5 Top Leadership Articles Week of Sept 11, 2017

5 Top Leadership Articles for the Week of September 11, 2017

Each week I read a number of leadership articles from various online resources and share them across social media. Here are the five leadership articles readers found most valuable last week. I have added my comment about each article and would like to hear what you think, too.

How to Be Tough When You Prefer Being Kind by Dan Rockwell

Stress increases when leaders can’t bring kind and tough together.

Kind without tough makes you a pushover.

Tough without kind makes you a jerk.

My Comment: Stress increases, yes – and both results and relationships suffer when you don’t combine kind and tough. Without a disciplined focus on results, people lose focus, infighting increases, and your top performers go somewhere where their performance is appreciated. Without healthy relationships, trust suffers, people burnout, they do the least they can to get by, and inefficiency prevails because people don’t come together to solve mutual problems.

Leaders who combine their focus on achieving breakthrough results with a focus on healthy professional relationships with the people they lead give themselves the best chance to achieve transformational results that last.

Employee Engagement: What Story Does the Data Tell Leadership? By Martie Moore

The first time I used the words “resilience” and “engagement” was with my leadership team at the time. I asked, “What can we do to advance engagement and help people to be more resilient?”

Suddenly, everyone around the table had important emails to read on their phone. In essence, this immediate phone reading signaled an uncomfortable discussion — and their avoidance level.

My Comment: While this article was written for leaders in the long-term care industry, the issues it identifies are typical of the reality faced by leaders across industries: constant connectivity, acute margin pressures, increased pace of change, and uncertain futures are challenges you can probably relate to. This article is the beginning of a series that will look at experience, science, and practical action can take for themselves and the people they serve. It looks promising.

Leading in large organizations is tough. It’s easy for people to lose their identity and humanity as decisions are made by spreadsheet. And yet, almost paradoxically, more humanity, more focus on relationships and results, improves that bottom line. It takes courage along with the specific management and leadership skills we share in Winning Well to meet this challenge and succeed.

A Leader’s Job Is Never Done by Jane Perdue

Given that our state was in the path of totality for the August 2017 solar eclipse, people in our neighborhood gathered to watch. The closer we were to the time of totality, the larger the crowd became.

Within five minutes of the awe-inspiring ninety seconds of darkness and coolness, the crowd had largely dispersed.

The lost interest and crowd thinning-out triggered thoughts in my mind of how we tend to think about many things, including leadership, mostly in terms of their headline-making moments.

My Comment: When I was young, a mentor would often share his perspective that you can’t be a hero in the big moments if you’re not a hero in the small ones. Perdue takes a look at many of the ways that leaders build their credibility, influence, and trust in some of the more mundane, less headline-worthy, common moments that you face throughout your day, week, and career. You’re constantly becoming who you will be tomorrow. With each of these moments, you choose who that will be.

How Can You Make Yourself Invincible at Work? by Wendy Marx

Quick question: How valuable are you at work? Hint: It has little to do with your place on an organizational chart.

The new truth is that grabbing a high rung in an organization’s hierarchy isn’t necessarily a sign that you’re indispensable.

What clinches your value at work is what’s known as informal power — the ability to influence people and overcome resistance where you lack authority. It means being able to get someone to do your bidding where you have no formal authority.

Today you can’t lead simply by virtue of your title.

My Comment: While I’m not a fan of the notion of “getting someone to do your bidding” (it smacks of manipulation and a USER approach to leadership) Marx is right on with regard the role of influence. I won’t promote someone to a formal leadership position until they’ve demonstrated that they can get things done without that formal power. Power gives you the ability to deliver an “or else,” but that only gets a person’s minimum effort. Effective leaders cultivate an environment that releases a person’s strengths, talents, and skills toward the mission and the work.

Marx provides a good exercise you can use to assess how much value you are adding to the people around you and how you can address it if it’s out of balance.

Optimized or Maximized? By Seth Godin

I once drove home from college at 100 miles an hour. It saved two hours. My old car barely made it, and I was hardly able to speak once I peeled myself out of the car.

That was maximum speed, but it wasn’t optimum.

Systems have an optimum level of performance. It’s the output that permits the elements (including the humans) to do their best work, to persist at it, to avoid disasters, bad decisions and burnout.

One definition of maximization is: A short-term output level of high stress, where parts degrade but short-term performance is high.

Capitalism sometimes seeks competitive maximization instead. Who cares if you burn out, I’ll just replace the part…

That’s not a good way to treat people we care about, or systems that we rely on.

My Comment: I loved this article. It gets at the heart of why so many managers can turn into jerks, even if they’re not naturally inclined that way. We call it “trickle down intimidation.” In the interest of short term “maximization,” leaders who lack any other tools turn to fear, power, and control to get things done. And it works, at least minimally. As I said in my comments on the second article this week: it takes courage and leadership skills to choose a different path. To, as Godin says, optimize your leadership, your team, and your company for the long run rather than fleeting and costly short-term gain. It takes courage and practice, but you can do it.

