Are you communicating or connecting?

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“Morale around here sucks!” “Yes, this is Mr. Smith and I have a complaint about the service your company provided me.” Every organization has heard these two quotes from employees and customers. It’s frustrating for employees, managers and executives.

Why are these complaints so commonplace in today’s corporate and business environment?

Many people think it is a communication problem. In reality it is a connection problem. Everyone communicates; few connect. Most people listen, not with the intent to connect with and understand others, but with the intent to reply and be heard. This form of communication is self-centered, not other-centered.

Have you ever shared a new business idea or process with a co-worker or boss and the first thing they say is, “Yeah, but …”? This is a prime example of listening with the intent to reply and be heard, not to connect. Or worse, a customer calls with a complaint about a product or service and your employee starts off with, “Yes, but …”

The myth to building a successful business is this: You must focus on building your business and communicate your branding. The truth to building a successful business is this: Focus on building relationships, connecting with your employees and targeted customer market.

Most folks in the business world know the story about Costco and the success the company has enjoyed, even in economic downturn. Costco even raised wages of employees during the recession instead of laying people off. How was this possible? Why would a company take such an approach in bad economic times? Costco knows the myth and truth to building a successful business.

Costco, and every other successful business, also know this truth: Your employees and customers won’t care about your business until they first know you care about them. In other words, they have connected with you, not just been “talked” at.

Here are the fundamental principles, truths, about connecting and connectors:

• Connecting increases your influence with employees and customers;

• Connecting is all about others — it’s not about you;

• Connecting goes beyond words;

• Connecting requires energy and focus;

• Connecting is more a learned skill than natural talent;

• Connectors establish and connect with others by finding common ground;

• Connectors do the difficult work of keeping it simple, personal and honest;

• Connectors create an experience that everyone enjoys;

• Connectors inspire people; and

• Connectors live what they communicate.

Connecting principles apply to all facets of one’s life. They apply at home, at work and in your community. Connecting is one of the most fundamental principles of leadership. Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less. Leaders influence people. To have influence you must first connect.

You can have the largest employee handbook in the world, but to have employee loyalty and peak performance you must first connect. You can communicate all you want through memos, meetings and snappy motivational posters around the office. If you are not connected with your folks in a very real, personal and honest way, your “communications” fall on deaf ears.

Your employees must also be leaders. It is your front-line folks who have the direct contact with your customer base, suppliers and target market. Would it be kind of important that they are a positive influence as the face of your business? Do you want your folks to just “communicate” with your customers, suppliers and potential customers?

Would it not be better if they were connecting with them?

This is not Nirvana, “ivory tower” stuff. It is real, and there are hundreds of very successful businesses out there who practice these principles. Small businesses to giant corporations that are successful in sales, production and customer loyalty all have one thing in common — they focus on building relationships first, the business building flows naturally afterward.

If you want a poster for your office, it should be this:

Are we doing the right thing? At the right time? In the right way? For the right reasons?

Connecting is the right thing to do. If you want to grow, learn. If you want to learn, learn from those who are successful.

Pat Welsh is a certified speaker, trainer and coach with the John C. Maxwell Team. Welsh specializes in building, training and coaching leaders, warriors and servants at home, in the workplace and the community. Contact him at