Think about this…as a speaker, you have an event coming up. You talk to the organizer or meeting planner about who the audience is, what their expectations are and what the message is that they want you to share and are prepared to accomplish that. You review your talking points and are excited to really offer the attendees exactly what you were told they needed. You’re a bit nervous as you always are before a talk and then…you walk in and the audience is not who the planner told you they would be, the message you have is not relevant to them and you know that there is no way you will relate to them or them to you. All you wanted was to connect with them and talk about what was important to them…any hope of them hearing your message is now out the window. You only hope you wake up from this nightmare of a dream.
That scenario, as crazy as it sounds, really did happen to me. I always do my homework and know the audience, what the meeting planner wants and needs and provide some tips for immediate implementation so it isn’t simply a rah rah talk that will be forgotten as soon as everyone goes back into their own “real” world. I should have realized when the planner didn’t have a lot of information and everything I asked had a “sounds great” response. Any certain verbiage or examples I should use? “You’ve got this” and “sounds great” was all I received. Even after doing research on the group, I didn’t find a lot to work with, but I knew the message she wanted…and so I was ready to connect and bring value.
And then…I walked into the room that was to be 98% female and it was anything but that. The attendees were looking for something totally different than what I was prepared to share with them and although I did some amazing tap dancing, the majority of the room and I were not connecting and I left ready to throw in the towel. I have never felt so horrible. I received a comment that I should never be invited back as I wasn’t prepared…and that was one of the good ones. I reached out to the planner and apologized for not giving the attendees what they were looking for and she told me she thought it was great and she loves having me and can’t wait to do this again. I wasn’t even sure if she was in the same room as I didn’t feel that at all.
So, the question is, how important is communicating effectively? How about connecting to the people on your team? Are they hearing the message that you are intending to send? Unfortunately, for most of us, our communication goals are not consistently achieved; our message is not received as it was intended. Communication is a necessary skill for all interpersonal relations, personal or professional. If a message is not understood, you have not communicated.
Your role as a leader is:
- To make communication as simple as possible
- To be clear
- To create understanding and meaning
- To generate feedback
- To check for understanding
Here are some ways to connect effectively:
- Be genuine. The only connections that work will be the ones that you truly care about; the world will see through anything short of that. If you don’t have a genuine interest in the person with whom you’re trying to connect with, then stop trying. As a leader, you must show that you are there to support someone’s goals and dreams. We don’t have to agree with their journey…you need to support it. It’s about them, not about you.
- Provide massive help. Most people never reach out to anyone above their level. Did you know that everyone needs help or support in something? You have more to offer than you realize and those on your team want to learn from you. For women especially, it’s hard enough to ask for help. When someone does, pay attention to them and be interested in them.
- Persistence is key. When you are looking to connect with someone, you can’t give up after one attempt. It’s the same with someone trying to get your attention. We are all busy and may not be able to jump when someone needs us. Sometimes a simple email or message letting them know when you are available will ease the situation. Communication is at an all-time high when they are trying to connect with you. Put yourself in their shoes…how would you want to be heard?
- Make real connections. Think about how you’ve made the connections you have. That’s all this is. You only create relationships with people you genuinely want in your life. The same rule should apply with those reaching out to you. Don’t over-think it. Be human, be helpful and most humans will happily be human in return, regardless of who they are or what position they hold.
- Remain unforgettable, in other words, find ways to stand out. Remember birthdays or important events happening in your team. Give them your favorite book signed. Be genuinely helpful. You’d be surprised how the simplest things actually never get done. Being memorable isn’t as hard as some think! Be the leader or mentor that you wish you had. Imagine what that would feel like for someone else.
Here is something to ponder… Think about a situation in which you experienced difficulty in communicating effectively with another person. If you had the opportunity for a second chance, what would you do differently? Was it the message or was it the way it was communicated? As a leader you need to understand what the other person is saying-not necessarily agreeing with it. Check in to make sure you both understand what is said and what is heard…and especially what isn’t said.
As Steven Stowell said, “Great leaders find ways to connect with their people and help them fulfill their potential.”