Your Turn

What thoughts do these articles bring to mind? Do you see something differently than the author? Did you have a favorite?

Tanveer Naseer

The Importance of Relationship-Building in Today's Leadership (Tanveer Naseer)

Winning Well Connection

We’ve gotten to know Tanveer through his fantastic leadership writing and thought leadership over the years. He’s been a regular contributor to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival the last few years and a kindred spirit on blending the bottom line with the human spirit.

Relationships For Complex Times

Leadership today has certainly become a complex endeavor.  With an increasingly interconnected global market, along with growing demands on a leader’s time, attention, and resources, it can be challenging at times for leaders to ascertain where they need to be putting more of their focus and effort.

But if there’s one area that leaders should always be paying attention to it’s how well they are building and nurturing relationships with those they lead.  Although most leaders have come to realize that leading through influence is far more effective than leading by authority, the challenge still remains that we ensure that the measures we put in place are serving the best interests of our employees, as opposed to simply lessening the demands we face.

This is where relationship-building becomes critical to our ability to succeed at leadership.  By focusing on building and sustaining relationships with our employees, we send a clear message that our focus is not simply on ourselves, but on how we can help our employees to succeed and thrive under our leadership.

Relationship-building also encourages us to be honest about our motivations and the decisions we make, because they are no longer simply transactional in nature.  Instead, we become mindful of the impact our choices and decisions have on others and consequently, how and what we should communicate to provide them with some context for why things are the way they are.

As I’ve written and spoken about through my work, the true function of leadership is not what you gain, but what you give of yourself to help others.  That we not use our role simply to improve ourselves, but that we help those under our care to become that better version of who they can be.

That’s why people are drawn to work for some of today’s successful leaders – not because of the successes those leaders have achieved, but because of their outward focus on those around them.  A focus to better understand their employees in terms of what matters to them, what inspires them to bring forth their best efforts, and how they can connect that to the shared purpose of the organization.

Interestingly, this paradigm shift from the traditional top-down, command-and-control style of leadership to one based more on a collective interdependence offers a unique form of support for leaders that’s especially needed thanks to the faster pace which we now have to operate.  Namely, that by building relationships with those we lead, we give ourselves permission as leaders to not have all the answers.

Indeed, given the increasing complexity of today’s workplace environments, it’s impossible for leaders to know everything that’s going on, which is why delegation has become so critical to our collective ability to succeed and grow.

There’s no question that relationship-building requires intentional efforts on our part, but it’s important that we understand that it’s no longer requisite because it’s simply the ‘right thing to do.’  Rather, we need to appreciate how relationship-building has become a critical cornerstone to leadership success, if not also how we can ensure that we’re able to inspire the best from those we have the responsibility to lead.

Winning Well Reflection

We appreciate Tanveer’s observation that by building relationships you also give yourself the flexibility to be a leader who asks the right questions – as opposed to one who has to have all the right answers. In our executive leadership roles we’ve both had employees come to us as we were stressed out, becoming overly-directive, and they encouraged us to “Trust the team. We’ll find the answers together.” That’s an incredible power of relationship.

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Shelley Row

Connection: We Feel Good When We Feel Connected (Shelley Row)

Winning Well Connection

Shelley and I got to know one another through our Mastermind group at the National Speakers Association. I admire her strategic mind and warm heart along with her amazing resiliency and poise through the most challenging circumstances.

Feeling Good By Staying Connected

Is there someone you work with who could use a little motivation? Could you use a little motivation? You can’t motivate someone else if you can’t motivate yourself and, frankly, we could all use a little motivation sometime. Too often we think of motivation as money or a promotion but intrinsic motivation comes from inside and is powerful. One of the motivation levers in the brain is connection. We feel good – and more motivated – when we feel connected.

As humans, we are designed as social creatures. In fact, we feel good when we feel connected with others. According to a Simply Psychology article, research by Solomon Asch in 1951 illustrated the strong desire to fit in under pressure. Asch showed groups of people a line of defined length and asked them to select the line of the same length from a series of three. All except one in the group were told to select the wrong answer. The test was to see whether the one person felt pressure to change their answer and conform with the group. Of twelve trials, 75 percent changed their answer to conform at least once even though it was clearly the wrong answer. Your staff and teams feel the same pressure to fit in and be part of a perceived “in-group.” You naturally want to connect with those like you because it makes the brain feel good.

Additionally, recent research shows that for those with whom we feel connected, we demonstrate more empathy, trust, and cooperation. Would it help productivity in your office if people were more cooperative? You know the answer. But at the office, we experience in-groups and out-groups. Motivation is enhanced when we feel connected.

It’s easy to think of in/out groups based on gender and race, but it goes beyond that. Do you have multiple offices? Perhaps you noticed reluctant collaboration or less motivation when working between offices. Has your company merged? If so, there may be a lack of trust between members of the formerly different companies. When I worked for a professional association, we had a headquarter’s office and state chapters. We did our best to work together but it wasn’t easy. We were parts of different groups and didn’t have a connection.

