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You Have the Time to Make a Connection

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in Remarkable Leadership with Kevin Eikenberry

Leaders often lament to me about how busy they are. One of the things many say doesn’t get done is taking the time to build relationships with their team members.

I know you are busy.

I know you have a lot on your plate. But finding connections and building relationships with your team members pays dividends in many ways, including greater productivity, less turnover, higher morale, more trust and greater speed of implementation.

If I could give you ways to work on these relationships and gain these benefits and prove it wouldn’t take too much time, would you be interested?

If so, read on.

Your goal as a leader isn’t to make friends; it is to build strong working relationships. Talking about the work and the weather isn’t enough. If you really want to engage with people, you have to find connections and make it a priority. Doing this doesn’t have to take much time.

Find their passions. This may not be hard at all. What pictures are in their office? What do you hear them talking to others about? Everyone likes to talk about what they are passionate about—whether it is their kids, their alma mater, fishing or football. Find what that is, and be genuinely interested in their passion. You might be surprised how quickly this will build a connection and what you learn in the process.

Find a commonality. What do you share? Are you both a twin, did you both play trumpet in the high school band, or both love the Grand Canyon? When you find the pieces of a connection, you begin to crystallize it and provide the seeds for a relationship to grow.

Be happy. People want to be around happy people. You do, don’t you? Smile and share a positive outlook on things. While this is an attractive quality in anyone, as a leader it is even more important, because your attitude and outlook are extremely contagious. Make sure what you are spreading is the attitude and perspective that you want to grow.

Say thank you. You learned it as a kid—but are you still doing it (enough)? Show your appreciation to your team for the little stuff as well as the big stuff. Let them know you notice. Acknowledge their efforts and results.

Be present. The biggest gift we can give anyone is our time—maybe that is why it’s called the present. This doesn’t mean you need to spend an hour with someone; it just means that when you are with them, don’t be somewhere else! Listen; quiet your internal dialogue. Make eye contact. Acknowledge people with your full attention. It happens so rarely that when we do it, it makes a big and lasting impression.

Arrive with no agenda. Don’t just show up in someone’s area when you have a question or a challenge, and mask it with an opening conversation about a non-work item. It is transparent and not nearly as meaningful as simply doing some of the other ideas on this list. Stop by to stop by. Ask more questions, shut up and listen. If you have something specific to discuss, start there and move to other items afterwards, rather than the other way around (especially early in your relationship-building process with that person).

Be helpful. Find out what people are concerned by and need, and then offer your help. I’m not talking micro-managing, I’m talking about help. This is simple and very powerful. Do it.

Make it your goal to make their day. What if you made this one of your goals each day? How would it change your behavior? How would it impact the behavior, and productivity of others? How would it begin to change your organizational culture? Try this—it won’t take long for you to find significant results.

All of these things will work, and none of them take much of your time. Make it your goal to do more of these things with more people more often. It might be in the three minutes before a meeting starts, in the coffee room, or when you walk by their workspace. Doing these things will give you great results, will endear you to your team and will make your work more fun too.

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