If you were to ask me what traits the top athletes I’ve ever known have shared, I’d say humility, warmth of spirit, and an innate ability to connect.
These people show up at races expecting to win, and if you didn’t know that you simply wouldn’t. Not until you see them cheering you across the finish line…in street clothes.
Technically, they are at the top of their games. They have competency, knowledge, and experience. However, you meet a warm, wonderful person with no pretense interested in you and your goals.
Look a little deeper and you’ll find an insatiable desire to improve, to gather knowledge, hone technique, and shave off seconds, all fueled by confidence and a burning competitive desire. At the end of the day, they have our respect, friendship, and admiration.
Now, what do we lead with as managers?
Competency, knowledge, and experience.
Warmth and personal connection too often takes a back seat, after we’ve marked our territory with corporate legitimacy.
We’ve got it backwards.
An article in the Harvard Business Review cites research illustrating the critical importance of connecting first, then leading.
We don’t connect when we establish ourselves as the experts and dominate conversation with what we know. We connect when we genuinely ask our people to talk about their favorite subject – themselves. Then, we listen, remember, and check in regularly.
A few signs you care:
- You take the time to get to know your employees and what’s generally going on in their lives. You’re not the last to know that Jennifer is pregnant or Dan is engaged.
- You stop by their workspace unannounced, sit down, and see how they’re doing. Hospital patients will rate their experiences more favorable when their physician pulls up a chair during their visit, regardless how much time they actually remain in the room. It makes a statement – I’m here for you.
- Know your employee’s professional dreams and do everything you can to help them achieve these goals.
Bottom line, you can be loved and respected. Make it easy on yourself – lead with love.