Are You Connecting With People?


How good are you at doing this? And I don't mean by social media, email or at your favourite cafe or bar. A recent phone conversation with UK colleague Steve Sharpley endorsed our thinking that leaders need to be aware that how they connect with people makes a major difference to productivity and performance.

What stimulated the conversation was an invitation I received to the launch of a cook book by Jax Hamilton the runner up of last year’s MasterChef New Zealand competition.  She lost the final when her macaroon tower collapsed and all was seen in action on camera.  When I met her last year I asked her if she still had sleepless nights about the macaroons and she said yes.

Jax told me the production team said she created the best television possible; however, all she wanted to do was take the vouchers and run. Since then Jax has been busy creating her book “Jax Cooks”, including a macaroon dessert! She isn’t afraid to be herself and she connects with people.

The point here is she is REAL. 

You may wonder how this relates to you as a leader, a sales manager, a parent, a coach, or teacher.  How REAL are you? Do you put on the judgmental boss, parent, or teacher hat?  Do you label the person, as a member of a management team did recently at a leadership retreat?  “Jack (name changed) should have been here.  He’s a ‘basket case’ and needs this”. There's no hope in connecting with Jack while having those sorts of thoughts about him.


Are you prepared to connect human-to-human?

How do you get someone to listen to you? How do you get someone to change? These are common questions I am asked by clients.  It’s quite simple.  It starts with you. ‘Ah!’ you say, ‘I don’t need to change, but they do’. That may be true.  Instead, look at it this way.  If someone isn’t changing, one of the first things to determine is; ‘Are you connected?’  Do they feel safe and do they feel they can trust you?


Four Key Elements of Coaching

When I coach leaders to coach their team members I use a simple framework (see below) that I first learned from mentor and friend Alexander Caillet, who is an organisational change specialist. This framework is useful for managers, sales people, teachers, parents, coaches etc.


PRESENCE:  Your state of being

How you show up in any situation may determine the outcome. Are you upset with the person you are going to coach?  Perhaps you’re thinking about all the things they have done in the past, as you prepare to meet with them.  Do you draw up your plan of attack? Or do you prepare yourself and make sure that you’re in a calm quiet state of mind.  Because if you’re stressed in any way (frustrated, annoyed, angry etc) then I highly recommend that you postpone the meeting until you feel better.


RAPPORT: to gain trust and openness

If you have already made up your mind that you don’t particularly like someone, and/or their behaviours and attitudes, then you will never gain rapport.  It is your role to look for, and bring out the best in people. There is good in everyone.  Look for the strengths rather than the weaknesses.  Find out what they love to do and feel passionate about.  Trust them, so that you can help them open up so they feel they can speak to you in confidence.  Are you trustworthy?


CLEAR LISTENING: To gain a deep understanding of the other person

This is not about analysing the person or what they are saying.  It is being in a listening state that has no agenda.  It means NOT being the person who knows it all.  NOT being judgmental.  It is being in such a state of presence that you may not know what you will say next, or how you will respond to the person speaking.  It is not the same as active listening.  That is when we are focused but also the mind is busy with thinking about a response and sometimes we can’t wait to jump in with our view. Clear listening is about being in a state of no personal thoughts. The right question or comment will occur to you as if it came from no-where.  That is a state of deep listening.


CONNECTION: To achieve respect and caring

You can only challenge someone when you have gained mutual respect, they feel safe, and they feel that you care about them. Being REAL is operating with integrity.  You accept that you may have had some influence on the other person by what you have said, or not said, or done or not done something. Many situations in the workplace occur because of the non-performance of the manager who doesn't take responsibility to coach and develop his or her people.


Awareness of What You May Create

It is essential for any leader to have strong awareness of self and others.  It also applies to a group of prefects, who I am currently mentoring.  They realise that they are now leaders facing similar issues to what happens in the workplace; in the prefects’ case, the younger students’ attitudes and behaviours.  How do the prefects gain respect?  One of the prefects raised the question of why a particular boy seemed to respond better to some teachers than others.  Everyone knew which boy, and the teacher, who is the mentor for the prefects in their final year at school, said that she listens to him, and in doing so he listens and respects her.

So how REAL are you, and do you connect?  Leaders live in a world that is demanding of their time and have high expectations of others’ performance.  It all starts with personal leadership.  You cannot be a leader in any kind of role if you’re not in charge of your own life.  At a recent retreat with a team of leaders there was a great deal of discussion about how difficult it was to manage some people and get them to change their behaviours and attitudes. At first the team wanted to focus on others rather than themselves.  Once they started to listen with a clear mind they were more open to each other and recognised that the retreat was about them as leaders, rather than focusing on others.


Next time you need to have a tough conversation with someone you may like to do a check-in with yourself beforehand and see how your state of mind is at that moment. This chart may provide some assistance with your check-in.


The Focus is on You

One of the most important things Sydney Banks used to say was: “don’t focus on your clients, patients, students, children or others.  Concentrate on yourself.  And if you do that you will look for the best in others.  If you change (the way you are with them) you can then help them to change”.

As a coach, facilitator and speaker, I know that if I’m not achieving the desired outcome with clients then I immediately look at how I am being (Presence), creating trust (Rapport), (Listening) to them deeply, with no personal thoughts or agenda, and how that is resulting in whether the person or people feel respected and that I’m not being judgmental (Connection).  It's time for ALL leaders to be REAL!


©Gilly Chater

The Breakthrough Catalyst


Gilly helps people achieve insight powered breakthroughs for themselves and their businesses. She is an inspirational speaker who presents keynotes and breakouts at conferences and writes about the key ingredients for success in today’s world.

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