Leaders are in the business of producing results through other people.  There are many strategies leaders employ to accomplish this. Some of them are more effective than others.  Sometimes a leader might find herself or himself struggling to find the right strategy to motivate someone to attain higher levels of performance. When I have struggled with someone often it is not because I have chosen the wrong strategy, it is likely because I have not worked first to connect with the person I am trying to influence.

First make a connection with the follower, then work to influence performance.

Think about how often you have thought something like “they just won’t listen” or “I have to keep telling them the same thing again and again”.  It can be very frustrating when you feel you aren’t getting somewhere with someone. Maybe you’re just lacking the connection.

When wires are broken, electricity cannot pass from point a to point b.  It’s similar with leadership.  Great leaders know that to get through to someone they first need to establish a connection.

Here are three ways to establish a connection with someone you lead:

•    Know something that is very important to them

Find out what gets your follower excited.  Maybe it’s a sport, music or a hobby.  Talk about it with them even if you are not really interested in the subject.  This is where you can begin to establish a connection.  Take an interest, ask questions and learn something about what they are interested in.  Maybe even do a little research from home about the subject so you can add value to the conversations.

•    Find out their dreams or goals

What are they trying to accomplish in life?  Find out why they are working. Is this a step in pursuing a goal?  What would they really want to do if they could?  Take an interest in their goal or dream.  Maybe it’s lowering their debt or saving for college or pursuing a career, but find out what they want to accomplish.

•    Help them take a step towards a goal

It doesn’t have to be a big step, just a step.  Arrange for them to speak to someone that knows something about the goal they are pursuing, or give them a resource that can help them learn.  Do something even if it’s small to help them take one step towards a goal.

None of this is particularly difficult.  It takes some time and often some patience because most connections are not built overnight.  But the leader who does this well will always get more out of his or her followers than the leader who ignores the work necessary to establish a connection.

Go be uncommon by making connections!