Updated: Sep 19, 2020
The Power of Strong Connections
Several years ago I was off on vacation celebrating a “milestone” birthday. This picture is what I found when I returned to my office! I was told that people from across our department spent lunches, breaks, and time before and after their work day to help “decorate.”
Everything was covered - chairs, pictures, my white board. But that’s not what made this so special.
As I looked around I became aware that many of the post-its had writing on them! People had taken the time to write a few words, some funny, some kind, and all incredibly thoughtful. I was touched beyond words, and that day remains one of my Top 5 Best Days Ever!
For me, this was validation that I had connected with my team, and they knew how much I cared about them.
Showing You Care
As the saying goes, talk is cheap. How we show up every day, no matter the situation, informs people that they matter and are valued. For some this is natural; and for others it may require a bit of thought and intentional action.
Most people have a pretty good B.S. meter and can detect when you are not being genuine. There are at least two benefits to getting good at relationships:
It is easier and more fun to get work done when you know and understand the people you work with.
People will give you their very best when the feel appreciated and valued!
Catch People Doing Something Right!
What ratio of positive to negative feedback do you give people? And what do you think it should be?
Think from your own perspective: how did you feel the last time someone called out your success or accomplishment? And how did you feel towards that person? You likely experienced a positive shift in your self confidence, and also positive emotion towards the person providing the praise.
The answer to the question is about 4 or 5 to 1: You need to provide 4 or 5 positive comments for each negative/corrective one. When that ratio drops people start to feel like they can’t do anything right. They might not try as hard, or even give up, when they feel all they ever hear is criticism.
Challenge yourself on this one; keep track for a day or two, and see where your ratio lies. I predict something remarkable will happen….. when you continuously look for the good in people you will find more of it!
When someone on your team asks for your time, stop what you are doing; look at them; ask what’s going on and listen to what they say and how they say it. If it is not urgent and you are working on a tight deadline or deep in thought, try a response like this: “I want to give you my full attention; I’m deep into a project right now, is there a time later today when we can talk?”
Even better though, unless the earth will stop spinning or you are dealing with an urgent client issue, do stop and give them your time. Right then and there. Put down your phone, turn away from your computer, and give them your full attention. You might even be surprised that once people know they can drop in they will start bringing you good news! And who doesn’t want to hear good news!
I can still remember the look of excitement on one woman’s face as I was walking past her desk - it was clear she wanted to talk. I stopped and asked her how she was doing… Next thing I know we are poring over her daughter’s prom and graduation photos! Such a proud mom, thrilled that her daughter would be the first in the family to go to college! Everyone around was excited for her too, so encouraging to see the love and support.
As I started to walk away she said “I have been waiting all day to catch you so you could see my pictures!” Got me right in the feels….
Become an Olympic Level Listener
Skills and knowledge can be taught; talents are inherent, and are hard-wired in our neural pathways by the time we hit age 11. By uncovering people’s natural talents and providing work that uses those talents you are putting people in positions not only to succeed but to excel. And when people excel their self confidence is fueled and lights their internal motivational fire.
Listen to what people are talking about when they are very excited and animated. Ask a few questions to dig specifically into what they did that was so gratifying. And really listen - within their answers lies their passion and talent. Listen too for tasks and activities that they seem highly resistant to and ask questions about why they find them so draining.
Where Do I Find Time To Do All This?
If you really enjoy being a leader, the activities I described above should be sources of energy for you. The better you know your team the more equipped you are to position them for success. And as the people around you elevate their performance not only should your job get easier, it should be more gratifying and fun!
Investing in people and relationships yields untold future gains. There are the obvious business benefits - increased productivity, profitability, and efficiency.
The incalculable value of the memories is priceless!