How Do Leaders Connect with Others? — The Law of Connection

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Reflections on John C. Maxwell’s “21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership”

I was on vacation in Mexico for two weeks, and we rented a fantastic apartment in the heart of the city. We spent time at the museums, the inspiring parks, and indulged in the best cuisine. My cell service was spotty because it was a company phone, and roaming did not work for international calls. But half-way through the vacation, around midnight, I received a text message once I connected to WiFi. It was from my boss. My heart raced. There would only be one reason she was contacting me on vacation. I knew what the message was going to say before I read it. I paused, took a breath, and skimmed it. One of my worst work-related fears had come true. My coach, my mentor, my unbelievable leader, was leaving the company.

From the first day she arrived at our hotel, she challenged me to improve my training programs, encouraged me to seek HR certifications, and gave me the autonomy to be creative. She fostered the Law of Connection.

Whether leading one person or an entire team, leaders connect with each person on an individual basis. Here are a few things leaders can do well to connect with others.

  • Ask about your team’s dreams and goals outside of work. It’s not solely about what they can do for you, but what you can do for them. Leaders that connect help their team find skills that are transferrable to their other dreams. Not everyone is working to excel in their career in this one area. Some employees have become stuck or have strong work ethics that help them get consistently promoted. Who turns down more pay to obtain financial stability? Leaders who connect to their employee’s dreams will build stronger teams.
  • Ask questions about your employee’s needs and be flexible. My leader worked with me during the birth of my first child. It was a tough transition for me, and she worked outside the parameters of HR policies to find the best solution so I could spend more time at home, helping my spouse. Become a leader who probes their employees in the right way as to be supportive of their needs.
  • Know your employee’s preferences and show support. I provide every new hire at our company with a “Tell Us About You” worksheet that they fill out on their first day. It asks them simple questions about how they liked to be recognized and how they prefer to receive feedback. I send this out to their specific manager so they can use these preferences to engage their new hire. You don’t have to have a formal process for this, just ask the question. Employees will tell you how they like to receive feedback. Most of the time, you can observe this within their character. Use their preferences to build trust and empathy.
  • Provide autonomy and know when to step in. Employees need to be free to make their own decisions and fall into the pit of their mistakes. A great leader connects when they reach in to lift them out of the hole without judgment. If you micromanage an employee, it is like coddling a child. Sometimes it may be necessary, but there will always come a time when you must let them go out on their own and learn from their failures.
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