Today we live in an age of continuous connection. We can obsess about how many followers we have on Instagram or if we’ve reached that magic 500+ connections on LinkedIn. We’re all guilty of it but what’s it all for? Validation? Praise? Popularity?
Connection, for many people, is one of those crucial needs in life: to feel deeply connected to someone special, and have a broad base of connections through family and friends. It can give us a sense of belonging, purpose and belief in ourselves. Although creating and nurturing connections is not easy and not everyone is meant to connect in the same way, when you get it right, it’s magic.
We may not all long for connection in the same way but it’s impossible to avoid it as we make hundreds of small connections every day: from the barista you greet to buy your morning coffee, the ticket woman at your train station, the cashier where you grab that cheeky KitKat, or the stranger you accidentally bump into when you’re rushing to that next meeting – every day we connect.
In business, expanding your online connections is an essential medium to build your brand, grow awareness of your products or services and can often form a crucial part of your marketing strategy but it’s equally important to think about those offline connections as well.
When you connect on the right level with your customers, they begin to trust you, buy from you and become your advocates. If you effectively connect with your team and managers, it will result in greater engagement, productivity and collaboration. According to research by ADP Institute: ‘an employee is 12 times more likely to be fully engaged at work if they trust their team leader’ – with connection comes trust.
Being a great leader is not about the number of followers or tweets or posts you have, it’s about the way you act, behave and engage with those around you.
So how do you build and sustain the right connections as a leader? Here are three very simple steps you can take today to start building lasting connections:
Communicate - regularly and openly:
Yes, you know this, but you’ve actually got to do it! Good communication will help to provide clarity and purpose. Communication and connection are intrinsically linked: you need one to foster the other. This doesn’t have to be a big monthly meeting, simple 15 minute one to ones or check-ins can be as impactful as large scale townhalls.
When you’re with your team, really be with them – listen, make eye contact and smile. This might seem obvious but listen to truly understand what your employee is saying, engage with them directly: good eye contact shows you’re focused on them and even in the most stressful situations a smile can build a subtle but impactful connection.
Remember employees are more than job titles:
Your team are more than the work they produce or the job titles they hold. The employees you lead are real people like you with ideas, personal problems and aspirations. Get to know them on a human level, ask them how they’re doing (not how their work is doing) and take an interest in them as individuals. Don’t forget to share more about yourself too, you’re more than the people you lead.
These are just some examples from a potential laundry list of actions you can take to build better connection but it’s about being more purposeful in how you connect. Consider how you create connections at work and what other actions you could take today to improve, build or develop new connections.
As important as it is for a business to create an online presence, for an individual leader, greater benefits for both business and personal growth can be sought from developing deeper and broader connections with those around you. Focus today on the connections you can’t count or measure online and pay attention to those you make face to face, it may have a bigger impact on your ‘likes’.