Thankfully, the brain readily accepts new connections. How can you create more connection?

You can create more connection for yourself or between others on a team.

Teams create a sense of connection by setting common goals, naming themselves as a team, jointly establishing their performance norms, and conducting team activities (field trips, happy hours, lunches). You can also create individual connections by seeking out commonalities. The gruffest colleague may soften when connecting about kids, sports, or a shared hobby. Connection fosters greater trust and collaboration.

And for you, personally, who can you connect with that would instill more motivation? Invite them to coffee or lunch and listen for opportunities to connect. I’m a member of a speaking association and while they are a wonderful, talented, generous group of people, they can be a little intimidating and effervescent for this introvert. I sought out the organization’s president because, as a scientist, I sensed a quiet thoughtfulness. Over lunch, which he graciously accepted, I found a kindred spirit who gave me valuable advice about how to better connect with my high-energy, uber-talented colleagues. I left feeling more motivated because I felt that I had a connection in the association.

Who can you connect with? How can you help others find connections within your organization? Both will increase motivation and, frankly, it makes coming to work more fun.

Think Less, Live More. Lessons from a Recovering Over-Thinker

Winning Well Reflection

The trust you need to create lasting breakthrough results, both between you and your team and with team members among themselves, comes from understanding and shared experience. Shelley’s invitation to create connections through personal interest, mutual goals, and spending time together are essential ingredients for high-performing teams that care for one another and supplement one another’s strengths with their own.

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Marshall Goldsmith

The Performance Appraisal that Really Matters (Marshall Goldsmith)

Winning Well Connection

From his books that taught us and informed our early careers, to the selflessness he consistently demonstrates, to his embodiment of professional confident humility, Marshall has been a tremendous supporter of Winning Well. We were honored when Marshall wrote the foreword for our book. Thank you once again, Marshall for your unwavering commitment to blending the bottom line with the human spirit and your support of Winning Well.

I’ve made a career out of helping business leaders develop better relationships with their colleagues and team.  In the course of that work I’ve seen many managers who struggle to achieve business success; much less build meaningful professional relationships.

If that’s you, you’re not alone. The truth is that in companies, nonprofits, and government offices around the world it’s not hard to find stressed out, frustrated, (and often hopeless) managers.  But it doesn’t have to be this way. Not for you.

It’s a message we can’t repeat often enough: you can achieve business performance without sacrificing your humanity, your well-being, or your sanity.

I often share with executives that the only performance appraisal that really matters is the one you give yourself as you look back over your life. When friends of mine interviewed people in the last years of their life, three themes emerged: be happy now, friends and family are critically important, and if you have a dream, go for it.

From a business perspective, my ultimate business advice isn’t very different:

  • Life is short – have fun.
  • Do whatever you can to help people.
  • Do what you think is right.

When you cultivate a healthy management mindset, improve business performance, experience less stress, and build better relationships with your colleagues and team, you’re on your way to a great life and great results. To me, that’s Winning Well.

Ultimately, your work as a manager is about far more than what you make or how you serve your customers. Whether you give it conscious attention or drift along, you will leave a legacy – in fact, you’ve already built one. Take a moment to ask yourself:

  • As of today, what is your legacy?
  • What do you want your legacy to be?
  • What life will you build for yourself, and your family?
  • How will you impact the people around you while you do your work?

There’s a temptation to wait for ‘someday’ before you take action, but that day will never come. Today is the only day there is where you can take action and build the leadership legacy you want to leave the world.

Life is good,

Marshall Goldsmith

Triggers

Click on the image for more information about Marshall’s book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winning Well Reflection

One of the things we appreciate about Marshall is his ability to cut through complexity and identify the MITs: have fun – help people – do the right thing. Leading well isn’t complicated when we remember that above everything else leadership is a relationship – and relationships are your greatest legacy.

Justin Maust

Refuse to be Offended (Justin Maust)

Winning Well Connection

Justin and I were introduced to one another through a common connection who just knew we needed to know one another based on our values-based approach to leadership. One thing led to another, and in a few weeks, I’m delighted to be keynoting at his  Lead USA event in South Bend, Indiana and simulcast (learn more about the event here).

I’m impressed by Justin’s confident humility–executing on an impressive vision for a rock-star event that grows each year, along with the humility to find new ways to serve.

One simple tactic to give your team an edge.

Sometimes a leader needs to be the hammer. You strike a nail to put it in its proper place so that it can hold a structure together for decades. Other times you need to be the nail. Allow the hammer to strike you so that you can effectively support the structure. It’s impossible for the hammer to hold the structure together alone…the nail is his only hope. It’s also impossible for the nail to have any real impact or value to the home without being struck. Bad hammers ruin good nails. Bad nails get bent over the smallest swings.

