Many underestimate the importance of personal connection- and especially how difficult and complicated it can be for most people to practice.
Humans are emotional beings, and being able to forge meaningful personal connections with those you interact is an essential skill.
You have two choices. Make a statement through anger and judgement, or invite a different point of view, and see what change can happen together. Guess which choice wins 99.99% of the time? Connect personally with emotional regulation, empathy and respect and it is more than reasonable to assume (and the research proves it) you will always win.
As Ray Williams, CEO of Springfield Clinic once said to me, “Great success happens when we change our negative attitudes to gratitude, positivity and joy.” A great CEO and person, Ray Williams of Springfield Clinic lives these values and practices daily. And he works hard at it. He makes it a daily practice to foster a healthy culture filled with positive relationships – just as he does with his own family. Ray values great character, positivity, and becoming better each day. These are some of the attributes I know Ray practices to achieve positive personal connection. He has brought these practices to Springfield Clinic, leads and lives its brand of a community of caring and personal connection with patients and physicians.
Here are the 6 Ways to forge more personal, stronger relationships that last, and create a workplace and life that is built on love rather than fear.
1) Be Honest
Nothing is more off-putting than feeling like you are being misled, or attacked. When you’re offering a divergent or heated point of view, be honest about what you want. People know when they’re being misled, and naturally this makes them less receptive. Approaching those you would like to help with honesty and presenting earnest reasons why you’re asking for a specific decision or outcome, is a sign of personal connection and can help you to both come to a better place.
2) Be Attentive
Presence is a key part of personal connection. It’s easy to get lost in thought in the modern world where there’s always so much on our plates. When having a personal interaction, however, it’s important to remain in the moment. Once it becomes apparent that your focus is not entirely on the person you are interacting with, they’re likely to get offended. It’s hard to feel important when you can’t even hold someone’s attention in a direct conversation. Show your personal connection by resisting the urge to let your mind wander.
The most effective teams and leaders have strong personal connection scores.
3) Be Empathetic
One of the most effective ways to relate to anyone is to put yourself in their shoes. Individuals with the ability to maintain strong personal connection typically find it easy to empathize with others. When you demonstrate empathy, it forges a stronger connection. Respond to reservations expressed by imagining you had those problems and showing how you may help in whatever way you can. Look for short term solutions within your power that assuage challenges. The better you are at seeing things through the other’s eyes, the better you can serve them and the higher the likelihood it is of making great change happen.
4) Be Understanding
A common sign of lower personal connection is an inability to be understanding of others’ actions. When others express reservations or discuss a problem they’ve had, you can’t take it personally. Instead, try to be empathetic to the fact they simply want or need something that may be triggering them. Keep a cool head when discussing their concerns, and work toward a fix that leaves you both happy. If you are triggered, and find it hard to manage your emotions, then stop and think about the effects of your actions before doing it.
Example: I know an employee of a company (we will call him “Bob”) who hated that the CEO just changed his job without notice. The CEO cut Bob’s salary by 10% and he was scared for his family and children that he would not be able to pay the bills. So Bob stormed into the CEOs office without appointment, left a letter of resignation and then stormed out.
What Bob didn’t know was that the CEO did everything in his power for him not to be fired – so he had to revert to cutting 10% off his salary. The CEO was helping Bob keep his job, and planned to increase his salary once they got out of the financial crisis. Was there miscommunication from HR and the CEO to Bob – no. However, because of Bob’s lack of empathy, emotional regulation, understanding the full situation, he lost a job that day and not just a pay decrease.
5) Be Emotionally Regulated and “level headed”
Many of the above principles contribute to a fundamental part of personal connection: emotional regulation. Emotional regulation requires that you to have a full understanding of your triggers so you don’t make snap judgements based on your past experiences. People are naturally inclined to want to help those who they think are not constantly judging them or jumping to quick conclusions. When you demonstrate yourself to be a non-judgemental, level-headed person, people wish you well and want to work for and with you more.
A potential customer, fellow employee, boss, or CEO is much more likely to work with you when you are regulating your emotions, especially when you have been triggered. People are much more likely to be understanding of errors when they are working with a level-headed person.
