Imagine walking into work on Monday morning and being greeted by your boss.
“First order of business,” she barks, “I need this spreadsheet done by 5 pm.”
How do you think you would feel?
Now compare this with another scenario: your boss looks up with a smile and asks you about your weekend. “Did you see that movie you mentioned last week?”
If you’re like most people, the first scenario would make you stressed. To illustrate my point a little better, let me pose another example.
Do you prefer meetings where people jump straight into giving ideas and solutions? Or would you rather chat a little about your commonalities and discuss what you deem important?
Prioritizing relationships over content (the facts, tasks, and details of your work) can have many benefits. Both are important, of course, but it’s rare that a “straight to work” attitude is the best way to begin a collaboration.
Whether you invite a quiet teammate to share their opinions (“What do you think?”) or start with a simple hello, taking the time to connect with others can help you establish a solid base for the rest of your interaction.
This blog will explore the Connect style of interacting and introduce you to five coaching tips to help you leverage it more effectively. If you want to strengthen your ability to build strong working relationships with this influencing style, read on!
What Is The Connect Style?
Connect is one of the twelve influencing styles in the Sphere of Influence 360.
This style involves identifying the wishes, needs, and interests of those you are collaborating with and involving everybody in conversations, so they have a say.
Adopting a Connect style involves skills such as:
- Actively seeking win-win situations
- Discovering and emphasizing your similarities
- Checking if everyone is aligned in terms of interests, goals, and ambitions, and
- Building on one another’s ideas and contributions.
If you feel this style is one that you’d like to develop further, the good news is that it’s easy with practice. Here are five exercises you can try out to become a strong Connector!
1. Involve People In Conversations
Successful collaborations are those in which everyone is involved and actively participates. When everyone has a chance to not only speak, listen, and adapt, collective intelligence is highest—that means better outcomes and happier, more engaged team members,
Utilizing a Connect style in these contexts is important because it helps you involve teammates who might find it hard to speak up, which creates equal participation.
Here’s how you can help the “quiet ones” have a voice in your next meeting:
- Pay attention to which team members are actively involved in the conversation and which are more reluctant. The challenge here is to observe your team members carefully during the meeting and note down their participation style in the table below.
- Once you’ve identified your more reluctant teammates, invite them to participate more. (Note: Ease them into it—try to avoid putting them on the spot during heated discussions or when the topic at hand is out of their comfort zone.)
- Use or adapt these example sentences when you invite others to take part:
- Do you have anything to add?
- What do you think about …?
- Can you share your thoughts about …?
2. Bring Up Common Interests
Clarifying everybody’s interests is essential if you want a win-win solution to challenges. By sharing your interests with others—and discovering theirs in turn—you can find out more about what matters to them.
These three steps can help you:
- Identify and share your interests: What matters to you in the current collaboration? Write down your answer and try the “Four Why” technique. For example: “I really want our customers to be satisfied with this new feature, because I want our ratings to improve. I want our ratings to improve because I want our product to be compared favorably to our key rival…” And so on! Once you’ve identified the core of what is important to you, share it with your conversation partners.
- Find out what is important to your teammates. Use the same “Four Why”technique, but start with the following question: “What is important to you in this collaboration, situation or assignment?”
- Find out which interests you have in common and share them. Your common concerns, interests, and goals are the building blocks of successful solutions and win-win outcomes!
3. Emphasize Your Similarities
The right mindset is critical when you are acknowledging what you have in common with your conversation partners.
The following tips might help you spot similarities more easily:
- Make a sticky note that reads “Emphasizing Similarities” and keep it somewhere visible..
- Remind yourself to focus on similarities before you go into a meeting.
- Choose a prop such as a stapler, pen, or water bottle that represents your goal. Bring it to your meeting and place it in front of you so it constantly reminds you to focus on similarities.
Once you’ve identified what you and your teammates have in common, share those things out loud! The following sentences may help you:
- “I feel the same about…!”
- “It looks like we both appreciate…”
- “I think we share the same interests in…”
- “I recognize that!”
- “Like you, I think it’s important that…”
4. Check That You Are On The Same Page
When you and a teammate are aligned, you share the same amount of knowledge about a topic, think alike about it, or understand it in the same way as they do.
You can make better decisions by getting aligned beforehand. This means sharing all the information you have about a topic and not assuming that others know what you do about a project’s goals, the available information, or what has already been discussed.
Second, you need to make sure that you find out what the other person knows—here are some sentences you can use to find out this information:
- Have I missed anything?
- Does anyone want to add anything to this discussion?
- What hasn’t yet been mentioned?
5. Listen Actively
Active listening involves making a deliberate effort to understand what your conversation partner is trying to say—the message behind their message. It requires you to pay your full attention to their words but also what they aren’t saying, e.g., their body language and what they are leaving out.
Interpreting nonverbal communication can be the trickiest part, so here are a few tips to help you:
- Observe! During your next five to ten conversations, your challenge is to observe your conversation partner’s facial expressions, gestures, and movements. What do you notice about their tone of voice, movements, and posture? Do these support what they are saying or are they telling a different story?
- Share what you see with your conversation partner, for example by pointing out what you notice: “You’re saying ‘Yes’ but I notice you’re crossing your arms.” Be aware that this approach can be somewhat confrontational, so use it wisely. The trick is to describe what you have observed in an unbiased way—try to avoid interpreting their behaviors or jumping to any conclusions.
- Give them a chance to react. You may find out more about their perspective than you thought you would!