As a follow-up to July Leadership Breakfast topic, “Building an Executive Presence: How to work effectively at every organizational level,” I gave myself homework to truly focus on one of the areas that Kim and I presented – the ability to connect.
I recently made the transition to an entrepreneur, so connecting with people has become my full-time job. Whether I am talking to potential clients about our business model, interviewing potential consultants or simply expanding my network, my days are filled with connecting with people, many of them new to me. During the presentation, we talked about the following practical steps to increasing your ability to connect:
- Recognize that to be an effective leader, you need others to follow
- Pursue real connection, not simply transactions
- Be genuinely interested: eye contact, facial expression
- Project sincerity and warmth
When I initially started down the path of starting a new business, I was incredulous that I could fit any new connections into my life. Between my family, our collective friends and the many great people that I interact with on a regular (and some not-so-regular) basis, my life felt “full”. How can I fit more people into my life when it has been months since I’ve seen my close friend or had lunch with my professional mentor?
What I soon realized is that making an authentic connection does not necessarily equate to a longer to do list. A true connection is truly about the “here and now,” whether that is for 5 minutes discussing a topic following an important meeting or a 1:1 lunch. If action items come from those connections, it is because I was inspired or motivated by the connection – a personal introduction, some follow-up research or a future date to continue the discussion.
When you are busy, it can be easy to think of professional interactions as transactions. What information do I need from this person? What information do I need to communicate to them so that I can move onto my next task on my list? When I consciously step away from my mental agenda and focus on making an authentic connection, I am often pleasantly surprised by the outcome. A new idea or a different perspective is certainly more rewarding than checking of an item on my to-do list.
I would love to hear how others make it a priority to foster real professional connections, particularly with a busy and overwhelming schedule.
Amy Weeden is Principal, Propeller Resources