6) Be Solutions-Oriented, Not an Energy Killer
Great leaders have a positive vision for the future. The worst thing you could possibly say to a CEO when they present their vision is, “I really don’t know what you want me to do.” When you immediately make the vision about your work and task-load, you reduce your chances of personal connection substantially. Worse yet, you will harm your reputation and effectiveness. When you ignore their vision, you will most likely have a ticket to a rapid exit from the relationship. Leaders have a personal connection with those who can help make vision into reality. Instead, build and offer creative ways to make the vision come true.
I have been working with a CEO with a team who questions his vision constantly. They are personally disconnected to him. The team always asks, “What do you want from me?” when he presents a vision, instead of giving solutions on how to make it happen. They take everything as a threat to their workload rather than as an opportunity for success.
Instead work on helping achieve the vision that will strengthen your personal connection with your CEO and company. Stop asking for constant guidance and clarity, and make some clarity for yourself. After gaining this clarity, check and see if you are on-track with the CEO. Ask the question, “Is this on-target?”
Anything else makes you a time-waster and energy killer. Nobody wants to work with an energy killer. Do you want to know why people really say, “I don’t have time for you or this.” ? It is not that they literally “don’t have time.” It is they don’t have time for you! Because you kill their energy. Stop being an energy killer, and start taking responsibility for getting $%it done!
Building Your Personal Connection Statement
Writing a personal statement for how you connect with people will help you to practice the disciplines daily. Write out this statement on a separate piece of paper, and post it on your computer, kitchen door, bathroom mirror or wherever you look daily.
This is how you should write your statement. I will be honest in my conversations today by… I will be attentive during my conversations by… I will show empathy in my interactions today by… I will be understanding during my interactions by… And, I will be kind today by…
A sample personal connection statement is: Today, I will be honest by telling people exactly what I need, and how I feel about specific situations.
I will be attentive and respectful during my conversations by listening carefully, mirroring back what is said and without letting interruptions get in the way of the conversation.
I will be empathetic by fully understanding the other person’s triggers and emotional reactions, and regulating my reaction accordingly.
I will be emotionally regulated by being aware of my triggers, and slowing down my impulse to react quickly and with “snap judgements.”
I will not come to quick conclusions or use emotional reactions as a way to get attention.
I will provide solutions rather than complain about having to do more work.
You can scale yourself from 1-10. If you get a 4 or 3 or worse one day, then become better the next day. We are not perfect! This stuff takes time and commitment. You are rebuilding your neural pathways and competence as a personal connection ninja. If you want to get a black belt, or become an olympic champion, it doesn’t happen overnight.
1) Be Honest: I did my best to be honest about my position in my conversations today… (scale of 1-10)
2) Be Attentive: I did my best to be attentive in my conversations today… (scale of 1-10)
3) Be Empathetic: I did my best to be empathetic in my conversations today… (scale of 1-10)
4) Be Understanding: I did my best to be understanding in my conversations today… (scale of 1-10)
5) Be Emotionally Regulated : I did my best to be emotionally regulated in my conversations today… (scale of 1-10)
6) Be Solutions-Oriented: I did my best today to find solutions to challenges and positive visions for the future… (scale of 1-10)
Building effective lines of communication with everyone is essential. Fortunately, these tips for better personal connections aren’t just change tips. They are also great ways to interact with all people all the time. By applying these guidelines in your daily life, you raise your personal connection and forge stronger relationships and personal connections with everyone you meet.
The practice of this positive personal growth pays off time after time. You won’t have to think to utilize these core guiding lights; they’re just how you naturally behave. Starting today, do your level best to apply these tips and practices, and you will see positive results at work and in your personal life.
Leading in an overconfident manner with excessive pride and little agility has no place in leadership, particularly at the C-level. Although we’ve all seen it, this behavior can’t be tolerated or accepted as a norm. Great leaders call on their team, colleagues, clients and bosses for honest advice and welcome collaboration.
A HUMBLE LEADER DOES NOT THINK LESS OF THEMSELVES, THEY JUST THINK OF OTHERS MORE THAN THEMSELVES.
