How to Connect with the People you Lead

Have you ever had those days where it seems that getting someone to do something is the hardest task you have to do? Sometimes it’s the person you are managing that is being difficult for one reason or another, other times it’s you. Over the years, however, I have come to the point where I would argue that it is the manager who is failing to create the connection.

Before we get ahead of ourselves I will say that yes, that most of us have had this same experience and although I have had my “loss of connection” days, I have worked at it to have those days be very minimal. Take into consideration your position as a manager, you are the one responsible for the results driven by your team. In order to drive results you need to know how to effectively engage your audience. Therefore it is also your responsibility to make the connections with your employees. They have their job to do which calls for nothing more than doing the tasks they have been delegated and creating a relationship with their team members and those of equal status which ultimately develops naturally. I still remember the people I worked with before I even thought of becoming a manager. Developing a relationship between a manager and an employee is one of a different sort. It takes a lot of communication and a lot of trust. We have to remember that we are not physic, but by being a leader in the workplace we are responsible for finding creative ways to get through to our team, and also just as important, connecting with your associates is key to getting the best performance out of them. Learning to connect with your team can be one of the most important things you learn. It seems like a simple concept, but some people find it difficult, and end up resorting to authoritative ruling to get things done versus actual coaching and team building. Nothing is worse for your company than to have managers in place that cannot connect with their team.

There comes a time when every manager, if they haven’t already, develop the understanding that their people are everything and just like in society, it is the same. You cannot be a leader if you have no one to lead. It is black and white. The reason being is that “the people,” can overthrow you or reject your authority creating an unproductive and unmotivated scenario.

Leaders need to exude a level of inspiration in order to attract people to follow them. Any great government leader manages to get a group of people if not a majority to support them, the most iconic being the President. But even dictators had an ability to inspire their countries, some even to attempt to take over the world or at least every resource in their country. This level of influence is so powerful that it is what separates Leaders from Managers, because they are not the same, and also from any other individual.  All effective leaders lead by example, modeling the behavior they wish to see from the people that follow. This allows people to develop the want or need for traits that are similar to the leader is hopes that one day the follower can be like them or one day have their own followers.

The best way to connect with your people is to get to know them on a deeper level by asking them about their life. Find out how their days off were, or if they did something or learned something new. Find out what their interests are. Talk about their favorite bands or their role models and why they are influenced by them. Basically all I am saying is have a conversation about them that is not work related and be yourself and be vulnerable. If you always have a wall up then your associates will never bring theirs down. After you get in tune with them on a personal level you need to discover who they are as an employee. Pay attention to their strengths and weaknesses, and what they ask for help with the most. Be available when they need you. I am not saying have your phone on all day and night, but while your at work, you need to be “present” to help them with their problems. This shows them you care about them and the work that they do. When an employee knows this they will do anything for you because you would do anything for them. That is not outside of your authority that is.

I recently had a conversation with my Customer Service Manager about just this thing. He was working on doing the sales associates annual review. We normally do monthly coaching to keep the associates focused and engaged in the workplace, however this month those were frozen in order to complete the annual review. So at first, like any effective manager should, I sat down with him in a meeting and Set the Expectation of how to conduct the review. I went over all the questions or statements that he was to answer about each associate and then let him go for it after I coached him through one. After they were completed, I had to review them for any changes I felt necessary or to include any further information. Now my expectation as the leader of the store is to one have myself in tune with every associate I employee and secondly the same for the members of my management staff. They should be in tune with the associates they directly supervise. Upon reading the reviews a common theme came through and an unfortunate realization came to mind. My Manager had not developed the sort of business relationship he should have been building with the team and didn’t get to know his associates. This was a problem and it took some thinking and connecting of the dots to get to the underlying issue.

“The best way to connect with your people is to get to know them on a deeper level by asking them about their life”

What I discovered was that my manager was not in tune with the team and therefore some unsavory results were happening to the store metrics and while managers could find it a problem, I found it an opportunity for coaching. Upon rejecting his reviews, I sat him down and explained to him that everything he wrote was very generic. There was no meat to the reviews and that the associates were going to get nothing from it. Annual reviews are an important way for management to show their team that they are more than just numbers, but that you genuinely care for the betterment of them and that you remember events from throughout the year rather than just the past months performance. This review speaks volumes to your team members and that they should be getting great value from it. Connecting with your team allows you many great benefits from increased moral of associates, willingness to learn new things, as well as creating new leaders. In looking to promote leaders in the workplace, this is a key indicator if an individual should be moved up or not. Do people in the workplace look to this person as a center of knowledge or influence? Do they interpret policy and procedure in a positive way and helps to teach other peers the why and how behind them?

In today’s fast pace environment the ability to effectively connect and communicate with people makes a big difference in a organization’s performance.


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