Refuse to be offended today. Great leaders must strike the issues that disrupt progress and great team members need to be mature enough to receive the strike. When nails leave their place, the house falls apart. When hammers refuse to swing, nothing gets built. A bent nail eventually gets thrown away. A hammer that refuses to be swung is simply a paperweight.

The Brutal Truth

Taking offense or not taking offense is a choice. Each time a comment is directed at you or each time someone sends an email…you have a choice. We forget that fact. Offense is a choice. It’s a decision to allow yourself to become angry, bitter, resentful, hateful, etc.

What does it mean to take offense? You allowed another human being to get underneath your skin.

Here are the synonyms of the word “offense”:  annoyance, anger, resentment, indignation, irritation, exasperation, wrath, displeasure, animosity, vexation, ill feelings, disgruntlement, rage.

The problem with taking offense is that we think it will make us feel better about the situation. Or that being offended allows us to get back at that person. But the simple truth is this: We are the ones that are harboring all this negative energy.  It’s bottled inside of you. When you allow yourself to become offended, you begin to let anger, resentment, wrath, animosity, indignation to live inside your body. Carry “OFFENSE” inside you long enough and you are sure to show some physical & emotional symptoms due to the stress and pressure that it brings.

The Antidote to Being Offended

When you are offended, you are thinking and focusing on yourself.  When you are offended, you feel as though someone is attacking you personally and it’s easy to let your emotions take over.  The root of offense is PRIDE.  Offense happens because you are thinking too highly of yourself. The ROOT problem of getting OFFENDED by others or being OFFENSIVE to others is PRIDE.

Humility is the antidote that will cure your disease of pride.  In Good to Great, Jim Collins writes about the Level 5 Executive.  Extreme Humility is one of the two character traits of leaders that take their companies from Good to GREAT.  Pat Lencioni writes about humility in his book, The Ideal Team Player.  He says there are three virtues that create the best team members:  Humble, Hungry and Smart.  Out of the three, he says that being HUMBLE is the most important virtue of the three.  Proverbial wisdom even tells you that God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble.

Pride kills team chemistry.  Pride creates silos.  Pride is what causes leaders to think too highly of themselves.  Humility changes your perspective.  Humility causes your focus to go from ME to WE…..from “WHAT DO I THINK IS THE RIGHT STEP?” to “WHAT DO WE THINK IS THE RIGHT STEP?” from “WHAT DECISION WILL MAKE ME LOOK GOOD?” to “WHAT DECISION WILL MAKE US ACHIEVE OUR GOAL?”

A simple “Google” search definition of humility:  A modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness.  As you practice the virtue of humility, you will become less and less offended by others and more and more concerned about helping others and your team succeed.  While this may not be a quick fix, humility allows you and your team to build a dynamic culture that will improve your team’s level of trust, transparency, and ability to solve complicated problems with others.

TAKE ACTION TODAY:

  • What can you do to live and lead with more humility at work and at home?
  • What relationships are at risk due to bitterness and offense?
  • What specific actions using humility can rebuild these key relationships?

Refuse to be offended by choosing to live with humility each day.

Winning Well Reflection

In Winning Well workshops, as leaders lower their guard and begin to discuss the real issues they face every day, one that inevitably comes up is what to do with people who get angry, upset, or offended when you truly haven’t done anything inappropriate. We appreciate Justin’s answer here:  humility. We frequently invite leaders to remember that you are not the center of anyone else’s universe. People’s behavior is generally about them, not about you. The exception, of course, is when you have treated someone inappropriately, broken your word, or hurt someone. Having the humility to own your behavior and apologize is just as important to build trust and enhance your relationships.

Frontline Festival February 2016: Building Productive Workplace Relationships

Welcome back to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival. This month’s festival is all about building productive workplace relationships.  Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors! Next month, we turn our focus to fresh perspectives for leaders. Give us your best fresh insight! Submissions due March 11th– new participants always welcome, please use this form.

Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.
~ Stephen Covey

Mary Jo Asmus of Aspire Collaborative Services gives a unique approach to consider in setting relationship goals for the yearFollow Mary Jo.

Chantal Bechervaise of Take It Personel-ly  reminds us that when there’s a lack of morale, everyone becomes less productive and are not as good at communicating with each other as they need to be. Team work and collaboration suffers. This post provides tips to help improve morale and relationships in the workplaceFollow Chantal.

Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited knows that criticism can sting. But criticism can also be a blessing in relationships.  Follow Beth.

According to Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership, great bosses come in all shapes and sizes. They work in a variety of industries. But they all make time to touch base a lot and when they do, they make every encounter count toward building relationships. Follow Wally.

We can improve our relationships with others by leaps and bounds if we become encouragers instead of critics.
~ Joyce Meyer

Michelle Cubas, CPCC, ACC, of Positive Potentials, LLC shares that coaching business leaders and entrepreneurs provides her with a helicopter view of how individual styles affect the “weather” in companies and organizations. There is not a formula to build productive workplace relationships–there are components.  Follow Michelle.