Nobody can be a subject matter expert in all areas. Executives must embrace their colleagues and bosses’ value and advice versus making arrogance-based decisions. Leaders who protect their team’s value at the expense of productivity and accuracy are particularly egregious. They instill a protective barrier that breaks down communication between other departments, peers and their bosses.
How Overconfidence Affects an Organization
It has been proven repeatedly that overconfidence causes destruction. C-suite leaders must understand that decisions on the executive level have deep and lasting impacts. It destroys relationships, alienates teams and can lead to massive mistakes.
Leaders with humility have stronger company performance and are less prone to error. Whereas overly confident leaders cost their company valuable credibility and have a much higher chance of being fired. Humble leaders admit their mistakes while arrogant leaders are unable to acknowledge their errors or recognize areas in which they can improve.
Overconfidence is a trait often acquired via increased power. As a leader’s power grows, more often than not, it becomes harder for the leader to admit mistakes or wrongdoings of any kind. Thus, they are more unwilling to learn from their mistakes to achieve a successful outcome.
The Dunning-Kruger Effect
A possible reason for this kind of overconfident behavior is attributed to a psychological theory called the “Dunning-Kruger effect. Leaders who experience this have a low ability to complete the task with an overconfidence that they can do it. Without the process of meta-cognitiion and self-awareness, leaders who experience the Dunning-Kruger effect, will not be able to fully learn from errors.
An additional study involved executive level participants reading a list of statements, then taking a survey on the subjects of those statements. Note that some of the subjects were actually fiction presented as fact. Participants then read a second list of statements and had to identify which they had read before and which were new. The arrogant participants were much more confident in their wrong answers being right, and the more humble ones chose the new statements more often.
Further research shows that leaders with more learning agility have more humility. This humility comes with more willingness to learn from mistakes, take more advice from peers and bosses, and change behavior and outcomes.
I define learning agility as the ability to change our behaviors and practices based on reflections from failures and successes.
Several practices that go along with learning agility are:
Listen without distraction
Mirror back understanding
Hold after action reviews
Perform a cost/benefit analysis of what to change
Destructive Examples of Overconfidence in Leadership
Unfortunately, it’s probably not difficult to recall an example of your own experience of overconfidence in leadership. This type of behavior can occur in a variety of settings.
One of the most devastating effects of overconfidence was the egotistical failure of the FBI and CIA to share information ahead of the terror attacks of September 11. In this case, their overconfidence combined with an almost sociopathic tendency to insist that they each were correct led to the death of thousands of innocent people. When leaders make decisions based on their own personal strategies and ideals versus doing what is right for the greater good, the end is often catastrophic.
Another well-known example of overconfidence was Kenneth Lay, the former CEO of Enron. After his initial retirement from Enron, he returned to the company to bring it back to its former glory. The company was floundering, and he was determined to save it. Instead of admitting the position they were in and asking for help, Lay resorted to unethical accounting to cover the flaws. As a result, thousands of employees and stockholders were left in financial ruin.
Interventions for Overconfident Leaders
The good news is that specific interventions can be put in place to lessen the impact of possible overconfident decision making. As expected, overconfident leaders are completely certain that they are not at fault. They may acquiescently make small adjustments to mitigate the situation, but those rarely take hold. So how do we manage or even halt this type of leadership?
Here are a few suggestions:
Engage in after action reviews after mistakes are made. Create a plan on how to do better next time and a separate plan on how to enforce it.
Commit to learning agility. Be open to the fact that there could be better ways to solve the problem, and commit to considering alternate solutions.
Hold the team accountable. If the leader can’t do it all, then the entire team must be held accountable for researching options and bringing relevant information to the table in order to implement the optimal solution.
Encourage humility. Ask questions and reinforce the fact that it is ok to say, “I don’t know.”
Search for developmental opportunities. Both leaders and their teams should be committed to continuously develop each other through practicing courageous conversations and holding each other accountable for a new culture of openness and psychological safety.
Instill company values and ethics. Consistently review areas of improvement where constructive criticism is encouraged and high ethical standards are lauded.
