How to Create More Meaningful Connections at Work
As a leader, you interact with people every day on the job—it’s an obvious aspect of your responsibilities. But how often do you take time out to really connect with those you lead? Often, pressed-for-time leaders overlook the importance of pushing “pause” and taking a few extra minutes to cultivate connections with their people. Yet this relationship-building matters and is a strategic discipline that can yield a number of benefits. For example, when you improve rapport with those you lead, both parties come to know and understand each other, resulting in greater trust. Through such stronger connections, you can also gain valuable insights into how they are doing in their jobs, specifically with their goals. If they need encouragement or help, a healthier connection opens doors to more successfully providing good coaching and the right resources. So next time you’re breezing by a direct report or rushing through a work conversation, make a commitment to slow down and really mine that valuable connection.
Here’s how to cultivate your connections today:
1. Ask More Questions
There’s no doubt that a lot of leaders love to talk. But at MAP, we strongly encourage leaders to become great at asking questions and listening more—specifically, listening 80% of the time and asking good questions and providing guidance 20% of the time. This is a habit that can take some time to adopt, but it’s a powerful way to prompt employees to share more information, ideas and solutions. For instance, asking “Why?” more often can get your people to really think, and even drive ingenuity. And if you’ve got a challenge or problem you need solved, consider asking for their recommended solutions even if you think you know the answer—what they tell you may surprise you. But more importantly, when your people know they are genuinely being heard and respected for their input, they will tend to be more engaged, effective and energized relative to their jobs and goal achievement.
2. Find Something In Common
It can be really surprising to discover just how much you may have in common with those you lead. Often, you can simply pay attention to your conversations and notice what common ground you may share. However, sometimes you have to work at it a bit, using the above strategy of asking questions to learn more and searching for common ground. You may also have to think a bit harder than usual to see how in spite of differences, you share certain things in common. This kind of “detective” work is actually a skill leaders really have to sharpen, proactively inserting this activity into their communication repertoire. But it’s an important skill because, as a strategy for building trust, finding common ground can become a platform for more open discussions, greater transparency, and successful conflict-resolution.
3. Use What You Learn
Getting insights and information about your people, as well as finding common ground, is just part of cultivating connections. It’s also important to think about what you now know and how you can use those powerful details to develop your people professionally. For example, if in asking more questions of a team member, you realize she’s got a passion for volunteering at nonprofits, she might be the perfect person to head up your company’s own “pay it forward” program. Aligning her responsibilities with her values, gifts and skills can be powerful. She likely will care more about her job and feel greater loyalty to those—including you—who’ve made a point to give her career more purpose and meaning. There are so many ways to empower your people but supporting who they are and the strengths they bring to the table is certainly a strategy that works. Apply what you learn in creative, conscientious ways and you’ll find your people are more motivated and excited to perform for you.
What’s your #1 strategy for building employee motivation?