David Dye of Trailblaze reminds us that building your influence and leadership credibility can seem overwhelming and often drive you to counter-productive behavior. He shares two clear and easy-to-use suggestions that will help you build your influence today. Follow David.

According to Julie Winkle Giulioni of DesignArounds, effective leaders leverage the very human need for mutual respect and in the process build productive relationships, enhance employee engagement and deliver powerful business outcomes. Follow Julie.

John Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement suggests we figure out where the system isn’t optimized for the abilities of the people and address that by changing the system to take advantage of everyone’s capabilities while limiting the impact of their weaknesses. An important part of that is assuring that interrelationships within the organization are contributing to the organization success (and not detracting from it, which can happen as cultures become toxic). Follow John.

Personal relationships are always the key to good business. You can buy networking; you can’t buy friendships.
~ Lindsay Fox

In the post, Why the mean person you work with may not be that mean after all, Lisa Kohn of Thoughtful Leaders Blog shares that when we view others as people with the best intentions, rather than as opponents with mean motives, there is a greater chance that we will walk out with an improved relationship and better results. Follow Lisa.

Dan McCarthy of Great Leadership shares that when you learn to reframe the way you respond to mistakes, you’ll create an environment that encourages and rewards risk-taking, continuous improvement, and developmentFollow Dan.

Eileen McDargh of The Resiliency Group helps us learn why creating an environment that supports people can go a long way toward firing people up so they don’t “fire themselves out”–but stay.  Follow Eileen

Jon Mertz of Thin Difference observes that human beings are creatures that thrive on storytelling. When we share our stories we connect in the workplace and across generations.  Follow Jon.

The business of business is relationships; the business of life is human connection.
~ Robin S. Sharma

Michelle Pallas of MichellePallas.com  points out that acknowledging the information comes from my perspective…”this is what I believe to be true”…removes the pretense of certainty and opens the floor for discussion. Sincere honesty wins over rumors and back stabbing.   Follow Michelle.

John Stoker of DialogueWORKS  shares that our personal and professional relationships are responsible for our happiness and our success. Taking a moment to ask ourselves specific questions will help us become more aware of the quality and health of our relationships. Being deliberately conscious about what matters most allows us to make the choice improvement. Follow John.

Jesse Lyn Stoner of Seapoint Center for Collaborative Leadership says that great leaders are great listeners. Research shows that most people think they’re better listeners than they really are. If you want to be a better listener, focus on developing a listening attitude. Here are five tips that will help. Follow Jesse Lyn.

Dr. Artika Tyner of the Planting People. Growing Justice Institute reminds us that diversity is the thread that weaves our organizations and communities together. The promotion of diversity and inclusion is integral to building productive workplace relationships. Follow Artika.

Communication, the human connection, is the key to personal and career success.
~ Paul J. Meyer

 

The Biggest Networking Mistake

Sarah (not her real name) had just received a kick-in-the-gut career wake up call – the kind we all pray never happens. She had 60-days to find something new. Perhaps it was her fault, perhaps not. These situations are prickly. The grapevine was buzzing with rumors when what she needed was connections.

“Do you want me to take a look at your LinkedIn profile?” I offered. I didn’t want to overstep my bounds, but also felt compassion for an old colleague. Silence. “I don’t have one,” she admitted.

Not wanting to discourage, I tried another angle. “What professional contacts do you have outside the company?”

More silence. She had invested long and deep in her networking at work. She had mentors and sponsors, but such networks are tightly woven, and can unravel 27 times faster than they took to build.

Sarah was suffering from the networking mistake I see repeated over and over again across generations and industries: waiting to build a network until you “need it.”

There’s power in building your network without intention.

The Power of “Just Because” Networking

The most powerful networking tool is quite simple. Just show up and genuinely help everyone you can in as many circles as possible. Not because they can help you now, or even some day – but because you’re a human being and you have something to offer another human being. That’s it.

Call it karma, call it common sense. It works.

Yesterday, I received three calls out of the blue from folks I had helped, or connections of folks I had helped.

None of these relationships were started because I thought they could help me some day. On the surface, all of these loose ties had less “position” power than me.

As it turns out, two of the three will lead to cool opportunities that have the magical feeling of “falling from the sky.” The third was from an executive recruiter with an enormous offer that would have been highly attractive had I not just quit my day job to pursue my dream.

She had heard about me because good people know good people. I hadn’t talked to that good person who mentioned my name for years, and what I had done for her was very small. Guess who I referred that recruiter to? Yup, a good person who helps others just because.

JUST BECAUSE NETWORKINGTips For Just Because Networking

  • Treat everyone you meet with dignity and respect.
  • Accept all LinkedIn invitations (unless they’re really creepy: Side rant – LinkedIn is not a dating service).
  • Offer to help first.
  • Never ask for help on the first connection.
  • Plant bulbs of support everywhere. Just because you can.

