Connection. It’s a simple word but one with tremendous power.
When we connect with others, we form a bond that can overcome obstacles to success. When we connect, we build trust that leads to long-term loyalty.
Connection is crucial for entrepreneurs and network marketers. Whether you are working directly with clients or with teams, connection is the key to achieving sustainable superior productivity and performance.
The Three Elements of Connection
True connection requires the presence of three elements: Vision, Value, and Voice.
Vision describes shared ideals or a shared identity. It refers to your purpose for offering the product or service and the values you adhere to in your business. When two people share the same purpose and agree on ways in which they will conduct business, they share a common vision.
Value refers to treating clients and colleagues as human beings, rather than human machines. Recognizing the inherent value of each individual should result in treating others with kindness, fairness, and respect. Professionals who fail to recognize the value of the people they interact with on a daily basis destroy their connection with those individuals.
The element of Voice is present when people feel free to speak openly and honestly about their ideas and concerns. This encourages sharing of ideas and results in finding the best solutions to challenges.
Putting the Three Elements into Practice
Becoming an intentional connector takes time and practice. All of us have areas that are “connection blind spots”—unintentional behaviors that others find disconnecting. To truly connect, we need to be honest about the way we approach relationships and be willing to ask others for feedback on ways we can improve.
If you want to improve your connection skills but aren’t sure where to start, use the following checklist to identify opportunities for improvement:
- Can you clearly articulate the reason why you are in business? What human need do you help to fulfill? People are attracted to causes that are greater than simply serving themselves. Whether you bring truth (for example, providing accurate financial statements through your accounting services), beauty (helping individuals look and feel their best) or goodness (offering a product that makes life easier or more enjoyable) into the world, you will be better able to connect if you can articulate the reason why you are in business.
- Do your clients and team members understand your vision? Having a vision is pointless if no one knows or understands it. When you clearly state your purpose, others who share that same purpose will be attracted to you because they want to support your goals.
- Do you live out your vision? If your vision is nothing more than a statement on your website or a phrase in your elevator pitch, it won’t make an impact. To connect with others, your vision and core values need to be sincere. People are attracted to those who live intentionally.
- Do you show clients and team members that you value them? We all need to feel valued. When you take the time to focus on each person as an individual—to learn his or her story, to empathize with struggles and concerns, and to affirm character strengths—it strengthens your bond with that person.
- Have you eliminated “disconnecting” behavior? Being slow to respond to requests, not saying “hello” and “goodbye,” texting or answering email in front of others, yelling or dominating discussions, micromanaging, and failing to express gratitude are all disconnecting behaviors because they imply you don’t value the other person. If you struggle in these areas, pick one to focus on and make a conscious effort to replace that behavior with one that builds the relationship instead.
- Are you willing to put other people’s needs first? When people suspect that you are putting your needs first, or that you are pushing a product just to make a sale, it destroys connection. Being willing to help people find the product or service that is truly right for them—even if it isn’t one that you offer—is a short term loss that ultimately results in respect and trust.
- Is your communication clear and systematic? Regularly communicating updates helps people to feel that they are “in the loop,” which increases their connection to you. You should also carefully articulate critical information, preferably in writing—whether regarding a client’s order or a task you need to complete for a team member. This avoids confusion and sets expectations.
- Do you give others a chance to share their ideas and concerns? You can’t be a great connector if you aren’t also a great listener. Ask for other people’s ideas, then follow up with questions that show you’ve been actively listening. Doing so shows humility and makes others feel included in the decision-making process.
- Have you mastered the art of respectfully disagreeing? A great way to do so is to state your objections beginning with a phrase such as, “I may be wrong but is it possible that...?” or “It’s just one person’s opinion, and I may be wrong, but I wonder if it could be that....” If you offend someone, apologize, and if someone apologizes to you, give that person the benefit of the doubt by forgiving him or her.
Focusing on the elements of Vision, Value, and Voice provides a practical framework to set goals and measure progress. By taking the time to become an intentional connector, you will build strong professional relationships that yield long-term benefits—financial and other—for everyone involved.
MICHAEL LEE STALLARD, president of E Pluribus Partners, speaks, teaches workshops and coaches leaders. He is the author of the book Connection Culture: The Competitive Advantage of Shared Identity, Empathy, and Understanding at Work.
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