Connection

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Connection is a bit like money. If you have enough of it, you take it for granted. But when you’re missing it, endless challenges result, and you are reminded of its irreplaceable value.

I was recently struggling to create a new performance management model for a client. I couldn’t figure out what the client’s team was missing and was discussing the problem with my wife, Karyn. She had recently left an organization because of a lack of support and connection among her colleagues and immediately identified connection as the weak link in the performance management structure I was creating for my client. I owe credit and thanks to Karyn for identifying the relationship between human connection and performance. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I was missing this myself. I have been incredibly fortunate throughout my career to have meaningful connections with the people I work with, and this good luck caused me to forget how important connection can be.

My wife, despite her amazing capacity to connect with others, has not been so lucky. She is one of those “natural leaders” to whom other people look for power, connection and energy. Most people don’t expend the energy to connect to her because she appears to be an endless source of energy and power. Everyone assumes she has everything she needs. But Karyn knows better than most that all leaders, even the most apparently strong and self-sufficient, need to feel connected to others. Without connection, we can’t perform.

John C. Maxwell, the famous coach and author, wrote a book called Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently. It’s a powerful book, and I love the message. Well, I love the reminder–the message itself is devastating! But the connection crisis is fixable, and the first step is awareness of one’s responsibility.

Leaders, among all their other roles and obligations, must be connectors. Highly effective leaders consistently relate and connect to their team members in order to achieve goals and objectives. Connection can take many different forms. Borrowing from Bob Anderson and Bill Adams’ research in Scaling Leadership, a leader’s interest and ability to form warm, caring relationships is foundational. But individual relationships are not enough. The most effective leaders are skilled at fostering “team play,” which weaves together individual connections into high-performing teams who have strong relationships not only with the leader, but with each other.

Coaching and mentoring is another form of connection that many leaders naturally enjoy and lean into, and thankfully so–actively investing in the development of others is a leader’s job! These growth-enhancing relationships are key to daily business success as well as future sustainability. The leadership pipeline is supplied by mentorship and coaching; the next generation of leaders depends on the old guard to make meaningful connections with them. Growth-enhancing relationships are one of the most effective retention strategies for any leader!

Perhaps all connecting methods come back to having high levels of interpersonal intelligence. If there’s one place to invest your development energy as a leader, it’s in your emotional and social intelligence. As technology advances exponentially faster, no one person will know enough to be irreplaceable ever again. However, the leader who is highly emotionally and socially intelligent will have the advantage when moving into this fast-paced, unforecastable world. As long as humans are in the workforce, there must be leaders skilled at helping them perform their best. Connection is an ever more valuable currency in an automated and transactional world, and you’d do well to develop that skill in yourself. Unless you plan on “leading” robots and machines for the rest of your career, in which case: don’t worry about anything you read in this blog.

If you’re interested in developing your skills as a connector, send me an email at bill@getemergent.com. I’d be happy to help.

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1 Comment

  1. Newell Eaton on March 26, 2024 at 12:25 pm

    Excellent insight. I recently attended the webinar sponsored by Coaches Rising as part of the reimagined leadership series. I’m taking. With Stacey Haynes from the Strozzi Hechler somatic tribe.
    She made the point that at Foundation what people need are three things feeling of safety, feeling of connection, which you speak to here and third feeling of being respected or of dignity. As I’m designing the facilitation program, I’m thinking about how essential it is as facilitator to create an atmosphere for all three of these things. But certainly equally true for all leaders and coaches.. newell

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