On October 8th, at the Live2Lead Conference John Maxwell will be teaching key lessons and anecdotes on 2 of the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. The Law of Addition for leadership states that if you choose to serve your customers and your employees by adding value rather than trying to come out on top or make yourself richer, higher profits will follow. On the Law of Connection, John Maxwell writes, “When it comes to working with people, the heart comes before the head.” Logic will only take you so far—in order to really get people on board with your mission, you need to connect with their emotions.
I would like to share with you a story, where I saw first hand the Law of Connection at play. I had been given the opportunity to lead a group of nonprofit board members in Philadelphia. Most of them governed charter schools but a few were from other organizations, law firms and local colleges. Hearing that the audience would be quite diverse I thought back to the most recent chapters I read on the plane in Maxwell’s Everybody Communicates Few Connect. In this book, Maxwell stresses that it’s not enough to work hard or to just do a great job. To be successful you need to learn to really communicate and connect with others. Because when you connect, people identify with you. When they identify with you, they relate to you; which increases your influence with them. Whenever people take action, they do so for their own reasons, not yours.
On the plane, I thought about who actually might show up to this training based on some intangibles: it was a Saturday morning, it wasn't required, they are mostly volunteers, it was supposed to be the first sunny day in Philadelphia in weeks, and the session was free. I had mapped out my scheduled 30 minutes on the plane by carefully plotting my stories and key points. I was confident in my content, but I wondered if they would really see it as relevant as I did. They were already board members, they have no idea who I was, why would they listen to me?
Then I read this line, “Any message you try to convey must contain a piece of you.” I realized what my session was missing…a heartfelt connection. Not our common connection to charter schools, governance and love for Philly pretzels. Children! I quickly found the best picture of the family and plotted my initial story line.
As the participants entered the room I kept thinking what would John (Maxwell) do? Oh, right, make connections. I went from table to table introducing myself asking the participants questions utilizing the F.O.R.M (family, occupation, recreation and message) method. By the time I kicked off our three hour event I had met half of the participants. I learned the roles they carried, the barriers of their organizations, their missions and goals and for some, where they went to high school (since I was local).
I kicked off my session by telling them how I admired their dedication to adding value to themselves and their organization. I admired their diligence to be here on a Saturday, raising their leadership lid, serving the children and families of Philadelphia and surrounding counties. I shared a secret, that by me being there and them asking me questions, I would be benefiting from their knowledge and adding value to myself.
By the time I did all of that (3 minutes) I could have told them anything. I realized that you cannot build a relationship with everybody in the room when you don’t care about anybody in the room. Connecting is a choice. I was able to challenge them in those thirty minutes. Put them on the spot, plant seeds of crucial conversations just by asking a few (FORM) questions. According to the Harvard Business Review, “The number one criteria for advancement and promotion for professionals is an ability to communicate effectively.”
I challenge you today to make it a point to make a connection with someone you have had a difficult time making that connection with. See the issues from their perspective. Maybe that extra few minutes can build a common ground towards solidifying the future.
Great connectors have these characteristics:
1. Connect with themselves: They have confidence in themselves and a desire to connect with others.
2. Communicate with openness and sincerity: They provide specific, authentic praise rather than cookie cutter compliments.
3. Know their audience: Connectors are all about the others' agenda.
4. Live their message: Their walk matches their talk.
5. Go to where they are: They don't talk above their audience with fancy vocabulary or acronyms.
6. Focus on them, not yourself: you will connect faster when your focus is not on yourself.
7. Believe in them: Communicate with others because you believe they have value, not because you need something.
8. Offer directions and hope: When you give people hope, you give them a future. Communicate with honesty, respect and possibilities.
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