A Final Word
It’s important to remember that as a leader there is a fine line between humility and overconfidence. While it’s ok to be confident, it’s important to be aware of where that confidence lies and how it affects the organization. Overconfident Leadership destroys relationships which, in turn, can quickly destroy a business. Seek to balance both humility and confidence.
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One crazy outcome of this current craziness is that it has already changed the way people work. Many businesses have moved to work remotely, and bosses and workers are finding it fun, convenient, and productive. And it may even prove a better way to work.
This idea of working remotely is also very new to many bosses and workers, who overnight were leading virtual teams. Both sides of the distance work need some help. Workers hope to stay employed, and bosses need to meet their goals. And this is a new social contract with productivity, a matter of trust at a distance.
Organizations don’t want to fall behind this learning curve when they can kick start their remote teams’ day.
Good Morning, Everyone!
Remote workers are not on an extended vacation. Work must get done, deadlines met, and targets hit. At the same time, they may be dealing with homebound children, pets confused by changed schedules, and partners who don’t know what to do with themselves.
To energize, motivate, and catalyze your employees when you are managing a remote team, you can try these tips to kick start their day:
1. Plan the meeting
This is a virtual morning or mid-morning huddle. Its purpose is to engage and energize your remote teams. It is not a strategy session or performance assessment. Time is valuable, so the manager must plan well.
2. Pick the apples
There is psychological science in “one bad apple spoils the bunch.” Remote team management has certain nuances to it. You will want to select, arrange, and maneuver the parties to the meetings to maximize their participation and cross-functioning. If there are jerks, downers, or crab apples in the team set, you need to correct their action, reassign them, or find them some other work.
3. Tighten the tech
Quality meetings depend on quality technology. If broadcasting and reception are not perfect, remote meetings implode. Not only does your job description include remote team management, but you must also use the best tech available and confirm all users know how to connect. It’s a disservice to all if time is wasted streaming live.
4. Break the ice
Employees are looking for leadership. They are quick to pick up on your mood and body language, so when managing virtual teams, start with something fun. There are enough meeting icebreakers online, but one leader I know starts with funny viral videos. You can avoid the cat videos and opt for those showing people dealing with quarantine, homeschooling, and under orders to stay in place.
5. Manage the time
Most communication on tasks and projects can use email, texts, or phone. When leading remote teams, you should keep huddles short and stick to an agenda posted earlier. Fully half the time should deal with personal touches. One manager selects a member to share something that’s working especially well for them.
6. Channel the flow
Teams and their leaders should collaborate on best times and reasonable expectations. Some individual and team tensions will rise and fall, but when you are leading a remote team, you must mentor, measure, and communicate the work’s progress.
7. Tell the story
Some time should focus on the organization’s progress against adversity, what they are missing, and how business performance affects the remote workers. There is no one-size-fits-all playbook on how to manage a remote team. Meeting members seek your comforting empathy and connectedness.
8. Stick the landing
One of the most important parts of leading virtual teams. These early morning huddles will tie people and pursuits together. You can still hold meatier meetings during the day or the week with individuals or teams. Virtual huddles should wrap up in 45 minutes with clear instructions on schedule and expectations for the next huddle.
When it comes to remote team management, the key is to have some fun!
Managers can deal with individual and team tasks and performance in one-on-one calls or other online meetings. But remote workers miss the water cooler and coffee conversation. Best practices see managers leading from afar with humor, consistency, and clarity. Technology has shortened the distance allowing you to kick start your remote teams with attention to their needs, respect for their achievement, and guidance on the evolving nature of work.
If you can kick start their day with an energy-charged virtual huddle, you can keep remote workers emotionally connected with the organization’s core.
Every business organization has a culture — the positive productive one you want or the one that just happens to develop. A workplace culture makes a difference — the effective and efficient one with a hefty return on your investment or the one consuming all your energy and resources. To optimize your business performance, you must build, monitor, and sustain a positive workplace culture. You start by asking, “What is workplace culture?”
