Connection: Do they believe you understand them?

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We can be efficient with things, but we can’t be efficient with people.”

— Stephen Covey

This is something many leaders miss. And it costs them more than they realize. Just watch an episode of Undercover Boss.

Why? Because we don’t see the world as it is, we see it as we are. Everyone sees the world and events in their own way, from their own perspective and experience — no two of us see life exactly the same.

So a High-Trust Leader has to be able to see the world through his teammates eyes, stepping away from his or her window to look through theirs from time to time.

Why? Because they (teammates, direct reports, colleagues, clients, customers, bosses, spouses, teenage children, etc.) are asking themselves every day in some form or fashion, “Does he (or she) understand me?”

That’s a different question than you asking yourself, “Do I understand them?” It’s an interesting question and not without some merit, but the crucial question is what do THEY believe?

When we were flying high-speed, low altitude, close formation acrobatics, my wingmen would stay within a couple feet of my jet and each other because they BELIEVED I understood what I was asking them to do. That level of trust through CONNECTION took time and intentional effort. We started out relatively far apart and high above the ground, and as my flying skill and understanding of their roles and challenges grew, we got closer together and lower.

The key skill in building CONNECTION is listening. Not listening with the little voice in my head preparing to defend, deny, discount, or persuade. But listening with full attention to understand how the other person sees (and feels about) the situation, the task, the goal, the mission.

I’ve found that teammates don’t need to get their way all the time, but they do need to be heard and feel understood. Without CONNECTION, there’s always hesitancy, disengagement, and lower trust.

The biggest barriers to CONNECTION are allocating time, an ability to listen empathically, and the willingness to give someone else our full attention. As Stephen Covey said, “We can be efficient with things, but we can’t be efficient with people.” We must slow down from time-to-time to connect with the people who matter to us. We must open our eyes, our ears, and our hearts in order to see the world through their eyes. And during that time we must put away our gizmos that make our lives so efficient, but distract us from paying attention to other people.

If COMMITMENT is about winning their minds, CONNECTION is about winning their hearts. Remember, trust can’t be demanded, expected, bought, or coerced. It’s a gift that must be earned every day through the keyhole of CONNECTION.

Be a High-Trust Leader: step away from your window and view the world through their windows. Show you understand them and watch their trust grow.


TRAINING to build CONNECTION

1. Put three quarters in your left pocket at the beginning of each day this week.

2. Seek three conversations each day where your objective is simply to LISTEN to understand another person better. To ask open-ended questions (“What do you think about…?” “How do you feel about…?” “What don’t I understand about…?”) and simply LISTEN to the answers, only asking questions to gain greater insight and understanding (NOT to defend, persuade, deny, or discount).

3. After each conversation, move a quarter from your left pocket to your right pocket. Your goal each day is to leave work with all three quarters in your right pocket.