Thanks to LGL community member Larry Coppenrath for creating the visual of today’s post.

Expert Advice On Creating Connection: A Frontline Festival

This month’s Frontline Festival sets a new record for submissions. I am grateful for all the experts sharing their insights on creating connection.

Connecting the Dots

Barbara Kimmel, Trust Across America Blog, shares Collaboration, What’s in it For Me. Collaboration leads to better decision making and working together people can achieve extraordinary things. Follow Barbara @BarbaraKimmel.

Dan Rockwell, Leadership Freak shares Mintzberg Rejects Macro-Leadership. When Dan asked Henry Mintzberg for the advice he most frequently sharing with leaders and managers, he said one word, “Connect.” Follow Dan @leadershipfreak.

Alli Polin, Break the Frame shares Watch Your Language.  Engagement and connection start with your communication. Do your words build walls or bridges?  Follow Alli @AlliPolin

Kate Nasser, Smart SenseAbilities shares Don’t Make Connection So Hard. 8 Simple Action Steps!  Creating a connection is not that difficult. We make it hard. Let’s change that. Here are 8 simple action steps from The People Skills Coach™ to make connection easy! Add your #9 and #10!  Follow Kate @KateNasser

Chip Bell shares The Leadership Echo.  Innovative service goes viral when it is echoed from a leader who treats associates exactly the way customers should be treated. A powerful, compelling leadership echo happens when leaders connect with employees instead of cocooning in their office on meetings.  Follow Chip @ChipRBell

Jon Mertz, Thin Difference shares Empathy: Making the Connection.  Maybe with all the social media connections we are missing the real connections as real people pass us by almost unnoticed. Empathy connects us and we need to activate it.  Follow Jon @ThinDifference

Chery Gegelman, Simply Understanding Blog shares Everything the Light Touches.  When have you engaged or been engaged by a complete stranger? Did the day get a little brighter? Did the world get a little smaller? “We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.” -Ben Sweetland.  Follow Chery @GianaConsulting

The Chatsworth Consulting Group shares Why Winnie the Pooh Leaves His Corner of the Forest.  The post offers the wisdom of Pooh who reminds us that if we want to accomplish something, we must take responsibility and make an effort and get out of our comfort zone – our comfortable corner of the forest. As leaders, it’s our responsibility to model this behavior so that our teams (or families, or organizations, or selves) can step away from what they know, make a first attempt to connect with others, and not stay waiting in their corner of the Forest.  Follow the group @ThoughtfulLdrs

Nurturing Connections

Frank Sonnenberg, Frank Sonnenberg Online shares A Marriage Made in Heaven.  What makes relationships last? How do you create a marriage made in heaven? This article examines the elements of successful relationships.  Follow Frank @FSonnenberg

David Dye, Trailblaze shares 18 Truths You Really Can’t Avoid if You Want to Stay Relevant, Effective, and Connected. Connection, credibility, and influence with your team requires awareness of, and connection with, your environment. In this post, David shares 18 truths to avoid organizational decline and maintain your relevance and connection to the world around you. Follow David @Davidmdye

Wally Bock, Wally Bock’s Three Star Leadership Blog shares There’s Always a Connection.  Work doesn’t have to be the only subject you discuss with team members. Find out what you have in common. There’s always a connection.  Follow Wally @WallyBock

Tracy Shroyer, Beyond the Stone Wall: Leadership with Dr. Shroyer shares The Power of Self-Disclosure.  In preparation to teach her Interpersonal Skills college course, Tracy took some time to reflect on self-disclosure, one of the topics for an upcoming week’s class. Is there someone who you share thoughts, feelings, and information with? How has that been a positive experience for you?  Follow Tracy @TShroyer2

Aboodi Shabi, Aboodi Shabi and Company Limited shares The Available Leader.  A large part of leadership has to do with your availability or unavailability as a leader. Discovering how you show up as a leader is a key part of your leadership development.  Follow Aboodi @aboodishabi

David Spell, of David Spell:  More Than Management shares A Thorn in Your Side. Often those that seem to be the cause of our greatest problems can be the source of our greatest growth. Look beyond the obvious to see what lessons those around you have to teach.  Follow David @davidallenspell

Connecting in Groups

Mike Henry Sr, Lead Change Group shares Mary C Shaefer’s post In Leading, There is No Substitute for Human Connection.  Mary presents an interesting, practical case study of a client who both learned and helped his internal “customers” learn the value of connection in the workplace.  Follow Mike @mikehenrysr

Mary Jo Asmus, Aspire shares Being Grateful for All of Them.  Even though this post on being grateful of others was published close to Thanksgiving, it’s a reminder that gratitude for others is important at any time of the year.  Follow Mary @mjasmus

Tanveer Naseer, TanveerNaseer.com shares Learning to Connect to Boost Employee Engagement.  Find out what 3 critical steps leaders should be employing to connect with their employees in order to help boost employee engagement levels in their organization.  Follow Tanveer @TanveerNaseer

