The Connected Leader: The Key to Understanding Your Employees
How well are you connecting with the people who work for you? Leaders who have strong connections with the people who work with them have a much better chance of motivating them and building a strong organization. The problem is that a formal position of leadership can often create a wall or a "glass ceiling" between you and your team members and make it difficult for you to stay connected and relate with them in a way that will earn their trust and inspire their loyalty.
If you're interested in breaking past this limitation and increasing your influence as a leader, here are some principles that will help.
Smart Delegation and Time Management
On first hearing, this might not sound like a method for creating better connections with your team, but being too busy or overextended in your responsibilities is actually one of the biggest blocks to connecting with others. Just think about what your day goes like when you feel that your hair is on fire and you're struggling just to get through your "to do list." How much harder is it for you to be empathic with those around you? How much harder is it to listen? How much harder is it to understand that there's a whole other world outside or yours?
By gaining greater control over your time, you free up more of your energy to focus on being "present" with the circumstances around you and empathetic towards those around you. The easier it is for you to do this, the easier it will be for you to coach your team members through the challenges that they're having.
This is a really, really big deal when it comes to connecting with others. The more focused you are on seeking validation from others or looking to build up your ego, the harder it is for you to understand and to connect with them. Again, this is because you're not as "present" with what's going on around you as you are concerned about what's going on inside of you. When you speak to others, go for clarity and value the message rather than attempting to assert authority or to impress others. What you'll find is that this causes you to come off as mature, confident and genuine...all of which are good for building stronger connections.
In addition, listen with the end goal of understanding people instead of attempting to critique where they are coming from or waiting for your turn to respond. This kind of listening will also exude confidence and control, which will encourage people to trust you and trust always builds stronger connections.
Make Time to Build Connections
Make it a priority to meet proactively with your team members one on one, and make it a consistent practice. This might sound like simple advice which you've heard already...but are you really practicing it? When you meet with your team members and discuss their goals and areas which you believe that they could improve on, you communicate that you care about their success. Leaders who don't do this often only meet with team members when there is a problem, which causes the team member to be nervous or defensive about one on one meetings, which just reinforces the glass ceiling separating them.
So start working on smart delegation and time management, use humility in your communications and make time to build those one on one connections. The more you do this, the greater your relationships will be with your team members and the greater your positive influence on them will be.