31 May 2016 17:13 IST

Feel the ‘connection’

Connection is both an art and a science. Leadership success revolves around it

If there’s one great leadership challenge most people have trouble understanding, it is the difference between communication and connection. With technology permeating every source of communication, the connect leaders have with employees becomes even more blurry.

Engagement surveys attest to this challenge, but leaders find it hard to address this issue — yes, there is no shortage of email messages, internal bulletin boards, micro-blogging solutions like yammer, and yet, leaders hear murmurs that employees are experiencing a disconnect with them.

So how do you solve this? The key is not to examine how leaders are communicating. It is not even examining how well and how often. The issue is much deeper. And that is the misconception about what connection really means.

What leaders often call ‘connection’ is nothing more than sharing information. Information rarely helps people connect with their leaders; it may only clarify or inform. While it is hard to define what it really means, employees value and express happiness when leaders really ‘connect’ with them.

How it helps

Connect, of course, demands that leaders bring in their personal charisma into the equation, and do it in style. When well done,

~ Connect creates and sustains the necessary engagement and passion.

~ It eliminates anxiety and infuses trust and confidence in what managers share.

~ Even those ‘doubting Thomas’’ at the work place feel questions are answered to their satisfaction.

~ Employees feel there is a stronger bond between them and their leaders, and thereby also with their organisation.

The irony is while most well-educated and experienced managers tend to presume that they are excellent communicators, they misunderstand their language skills. Here’s how managers think they connect with their employees.

~ I shared a lot of information, data and business update.

~ I spent a good time in handling question-and-answer sessions during meetings.

~ Made winning (and stunning) power point presentations.

~ Our colleagues and team members appreciated the sharing of information.

And thus I must be the greatest communicator!

Make no mistake — these are excellent indicators of a successful communication. But they’re not enough to conclude that the leaders are connected with their people. The following connection principles can help.

Connection principles

~ Consistency as a leader: Do their actions, priorities and practices match their words? If the consistency quotient is poor, people can often switch off while appearing attentive.

~ Credibility as a leader: Consistency is a key part of credibility, but the latter is much more than that. It includes your looks, language and likeability factors cultivated over time, your values and integrity as well as your track record.

~ Focusing on others: It is more about the interests and preferences of the person you are communicating with. An over-developed ego and an unrealistic sense of self-importance come in the way of connecting with others.

~ Beyond words: To make a genuine connection, leaders must connect at four different levels — visual, intellectual, emotional and verbal.

~ Great degree of energy: Connection does not happen by accident. A leader must put in personal energy in making it happen.

Give them a reason

Why would people connect with you, even if you are a leader? There is no reason why they should even respond to your efforts. Well even if they don’t, there are a few factors that can make them want to connect.

~ The relationships you enjoy with people.

~ The insights you have and share as a result of what you have been through.

~ Your skill sets and competencies.

~ Your track record of success.

~ The sacrifices you made and continue to make for the larger good of your team.

~ Your self-confidence.

~ Your authenticity and integrity.

~ Your sense of humour.

~ Your ability to focus on others’ interests, more than your own.

~ The fact that you come across as a friend and an advisor.

Most challenges leaders face with their communication, begins and ends with their inability to connect. It is both an art and a science. Leadership success revolves around doing it well, consistently.