The Festival’s Connection Art comes from Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group, LLC  (above right).  Follow Joy @Joy_Guthrie

Connecting in Community

Bill Benoist, Leadership Heart Coaching shares Valentine’s Day Engagement. Although we strive for a balanced life, in reality home, work and school are all connected. When we are engaged, these connections allow us to fire on all cylinders.  Follow Bill @leadershipheart

Julie Pierce, Empowered by Peace shares 3 Circles of Community Every Leaders Needs.  Ever feel lonely in your leadership? Leadership Coach Julie Pierce shares 3 must-have circles of community for every leader.  Follow @Julie_Pierce

John Hunter, Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog shares Networking is Valuable but Difficult to Quantify.  The benefits of networking are unpredictable and not easy to control (to specifically target – you can do this, it just has fairly uncertain results). Web sites are great because they give you a huge reach right away, but deeper, personal connections are much more powerful.  Follow John @curiouscat_com

Chantal Bechervaise, Take it Personel-ly shares Your Choices Influence Others.  Influence is a topic that Chantal find very interesting. When she searches twitter she finds two types of people; those who are angry or do nothing but complain and those that make the effort to engage and really go out of their way to “talk” with people. They make a connection, create positivity and genuinely seem interested in others.  Follow Chantal @CBechervaise

Matt McWilliams shares How NOT to Network on LinkedIn.  This is a humorous look at how not to use LinkedIn, using an example from my network. In your efforts to develop a network, please don’t make the mistakes this poor fellow made.  Follow Matt @MattMcWilliams2

Subha Balagopal, From the Principal’s Pen shares I Didn’t Take This Job to Give Up On You.   A leader’s job is about people and connecting with others often leads us to wrestle with what we believe in. Subha is an elementary principal and her post was inspired by a situation at school that caused him to grapple with the authenticity of his words and beliefs.  Follow Subha @PrincipalsPen2

Unique Ways to Create Connections

Sal Silvester, 5.12 Solutions shares The 4-Step Feedback Process.  Most leaders struggle with how to give team members feedback. Use this model to provide feedback in a way that will engender team member commitment.  Follow Sal @512Solutions

Ali Anani shares a slideshare, Avoid the Comfort of Closed Social Circles.  Connecting with others requires having dynamic circles that aren’t limited to whom you like.  Connect with Ali at anani.ali1@gmail.com

Tom Eakin, BoomLife shares How to Become Powerfully Social and Socially Powerful.  Success is getting what you want AND being the person you want to be. This article describes how GPS Theory can be used to help, and get help from, the people in your world to live your core values, because you can’t get what you want if you are not, first, the person you want to be.  Follow Tom @goboomlife

Sean Glaze, Great Results Team Building shares How Low Tech Events Provide High Tech Results.  When considering a corporate event to connect your team, the purpose is not only to enjoy the few hours of the event together. Your team should ALSO be able to refer back to the fun interactions and take way applicable insights that will positively impact your organization weeks or months or even years later.  Follow Sean @leadyourteam

Connecting with Yourself

Bernie Nagle, Altrupreneur shares Your “Inner Other” – Connecting to Feminine & Masculine Leadership Energy. Connecting to our “Inner Other” simply means we have learned to access and honor both the feminine and masculine aspects of leadership energy within each of us – essential for self-awareness and development as conscious leaders.  Follow Bernie @altrupreneur

Lynette Avis and David Brown, Avis and Brown shares The Stars at Night.  Connecting to the vast night sky brings about a greater awareness of self, others and the universe. Follow Lynette and David @avisandbrown

Thanks to Ben Evans, LGL intern, for his work on coordinating this month’s Festival.

March’s Frontline Festival will be part of the March “Mean It” Madness on Let’s Grow Leaders.  The topic will be sincerity and meaning what you say.  Submissions due March 7th, Festival will go live March 14th.  Click here to submit.  If you know others with a meaningful “mean it” story (no blogging necessary, just a story) , please encourage them to share it here.

Effective Networking: 6 Secrets Your Kids Know

We’d spent the last 5 days reconnecting as a family, completely dark from any semblance of social networking. Alright, I’ll be honest… all networking…each night my husband and I requested a table for 4 on this 5 night cruise to Mexico. It’s cool to meet other travelers… but not this time, we needed family and rest.

The final evening’s entertainment was a magic show.

My son, Sebastian, was lucky enough to be selected as the “assistant.” I wasn’t shocked by his hammy performance (he comes by that naturally). What happened next intrigued me.

As we exited the auditorium, people approached my son and began waving and congratulating him from across the room. He had stories about everyone. “Oh those are the women who taught me Mexican dominos at the pool, they live in Bri-ain,” trying to work his Liverpudlian accent, “but are really from Daaaalllas,” adding a draw. “You remember Abe, he calls himself the sausage king, he’s half deaf but likes to play the drums.”