A workplace culture definition starts with the spirit demonstrated by the business’s employees. It’s a feeling, a buzz felt when employees are committed and excited about their work and company. Culture arises from the beliefs and actions of managers and employees, and it shows up in the way people interact, complete work together, engage with customers, and show respect and gratitude for each other.
How you can build a positive workplace culture
Understanding the culture takes you deeper into employee attitudes and demonstrated commitment to the organization’s core values and objectives. Businesses can operate without a strong positive workplace culture, but only a strong cultural spirit adds value to operations and business futures.
Choose good leaders
The best way to retain the right talent is to provide talented management – including organization development, leadership development, and executive coaching. Leaders do not treat employees as functionaries, human capital to be processed and consumed as a necessary or sunk cost.
Leaders understand workers as individuals, each worth a relationship. They respect staff for their practice and potential, and they demonstrate that respect in various but consistent ways. As leading models, they develop and encourage others to value and manifest mutual respect.
Recruit style as well as talent
Leadership must acquire talent before skills. Recruiting and interviewing must move beyond skills identification. A resume lists skills, and pre-qualification will test them. But because a positive culture is built on behavior, the hiring process must drill down into their workplace behavior.
Every job description and posting should contain three to five behaviors you value. All interviews should delve into the behavioral patterns and profiles you want to institutionalize as your workplace character and personality.
Provide an open opportunity
You can create an environment ensuring a workplace culture that is open, collaborative, and results-driven. In small processes and large projects leaders encourage, enable, and facilitate exchange where there is no fault and no fear.
When workers feel free to make suggestions, correct processes, or provide advice without criticism or dismissal, trust and transparency become the currency of transactions between leaders and labor, between workers, and across functional silos.
Make things simple
Making work simple, preparing clear policies, and communicating with intention and clarity are the hallmarks of great cultural leadership. Simplifying means reducing complicated messages to its least common denominator. You should be able to explain the big picture as well as short term vision.
Only when you can put paint to canvas — showing various career paths and aligning behaviors to purpose — can you understand what your business is doing. If people want to know what role they play, leadership must have the answer.
Give workers ownership
Enthusiastic and engaged workers improve operations and processes quantitatively and qualitatively. They have a stake in the outcomes because the business has given them a role in customer relations. Worker ownership does not have to be financial because equity comes in many forms.
Attitudes, beliefs, ideologies, principles, and values contribute to culture. The best leadership practices work conscientiously to respect and integrate the contributions and rhythms of individuals. Leaders provide ownership through partnerships and show respect in small and large gestures.
How do you want customers to see you?
If you’re not clear on your workplace culture, social media may be your first clue. Employees won’t hesitate to rate your workplace on Facebook, GlassDoor, Indeed, and other rating sites. Your workplace rating is a good place from which you can work backward to root causes.
Entrepreneurs often assume their workforce shares their passionate multidimensional view of their future. But it’s a mistake to assume everyone’s on the same page. First stage businesses may energize their workforce with the excitement of doing something new, participating in innovation, or introducing a new product.
However, the early phase business struggles quickly test and burn up those energies. It remains a crucial opportunity for leaders to develop a sustainable workplace culture, a climate of mutual respect and positive psychology. Human Resources can drive corporate culture, but business leaders should not leave it to one function.
Design it or eat it!
What is workplace culture? It is a workplace’s footprint. It is evidence of its inspiration, commitment, and fellowship. A culture will develop quickly and naturally. However, unless the culture is designed, supported, and rewarded from the top down, it will not fulfill employee or owner expectations.
Many businesses do function amidst threats and risks reacting here and there to put out fires among their workforce. It’s a daily reactive behavior, but little is learned about fire control and risk management as the fires are repeatedly extinguished.
Other companies lose their bearings as hostile, negative, or disinterested cultures threaten their organizations with extinction. Faulty cultures demand attention and corrective action. But they also distract leadership from purposeful values.
Great companies promote, feed, and institutionalize positive cultures. They value culture as a strategic and operational asset. Culture is the means and method for a better future for all organizational stakeholders. And, high-performing leaders shape and invest in their workplace culture banking on its direct and indirect contributions to business success. It’s these leaders who make a difference, who bring dimension, energy, and value to workplace fortune and future, and who make a transformative difference with their personal, passionate, and positive vision.
