No doubt, we live in a mega-connected world… Linked in, Face book, three email accounts, blogs galore, Blackberries, instant messaging, real-time stock updates, photo downloads from outer space. Most of us are so connected we couldn’t disconnect if we tried (lest we stare down the dark tunnel of technology withdrawals). But I am talking about connecting vs. being connected (read wired).
We live in a high-tech world but leadership is still a high-touch job. At the risk of accusations of being old school (no risk to me as I am nearly ancient to my kids), let me suggest a simple way to create real connections with our teams, and anyone else for that matter. These are the kind of connections of which winning relationships are made. I call it QC2 (sounds pretty hip to me). It’s a simple tool to initiate create connections– human being to human being.
Question– Asking questions is the least used and most powerful leadership tool you have. Asking questions is selfless and self-serving at the same time. It demonstrates interest in your team while providing you with insights into someone else’s world– their motivations, passions, challenges, assumptions and aspirations. Once you ask, make sure you listen. Don’t ask if you won’t listen– that’s the fast track to employee cynicism. Leaders who really connect listen at least 50% of the time… and most of remaining the time they are asking questions.
Common– We spend at least eight hours a day with our teams, so we have no plenty of topics in common with them. Find common ground as a platform for building a relationship or even a bridge to mend a relationship. When we really observe, watch, ask, listen it’s easy to find things in common. This is more about our mindset than it is about reality. Consider two parties who are at odds and both walk away from negotiations as a lost cause yet a mediator can walk in and quickly find a win-win solution. Of course, the contentious parties are focusing on differences while the mediator is focused on commonalities.
Compliment– We all love a nice compliment, so why do leaders tend to give few of them? It would take another column to answer that, so suffice it to say that we do more for those who appreciate us. Workgroups with at least a 3-to-1 ratio of positive to negative interactions were significantly more productive than those having less than a 3-to-1 ratio. In other words, more productive teams had at least three positive interactions for every one negative interaction. (By the way, the same study showed the bar was set even higher for more successful marriages – the key ratio was 5-to-1.) As long as your compliments are sincere and meaningful, feel free to pour them on!
Old school or new school, sometimes the basics just always work. So forget about connecting through T1 lines, 3G networks and WiFi. Use QC2 to really connect!