I used to work with Jane. We connected well and had a great relationship. I enjoyed being around her. I could tell her anything and she would listen. It worked the other way too, when she talked, I listened. If she pointed out something to me that I could have done differently, maybe a little better, I knew she had my best interests at heart, so I listened. When others that I didn’t know well told me something similar, an opportunity to do it a different way, the results were different. I became defensive. I argued and pushed back.
Why did I listen to Jane and resist others?
There was a connection between us, which is another way of saying we had a relationship. We trusted each other. It’s easier to speak and to listen when you know someone. When you don’t, you’re always guarded, wondering what their motives are.
Too often leaders aren’t connected with their team. They have what I would describe as a one-way relationship with their team members. They believe their job is to tell, instruct, direct and correct. They know very little about the members of their team and what makes them “tick.” They aren’t connected to team members. This happens for a variety of reasons.
- Their behavior might mirror the leaders who mentored them, whose example they follow.
- It might be cultural within the organization, i.e., that’s how our leaders do things.
- It could be they want to have a relationship, but they don’t know how.
Getting connected to your team isn’t complicated. As humans, we crave being connected and having relationships. They are important to us.
If you’re a leader, here are some tips for getting connected with your team members.
Start with remembering you are in the “power position” as the leader. We respect our leaders, but we are guarded because they have power over us, until we know them. To get around it, you need to be the initiator with your team members, don’t wait for your team to come to you. Let them know you want to get to know each other better.
Engaging requires a two-way dialog. Start with learning something about them personally, i.e., their family.
Then, go a little deeper with additional questions, but you must also be willing to share so that they get to know you too. The more candid you are, the more human you become and the easier it is to be connected. When you are connected, they’ll tell you things you may not want to hear but need to hear.
There is no perfect list of “getting connected” questions, you can create your own. If you have no idea what to ask, consider these three questions from my friend Don Eggelston’s book “The Two Dialogs.”
- What is something that you wish others would not presume about you because of your age, race, educational level, appearance or occupation?
- What was a difficult period in your life and how did you deal with it? What qualities did you develop as a result of this challenging time?
- What is a gift or talent you have within you that others overlook when they judge you superficially?
When you engage in meaningful two-way dialog with your team, you will get connected with them. You will establish a relationship.
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. Psalm 139:1-4