig Ziglar
One way to look for another perspective is to develop the habit of adding value to others. Give without expectations of receiving. Find unique and creative ways to serve others inside and outside your current sphere of influence.
So how can you become an even better connector? First, make a commitment to becoming a connector. Then learn more about connecting…read books, blogs and other materials on how to better connect and develop relationships with others. (I wrote more about connecting in this post which includes a FREE download for our Guide to Connecting.) Another great way to practice connecting is to attend seminars or other events that challenge your comfort zone.
As I said before, all the talent in the world is not enough. If you want to reach your full leadership potential, learning to connect with people is critical. What do you need to keep doing, stop doing and start doing this week to help you overcome your barriers to connecting?
Would learning to connect with others make a difference in your team or organization? Find out how to bring Mark into your organization for a two-hour mini-workshop, Connect Fast and Influence People, at a special rate for blog subscribers.