Karin’s Leadership Articles

It happens on teams, it happens in training classes, it happens on dates. A rush to achieve without connection will backfire. It’s tempting to rush in, get started and get stuff done. Sure the out-of-the gate progress feels great at beginning, but if you don’t take time to create genuine connections and build relationships, somewhere down the line you’re going to derail.

Shelly’s Story

Shelly (not her real name) was completely frustrated with her team’s call center results. She’d brought in extra training, introduced a clever incentive program, stack ranked and managed the outliers, implemented every best practice she could find, and even invited her boss in for a quick motivational talk.

Nothing worked.The team’s results still sucked.

“What can you tell me about the folks on your team?” I asked. Her response was filled with “attitude problems,” “absence issues,” and a smattering of stats.

I tried again, “what can you tell me about the human beings on your team? Are they married? Do they have kids? What do they do for fun? What do they enjoy most on the weekends? What did they do last weekend?”

I got a bit of a blank stare, and then “With results like these, I don’t have time to ask about all that. Plus, this is business, it’s not personal.”

“Which team leader is knocking it out of the park?” I asked. “Joe” (also not his real name). “Please go talk to Joe again. But this time, don’t ask him about best practices, ask him how he connects with his team.”

She came back with a laundry list: meeting each employee at the door as they came in; spending the first 2 hours of his day doing nothing but sitting side by side with his call center reps; starting each one-on-one talking about something personal; birthday cards; following up on “no big deal” stuff like how their kid did in the soccer game last week. She tried it. Yup, you guessed the outcome.

Business is always personal.

If you could use a starting point for connecting your team, you’re welcome to use this free worksheet (connectionsworksheet) I wouldn’t suggest pulling it out in front of your team members, but it can serve as a great trigger to remind you what to ask about and to jog your memory to inspire more meaningful connections.  If you give it a try, please drop me a line and let me know how it goes.

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.


  1. Steve Borek

    As long as she’s consistent about connecting she’ll be fine.

    It she shows any deviation, the team will know it was a one time thing. Performance will suffer.

    • Karin Hurt

      Steve, I agree. I also think it’s okay to let you team know you are committed to leading more effectively. Just because you didn’t connect before doesn’t mean you can’t start (and then as you say, stay consistent0

  2. Lisa Hamaker

    Great point Steve. Ideas for helping people change at their core?

    I have a couple: Keep connecting with them and building trust. Help them to understand their own value on a personal level so that it’s easier for them to share with others.

    Any more?

    • Karin Hurt

      Thanks, Lisa… I would add letting them “in” to who you are as a person as well.

  3. Terri Klass

    Being vulnerable and sharing part of yourself with others we work with is essential for leaders if they want to develop a high performing team.

    When we show our teams our humanity and ask them about life outside of work, a stronger relationship can build which will ultimately lead to commitment.

    Whenever I conduct my workshops I make sure I ask the participants about their worlds outside of the workplace and they in turn are curious about my life outside of training.

    Thanks Karin for a great post!

    • Karin Hurt

      Thanks Terri. I so agree… I always start workshops with creating connection. It opens up to more creativity and learning… plus it’s more fun, and leads to relationships that last beyond the day.

  4. David Tumbarello

    I find it interesting that you asked her to talk to Joe — and that is the very advice she needed to connect with members of her team! Talk with them. Chat. Have small talk. Listen. Learn. And have a two-way conversation. There are 7,000 things going on in the lives of her team that affect their performance and attitude at work. Time to find out two or three.

    • Karin Hurt

      Thanks, David 😉 Connection up, down and sideways .

  5. Dallas Tye

    I try to give folks the gift of listening in order to create a good connection.
    Initially I lie it to be about them, not me.

    Can you recall the last time your felt like someone was really concentrating on what you were saying? Yes I hope.

    It feels really good, and that strong positive emotion is a great way to create and anchor connections.

    • Dallas Tye

      Oops,, ‘like’ NOT ‘lie’, ha.

      • Karin Hurt

        Dallas, I had to laugh… yeah, I knew you didn’t like to initially start with a “lie.” that would be a whole other post 😉 thanks as always for your comments. Great to connect again.

  6. Alli Polin

    To pretend that we don’t bring our whole lives with us to work is a mistake. My child’s sick, it’s on my mind. I pulled a muscle working out, it’s on my mind… and it show’s up in my engagement. Leaders that care about their people, and not simply their resources, build bonds that allow people to be human. Not to mention that when leaders care enough to get to know someone, it forms a relationship that’s much harder to walk away from than simply a job that is nothing more than a paycheck.

    Great story, Karin!

    • Karin Hurt

      Alli, I so agree. We just can’t ignore what’s happening. Best to understand and work with it. thank you.

  7. LaRae Quy

    Great idea, Karin!

    Thanks for sharing the connection worksheet…a fantastic tool! Creating connections between people in workshops or training seminars is soooo important.

    Love this!

Virtual Leadership Training Programs


Join the Let’s Grow Leaders community for free weekly leadership
insights, tools, and strategies you can use right away!

Where in the World are
Karin & David?

Other Related Posts