Feedback is a part of every workplace and a common tool for individual improvement, however the concept of feed-forward brings a much more forward thinking approach. Applying constructive methods to improve existing and develop new skills is crucial to any performing culture, or individual, seeking advantages. Yet through this tried, long standing interaction, we overlook how to enhance the ways we give feedback. We must get better. The constant change among workplaces demands new, emerging, interpersonal strategies that challenge the status quo of feedback and how to develop the individual. That tool and daily practice is feed-forward.
Feed-forward is a constructive communication style that delivers individual growth by focusing on what’s ahead and collaboratively preparing the individual for future success.
Feedback, which many falls back on, is rooted in the negative by looking back on mistakes and attempting to develop from there. If mishandled, this can lead to lower individual motivation to change and, in group settings like meetings, innovation and dialogue can be suppressed. Feed-forward changes the conversation by looking ahead. It positively influences the dialogue and encourages individuals to grow. Here are 5 actionable ways you can begin applying it:
1. Start with the Question Arguably any leader’s greatest strength is in the questions they ask. Powerful inquiry opens the doorway for reflection, conversation and development to begin. As a leader, applying the feed-forward approach, each question must be constructed with a focus on the future, and it should include ideas related to what the individual can do and how they can develop. What can I do better next time? What is the best way to achieve this in the future?
2. Forward Influenced Conversation As leaders, if we engage with others to think about the future and what can be done to prepare for it, then our conversation must also reflect this philosophy as well. Put simply, the dialogue between leaders and others should consistently integrate future thinking. Rather than stating “Here’s what you did…”, the message can be phrased as “Next time, you can…” A simple tweak in how the message is communicated can make all difference between dwelling in the past or looking towards the future.
3. Dialogue and Co-Create Rather than Sell and Tell There’s a fundamental difference in dictating and dialoguing in an interaction, and the difference is easy to recognize. Feeling patronized is experienced when we are being talked at; the conversation is a one-way trip with little room for questions. Dialoguing differs by framing the conversation as a two-way conversation; the other side can participate, ask questions and speak. By creating equality in the conversation with equal airtime, feed-forward further encourages the spark for the individual to change. Using this approach may phrase questions as “Help me understand…” Or “Would you mind…”
4. Active Listening How we organize our messages and communicate them is just as powerful as how we listen. At the core, feed-forward is about weaving the developing individual’s mind, thoughts, and focus on what they can do. As dialogue is formed, active listening is critical here (pun intended). It presents an opportunity for the individual coaching to confirm that they are engaged with the other side. If needed, it also works as a method to clarify and adjust the conversation; ensuring all parties are on the same page. Where hearing occurs when one regurgitates verbatim what was said, active listening plays back what was said through the individual’s authentic style. Phrases that support these situations can be “What I’m hearing you say is…”, “Thank you sharing that, my understanding is that…” or “Would you clarify…”
5. Use “And” Rather Than “But” And… after actively listening and mirroring back your understanding be sure to use the words “and” rather than “but.” Saying the word, “but” negates your last statement. Imagine you were just told you are a great physician, BUT you need to think about the bigger picture. Change that to “You are a really great physician AND I invite you to think about the future of your work.” Sounds different, right? Now you can be both a great physician AND consider other ways of thinking.
6. Reflect on your Feed-Forward Skills Providing actionable, productive feed-forward communication is a skill and just like throwing a baseball or playing an instrument, it needs practice to become natural. The same goes here for applying feed-forward into your life and daily interactions. After a session or session has concluded, take a few minutes to debrief and think over how well it worked. Perhaps it’s better to write your thoughts in a journal, record a video or connect with another coach.
Feed-forward asks us to breakaway from what we know and what we’ve experienced through feedback. Feedback can crush motivation and sour relationships by focusing on what people did wrong. By integrating these steps and frequently applying them, the channels of positivity and motivation to change openly. The goal of any coach should be to add value in every conversation and the feed-forward approach weaves this idea together.