Everyone thinks they have great communication skills, but if I asked your team, what would they say about you?
Recently, I was having lunch with a member of my team when he shared with me about why he left his previous company. His anger was palpable as he recounted how hard he had worked for them and how the leadership had mistreated him. Within weeks after his resignation, his team had all but evaporated, and the one remaining member was sending him desperate texts that he too was ready to quit, even if the company offered him a pay raise.
It only took a few probing questions to get to the heart of the matter: the owner had an overbearing personality and aggressive communication skills. He took a “my-way-or-the-highway” approach with his team, rejecting their input and expertise. But when things would go wrong, he would blame the team without taking any responsibility, even denying his own words. Naturally, that leadership style drove good people away, including my friend, who was still smoldering from the experience. But rather than change his approach, the owner blamed his competitors for poaching his employees.
It’s hard to say where this self-centered, myopic thinking comes from, but the fruit of it is a toxic work environment. Nobody wants to invest their working hours in an emotional cesspool where people are bullied and blamed, but never heard.
As a leader, it is possible to redeem a situation like that, and the first step is to connect with your people. Not just hear them, but listen to what they are saying and draw out what they can contribute. I can say I “value” my people all day long, but do I honor them? Honor should be the first thing taught in business school, but it is missing from so many workplaces.
Whether you’re in a one-on-one setting, in a group environment, or before an audience, the ability to cultivate a genuine connection with people allows you to create community, foster teamwork, and increase your influence. Connectors enjoy stronger relationships, experience less conflict, and get more done. Leaders that understand and consistently apply the skills of connecting are more persuasive, establishing buy-in and attracting followers. Managers that focus on connecting with their people instead of condemning them lead teams that thrive.
Everyone thinks they have great communication skills, but if I asked your team, what would they say about you? Real leaders take their teams to the next level of performance by investing in their own development.