The pattern continued as we hopped on the elevator…. “She’s the mommy of the girl I played ping-pong with on Tuesday.” And then on the way to dinner… and then again in the customs line the next day… This kid had connections.

The truth is most kids make friends more easily than grown-ups. We start being open to new connections and grow ourselves out of it.

What Kids Can Teach Us About Networking

Kids can teach us a lot about networking. Try working a few of these approaches into your networking.

  1. No agenda – Kids connect with no agenda. They don’t think, “gee, if I meet this girl, maybe she’ll introduce me to her brother with the Pokemon shirt…he may have a card in his collection I need…” Nope, they just join in and see what happens. They build relationships for the sake of relationships.
  2. Are open to new relationships – If someone introduces themselves, they don’t question motive.  Kids don’t wonder, “what’s this guy really want?”  They get past the small talk sooner. “Yeah, my math teacher’s really mean too… but maybe it’s me, I hate math.”
  3. They play – You’re going to meet a lot more people playing in the pool than on the deck. Kids get in the pool. Play leads to natural interaction and builds relationships.
  4. They share toys – Kids are taught to share their toys, and doing so leads to friendships. Grown-ups lose this instinct. I’m always amazed in my fitness class how grown-ups fight over weights (that don’t even belong to them). You can only use one set at a time, but everyone likes to have choices in front of them, just in case. Asking the person one mat over to “borrow” their weights typically leads to a dirty look. No one proactively offers. Most grown-ups don’t follow the same rules they teach their kids.
  5. They follow-up – When they meet someone they like, they attach more quickly. “That was fun, are you going to the kid’s club after dinner? Wanna meet at the pool again tomorrow?” They don’t call it networking. They have no system, they just ask.
  6. They bounce back. – No one likes to feel rejected. But most kids seem to accept casual slights for what they are. They don’t over-analyze. “What happened to John?” “Oh, he didn’t want to play any more.” They move on.

Lunch Taboos You Should Break

You’re REALLY busy. No time for lunch. Better to grab some almonds and a diet coke and work through. The time you save at lunch gets you home sooner to your family. I’m with you. 

In fact when I was pregnant, my assistant announced she had blocked 30 minutes for me every day to walk to the cafeteria for lunch. I was allowed to move the appointment, but not delete it, for the sake of the baby.

Oh sure, I do business lunches, with an agenda and a purpose. And my sales team used to share that whenever I had something serious to talk about I invited them for a pumpkin latte. When sales started to dip, I would get a pre-emptive call: “I’ve already started scouting out the nearest Starbucks. I know you’ll want to talk.”

So I was surprised when a former colleague invited me to lunch. In all the years we worked together (in the same building) we hadn’t gone to lunch. Now he was at another company. I thought, he must need help. I’d better make the time.

What I Learned At Lunch

We met for lunch and I waited for the agenda to emerge. There was none. We got caught up on our careers and families. We talked about leadership and engagement, culture, common business challenges, hopes, disappointments.
And then he shared:

“You know the biggest difference between the 2 cultures? At my new company going to lunch is encouraged. Our entire culture is built on relationships. We have an open invitation to invite anyone from any other department to lunch, just to get to know them. No agenda required. And we can expense it.”

I laughed. My finance guy would never have allowed that (he was my finance guy). “Yup,” he admitted. As he picked up the check, I vowed to treat the next time. I got back to my office and looked and my calendar. Who could use a nice salad?

Why Connections Will Change Your Life

I raced for the airport parking shuttle, threw my bag on the rack and collapsed in the seat. The hectic schlep is too familiar. The stranger next to me smiled, “How’d it go?” Ugh, what’s this guy want? What ever he’s selling, I don’t need.

I’ve been on that shuttle many times texting, returning calls, trying to remember if there was anything in the fridge to cook for dinner. The last thing on my mind is connecting. But for some reason, I played along.

I opened my heart and shared:

“Actually, quite well. I work in the call center space, and connection and empathy is fundamental. I saw more of that on this trip. I think they’re getting it. I also write a leadership blog and more people are engaging. The momentum is exciting”

His connection energized my thinking. I suddenly felt better about the progress. I took a shot. “Did you make the sale?” He laughed and beamed, “sure did.” And then he went on, “but I’m worried.

I’m in healthcare and the entire landscape is changing. I’ve been in this field forever, but may need to change. I’m not sure how I’ll replicate the income and my kids are still small. It’s all I’ve known.”

I felt sudden compassion for this stranger. This fleeting connection mattered. The 7 1/2 minute conversation energized us both. No cards exchanged. No romantic intentions. No next steps. No asks. Just two tired strangers offering the gift of connection. Next week, I’ll take that shuttle again with connections on my mind.

Creating Powerful Connections

Connections aren’t just for the people we love or those we lead. You can influence small corners of the world through fleeting connections.

  • Look up
  • Open your heart
  • Trust more
  • Ask
  • Share
  • Respond

Where have you found joy in random connections? To whom can you offer that gift?