Feeling connected is the ultimate human condition. In his book Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect, Matthew Lieberman explains, ‘Our need to connect is as fundamental as our need for food and water’. ‘Connection’ is best described by prolific author and researcher Brené Brown who says it’s ‘the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued — when they can give and receive without judgment’.
This feeling is just as important for people you interact with internally, as well as externally to your organisation. Here are five simple strategies to help you connect better with your people, customers, and clients today.
Be open to improvement
Christina Boedker of the Australian School of Business researched the link between leadership and organisational performance, collecting data from more than 5600 people in 77 organisations. She concluded that the ability of a leader ‘to understand people’s motivators, hopes, and difficulties and to create the right support mechanism to allow people to be as good as they can be’, had the greatest correlation with profitability and productivity.
Compassionate people are much more open to learning, and seek feedback to grow. They operate under the knowledge that they don’t have all the answers — the people they have around them can enhance their knowledge and learning and hence enable them to lead and deliver service even more effectively. Hence, don’t be afraid of asking questions and don’t be afraid of getting answers!
Our ability to connect with others in our selfie-obsessed society has never been easier — at least online.
At work, we implement tools such as Yammer to try to make us converse and share more. We hold online conferences and ‘catch-up’ meetings across different time zones. We post company updates on LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook.
Yet never forget the power of connecting with others one to one. Instead of email, pick up the phone or power across the office to the other person and have a chat. Your customers, clients, and team mates will thank you for taking the time out of your day instead of spamming their inbox.
Discuss the big picture
If you look at companies that are voted ‘best place to work’ or an ‘employer of choice’ value and foster connection among their teams and organisations.
As Sylvia Vorhauser-Smith, senior vice president of research at PageUp People, puts it, these companies are ‘meeting the more altruistic and basic human needs of feeling connected and being an important part in something bigger’.
People want to feel connected to their leader and they want to work for a leader who values them in return. Equally, external customers and clients want to know you have their best interests at heart. They want to feel like you are on the journey together so share that vision with them.
Being curious and interested in other people is critical to building strong connections. It allows you to understand what drives and motivates others.
Internally, this is the key to coaching your team using strategies and tools that are right for them rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach. Leverage the talent and different strengths in your people; ask for their ideas, and their contribution to solve complex issues or add value.
Externally, listen to your customers and clients, walk in their shoes and understand what a day is really like for them. This is how you start to solve problems they truly have instead of those you think they have.
Give to receive
Part of the process of genuinely connecting with others involves letting go of your own excessive ego, insecurities, and concerns about status. We have to give people time and honesty. We have to really care about how they are feeling. And often this takes personal vulnerability to step into this.
As Brene Brown says, ‘We are emotional beings. We like to think we as humans think a lot and occasionally have a feeling we can put aside but in reality, we are emotional beings and occasionally have a thought!’
So be willing to share your strengths and your failures. Give people your story as well as asking for theirs. This is how you build strong connections that last the test of time.
Michelle Sales is a highly sought-after speaker, trainer, coach and author who helps senior leaders and their teams to build confidence and maximise their leadership and performance by consciously connecting with others. She is the author of the new whitepaper The Connection Deficit: Why leaders must bring both head and heart to work to build trust, lift engagement and accelerate organisational results. For more information on Michelle’s work visit www.michellesales.com.au