Communicating and Connecting
Two keys for effective leadership and getting things done
Published in INSIGHT - Fall 2016
By Dr. Charles Waldo
Have you ever had the experience of meeting someone for the first time and had the feeling you have been friends for a long time? You might re-meet someone you once knew pretty well but have not seen for a long time. The two of you begin talking, almost like picking up on a conversation interrupted just yesterday.
From a professional perspective you have no doubt met a few job candidates with whom you instantly “clicked.” You were ready to hire them on the spot. Maybe you attended a conference or seminar with several hundred others listening to a speaker many feet away on a stage, but you have the uncanny feeling she is chatting with you one-on-one. Maybe you have an administrative assistant with whom you not only get along quite well but the two of you also seem “joined at the hip” and are always on the “same page.”
Each of these situations is an example of people connecting or being connected – seeing things eye-to-eye, getting along agreeably, enjoying each other’s company, and so on. Sometimes the connection happens almost instantaneously; sometimes it takes a while for it to develop.
Long-time book author, speaker, and consultant Dr. John C. Maxwell discusses connecting at your church:
Connecting is the ability to identify with people – and them to you – and relate to them.
It is not enough to just work hard. It’s not enough to just do a passable job. To be really successful you need to learn how to really communicate and connect with others. They are major determinants in reaching your potential. To be successful as a leader you must work with people. And to do your absolute best, you must learn to connect. That skill can be learned.1
Do you agree with him? What have been your experiences? To my mind one would be foolhardy to ignore the wisdom and advice of John Maxwell. Connecting is vital. Here are John Maxwell’s Ten Connecting Principles and Practices
Connecting increases your influence in every situation. “The #1 criteria for advancement and promotion for professionals is the ability to communicate effectively.” (The Harvard Business Review). When you communicate and connect with others, you position yourself to make the most of your skills and talents.
Connecting is, first, all about others. Maturity is the ability to see and act on behalf of others. Maturity does not always come with age. Sometimes age comes alone. To add value to others, you must first value others. Mutual concern creates connections between people.
Connecting goes beyond words. Research shows that often more than 90% of the impression we convey to others has nothing to do with what was actually said. Every message you try to convey must contain a piece of you. People may hear your words, but they see and feel your attitude toward them.
Connecting, especially with teams or groups in a professional setting, always requires energy, initiative, preparation, patience, selflessness, and stamina. It is much more than just smiling, shaking hands, and passing out a business card. To add value to others you must first add value to yourself and what you are trying to do.
Connecting is more skill development than natural talent. Otherwise, why would Toastmasters have existed – and grown – all these years? While techniques are important, serious interest in and concern for the other persom is vital. Connecting is not dumb luck. How can you make the other person better for having met you?
Connectors connect on common ground. It is difficult to find common ground with others when the only person you are focused on is yourself. Listening to others – really listening -- requires giving up on our favorite pastime – involvement in ourselves and our own self interests. People like people who like them.
Connectors do the difficult work of keeping things Simple. Good connectors get to the point before their listeners start asking “What’s the point?” In the end, people are persuaded not by what they hear but what they understand. Do not confuse them.
Connectors create an experience others enjoy. “Cemetery communications: Lots of people out there but nobody is listening.” People do not remember what you think is important, they remember what they think is important. Humor helps. A cheerful heart is good medicine. PROVERBS 17:22
Connectors inspire people. People need to know that you understand them, that you are focused on them, and that you have high expectations for and confidence in them. They need to both know and see your conviction, creditability, and character and feel your passion for the subject at hand and gratitude for them.
Connectors live what they Communicate. Creditability is currency for leaders. With it they are solvent; without it they are bankrupt. As time goes by, the way people live outweighs the words they use. To be human is to mess up; to connect you must ‘fess up. When you make a commitment, you create hope. When you keep a commitment, you create trust.
The above 10 Connecting Principles briefs do not begin to do justice to Maxwell’s insightful, easily read, practical book. Why not offer to form a lunch time study group with your team and/or other staff and laity to dig into it and look for applications at your church. It takes more than one person to connect. The skill of connecting can be learned.
1 John C. Maxwell. Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently, Thomas Nelson, Nashville, TN, 2010. ¬¬¬¬¬
Charles Waldo is Professor of Marketing (ret.) at Anderson (IND) University. He lives in Indianapolis and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.