"The best way to lead people into the future is to connect with them deeply in the present." James Kouzes and Barry Posner, leadership experts and authors of The Leadership Challenge

Henry Kissinger said, "The task of the leader is to get his/her people from where they are to where they have not been." How can we help our co-workers be successful here in the present - and to move with us towards a better future? A big key is for us as leaders to build strong connections with people.
How can we build strong connections and earn trust so that we can effectively influence our people to be successful? Let me share 10 principles of connecting with people that I think can be helpful.

Ten Principles to Connect with People Well
1) Commit to Connect. The starting place for developing stronger connections with people is to make a conscious choice to do so. Do you really want to connect better? If yes, commit to taking intentional steps to build deeper connections. The other principles will give you ideas to consider.

2) Develop a genuine care for people. We can only connect well with people when we value and care for them. We need to not take people for granted and let them know we care and appreciate them. Valerie Elster reminds us that "Expressing gratitude is a natural state of being and reminds us that we are all connected."

Every person is important as Bill McCartney emphasizes when he said, "Anytime you devalue people, you question God's creation of them." Part of caring for people is to be honest, genuine and transparent. Let people see your heart of caring and compassion - and they will respond and feel closer to you. One of my often used quotes is that "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care."

3) Be proactive - initiate movement towards them. It's tempting to sit back and let others try and connect with us. But as leaders we need to be proactive and take the initiative. Management experts Tom Peters and Nancy Austin concluded that "The number one managerial productivity problem in America is, quite simply, managers are out of touch with their people and out of touch with customers."

4) Look for common ground. Probably my favorite leadership expert is John Maxwell. I agree with John when he says, "Anytime you want to connect with another person, start where both of you agree. And that means finding common ground." There are lots of potential areas of common ground - ranging from personal interests to life experiences to values and beliefs. The key to finding common ground? Listening.

5) Be a Good Listener. Rachel Naomi Remen advises that, "The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words." I like the practical advice from Dale Carnegie (author of the classic How to Win Friends and Influence People) who said, "You can make more friends in two weeks by becoming a good listener than you can in two years trying to get other people interested in you."

6) Recognize and Respect Differences. While we should be looking to find common ground with others, we also need to acknowledge that we're all different. Our differences and diversity makes our lives more interesting, and can strengthen our team performance as we blend our diverse backgrounds and abilities together to make us stronger.

7) Share common experiences. To really connect well with others, we need to find a way to cement the relationship. Joseph Newton said, "People are lonely (disconnected) because they build walls instead of brides." To build bridges that connect you to people in a lasting way, share common experiences with them. Share meals. Go to a ball game or other events together. Take people to meetings with you. Participate on work projects together. Anything you experience together helps create a common history and build connection.

8) Get out of your office. Reality is that there are increasing expectations on managers to produce more results with the same or fewer resources - and that can drive us into our offices to get our personal work done. But we need to intentionally carve out times to practice MBWA (Management by Walking Around). I have to admit that I'm not as consistent in getting out of my office and touching base with people as I would like - how are you doing?

9) Be a giver - provide help and share knowledge and resources. Commit to being a servant leader who gives of oneself to help meet the needs of others. We can give of our time, knowledge and resources to help people around us. Giving of ourselves is the ultimate win-win that benefits both the receiver and the giver. Winston Churchill said, "We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give." Anne Frank reminds us that, "No one has ever become poor by giving."

10) Once connected, move forward. There is value in building deeper connections with people just for relationship's sake. But there is even more value when we use our connections with people to add value to our team's key stakeholders (investors, customers and employees) and drive towards a better future. Someone once said, "Leadership is cultivating in people today a future willingness on their part to follow you into something new for the sake of something great." Connection helps create that willingness.
Building deeper connections with people will enhance your influence and help you have a greater impact. How will you use your greater impact? I resonate with Jackie Robinson when he said, "A life isn't significant except for its impact on other lives." I wish you the best as you pursue deeper connections with people and add even more value to the lives of people around you!

Wes Friesen, MBA, CMDSM, MDC, EMCM, CBA, ICP, CCM,CMA, CM, CFM, APP, PHR is the Manager of Billing, Credit and Special Attention Operations for Portland General Electric, a utility in Portland, Oregon that serves over 830,000 customers. Wes leads his teams with the able assistance of Supervisors Allison Rowden, Jessica Eberhardt, Heidi Fouts and Matt McHill. Wes teaches university classes and is a featured speaker at national Conferences like MAILCOM, National Postal Forum, NACUMS, FUSION and other regional and local events. Check out his personal website for free information (www.wesfriesen.com). He can be contacted at wes.friesen@pgn.com.

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