Take Some Time to Connect

Posted 02.29.2016

Last week, I had two reminders of how important it is to take some time to connect with other people and how we leave so much value on the table when we don’t.

The first reminder was when I had a group of corporate leaders in a Developing Leadership Presence program we started last week take part in a transformational listening conversation on what they’re grateful for. As they sat in trios for 15 minutes, I heard laughter and saw tears of joy and gratitude. This was among a group of people who didn’t know each other at all five hours earlier.

When, during a debrief, I asked them to describe what had just happened, one woman shared that she was struck by how quickly she went deep in conversation with someone she really didn’t know. In reflecting on the conversation, she said it made her realize how much she is missing in her daily interactions with other people she works with. “The person on the other end of that annoying email I just got is a real person,” she said, “They have a family, a history, a backstory of things they care about. They’re not just some faceless person. It makes me think about how differently I’d approach my work if I took a little time to get to know the real person behind the request.”

My second reminder about connection came when Diane and I hosted some new friends for dinner last weekend. We really didn’t know them that well. I had had coffee with the wife four or five months ago and neither of us had met her husband before. We quickly fell into a rich conversation that felt like one between old friends. We discovered shared interests and common concerns. Three hours flew by. It was the kind of evening that reminds me how fun and fascinating life can be.

If you know the right questions to ask and give yourself the space to listen for the answers, it doesn’t take that much time to connect. When given a simple framework to use, I’ve seen hundreds of leaders like the one in our program last week do it in five to 15 minutes. Here are some questions that can quickly help you form a deeper connection with someone you work with but really don’t know:

  • Where did you grow up? How many kids were in your childhood family? What did you love or hate doing as a kid?
  • Outside of work what’s really important to you? Why? What are you most excited about these days?
  • What are you grateful for?

Why not look for an opportunity to build a deeper connection with someone this week? I can’t predict exactly what will happen, but I’m willing to bet you’ll be glad you did.