As a leader one of your top jobs is to connect with your people and those that do it well usually have the best teams. At the other end of the spectrum are those leaders who could care less about connecting with their people or worse yet connect the first time they meet and believe they never have to do that again.
Connecting with people is like an infinite connect the dot puzzle that we all played as a child each line you connect gives you a better idea of what the picture looks like and the more lines you connect the more complete that image becomes. The top ten percent of leaders understand the value in not only connecting with their people but consistently reconnecting with them daily in order to maximize the talents they bring to the job.
The Starting Dot
Every connect the dot puzzle has a starting dot or dot number one and for me that starting dot is the minute I shake their hand and meet them for the first time. I immediately start trying to figure each person out around what type of social style personality they are, what talents they possess, what emotional intelligence talents they have, and basically what makes them tick. If they are someone I am hiring or transferring onto my team the first thing I have them do is get the book “Now Discover Your Strengths” by Buckingham to uncover their top 5 talents, the book “Emotional Intelligence Quick Book” by Bradberry to uncover their EQ scores, and finally complete a Social Style personality test to gather that information about them. All of this information is great personal information about them that starts to allow me to figure out who they really are and what type of talents they are bringing to the team. I have gone back to this information with many of my people whenever there is an issue or opportunity and the data here can really help you decide what is the best plan dependent upon who they are and what skills they possess.
The First line
Once you connect the first dot to the second you have a line and while it does not tell you everything about the picture it does get you one step closer to figuring out the full picture. The second dot for me is to uncover their motivators, which are those things that drive their passion level to the highest level it can get specifically for them. I simply put together a list of things such as money, job security, being trusted, recognition from peers, opportunity for promotion, etc.. and I ask them to rank them from 1 (most motivating) to 18 (least motivating) according to the importance to them. Once they fill it out we have a very good discussion around their answers, why they scored things that way, and what is truly going to get them giving their all every day.
While this is great to do when they first start out you really need to update this exercise every 2-3 years as I have seen the answers on this change dramatically dependent upon what life changes have occurred in each person’s life since the last time they filled this out. I have also found that people just love to do this exercise and talk about it because it shows that you care about them and what is important to them vs. what is important to you or the company you work for.
Each dot increases your sense of excitement because the picture becomes a little clearer and it makes you scream for more dots. Once I understand what motivates them around the issues I go to a sheet I put together called the “My Wish List” that focuses on what types of rewards they like to get for all of the great things they are about to accomplish within this job. I start with smaller things like favorite food, favorite candy, etc in the First things first section. That section is followed by the Getting Better section that focuses on favorite sport, favorite movie, favorite music, etc..
The last section I call Now Were Talking as it focuses on favorite restaurant, Favorite ways to have fun, etc.. How much more fun can you have than listing all of your favorite things that you hope to receive when you become the number 1 sales person in the nation? It is amazing at how the passion level and smiles come out in this section and as you can see there is a lot of very easy inexpensive ways to recognize someone that tells them you really thought about them when you bought that reward for a job well done. We have all received that generic paper certificate that was handed out to everyone in the same format including the number one person only to find it thrown way into the closest trash bin never to motivate anyone to do more of anything. Why not make it specific to them with something they truly love and then add a little bit of fun into the presentation so it will be something they remember forever or at least want to win again by doing another great job?
The last page I have them fill out is called “What Matters to You?” from “Love ‘Em or Lose “Em: Getting Good People to Stay” by Kaye. One of the top responsibilities of any leader is to hire, develop and retain their top talent, which they bring to the team and if I know what matters to you I can make sure I am fulfilling your needs. The sheet consists of 26 things that could matter to them and they simply circle their top 5. We have a discussion around the top five and it goes very nicely with the discussions we had from the motivators and wish list information.
The Infinite Dots
As I mentioned, most managers of people will connect with their people 1 time and fill as though the connection period is over while the top leaders of people connect early and then reconnect as often as they can. The way they do this is first of all just being curious around what is going on around them and with their people. I make sure to spend the better part of the day with my reps to just talk about what is going on in their life, how their family is doing, what they are doing on the weekends, what are they doing for fun, etc.. all of this allows me to walk in their shoes for a bit and lets them know I truly care about them and their lives. I also do a lot of over the phone motivating as I can’t be with everyone every single day.
I generally break my people into buckets of those that I need to talk to daily, weekly, or every other week plus. This allows me to spend extra time with those that need to talk or feel more connected vs. those that need less of my time. If you have never done this and only call your people when something is wrong be for warned that the first time you call them to just check in they will either screen your call or wonder what is up with you calling out of the blue. Once you get them used to you just checking in to see if there is anything you can help with, to say thank you, or just to check in they will love the extra attention, which will probably lead to more motivated people. Lastly, the best motivators or rewards I have found are simply saying Thank you or Job well done as often as you can for specific things they have done as not saying these 2 phrases are not good for your connectivity.