When you walk into a room do you increase or decrease the overall energy level?
Human beings are by nature emotional creatures. By that I mean we often tend to make decisions for emotional reasons. Its only afterwards do we then give logical explanations for our choices. I know a man of great integrity and ability. However, for some reason emotionally we have never been able to connect with each other. As a result, I find myself not wanting to listen to what he has to say or to follow him. That is not just my experience. We all either give the same experience to others or receive that from others.
The 10th law of Leadership from John Maxwell’s classic book “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” states:
Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand. This is the law of connection.
What is the evidence of connection when it is working well? Maxwell helpfully lists the following:
- Extra effort – people are prepared to do more than expected. They are willing to go the extra mile.
- Unsolicited appreciation – they say positive things.
- Unguarded openness – they demonstrate trust.
- Enjoyable experiences – they feel good about what they are doing.
- Emotional bondedness – there is a positive emotional connection
- Positive energy – their emotional energy increases as a result of being together
- Growing synergy – their effectiveness is greater than the sum of the parts. Their is creative excitement.
It doesn’t matter how great your vision is or how sincere you are. In many ways it doesn’t even matter what the facts are – if you are not able to emotionally connect with others you will not be able to progress. Over the years having been involved in leadership as a psychiatrist, in church and even at home I have struggled with connecting with others because I have not properly understood this.
In particular there were two simple principles about connection with others that I have tended to overlook:
1. The need for common ground. You have to be able to move from where you are sitting to focus on what you have in common with your audience – be that one person or 1 million. Even if there is only 1% in common you have to give that 1% your 100% attention to build connection. A wonderful example of that is with Linda Kaplan Faber. She had arranged to take a flight to visit the famous billionaire investor Warren Buffet. He was prepared to only give her 10 minutes of his time. However, Linda did her homework and found out that Buffet’s favourite drink was Cherry Coke. When she went into her meeting with Buffet the first thing she did was to present him with his favourite drink. That enabled her meeting to go from 10 minutes to 90 minutes! She found out where he was and met him on common ground.
2. The need for energy if you are going to connect with others. If we are going to connect with others we have to do the hard work of knowing the people we want to connect with. It is not enough to expect them to come into our world. That is vital if we are going to connect. I struggled with this concept because I tended to think that by entering into someone’s else’s world meant that somehow I was agreeing with them or needed to subsume my identity into the things that interested them. I now realise that had more to do with my insecurity about myself than it had to do with them. Secure leaders have the energy to enter into other people’s worlds and be clear about who they are.
One of my favourite sayings from John Maxwell is:” no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
That emotional connection is so essential if we are going to make a difference at work or school or in our community.
Everyone talks. Everyone communicates. But few connect. Those who do connect take their relationships, their work and their lives to a whole different level.
What questions and issues do these ideas on connection raise with you?
It would be great to have your comments and suggestions.