How Can I Connect with People?
written by John C. Maxwell
January 30 2013
Always remember, the heart comes before the head.
I love communicating It’s one of my passions Although I’ve spent more
than 30 years speaking professionally, I’m always looking for ways to grow
and keep improving in that area.
The Audience’s Best Friend
No doubt you’ve heard of Elizabeth Dole She is a lawyer by trade, was
a cabinet member in the Reagan and Bush administrations, and was the
president of the American Red Cross She is a marvelous communicator
Her particular gift, which I witnessed in San Jose one day, was making
me and everyone else in her audience feel as though she was really our
friend. She made me glad I was there. The bottom line is that she really
knows how to connect with people.
In 1996, she demonstrated that ability when she spoke at the Republican
National Convention If you watched it on television, you know what
I’m talking about When Elizabeth Dole walked out into the audience
that night, they felt that she was their best friend. She was able to develop
an amazing connection with them. I also felt that connection, even
though I was sitting in my living room at home watching her on television
Once she finished her talk, I would have followed her anywhere.
Bob Never Made the Connection
Also speaking at that convention was Bob Dole, Elizabeth’s husband –
not surprising since he was the Republican nominee for the presidential
race. Anyone who watched would have observed a remarkable difference
between the communication abilities of the two speakers. Where Elizabeth
was warm and approachable, Bob appeared stern and distant. Throughout
the campaign, he never seemed to be able to connect with the people.
Many factors come into play in the election of a president of the United
States, but not least among them is the ability of a candidate to connect
with his audience. A lot has been written about the Kennedy-Nixon debates
of the 1960 election. One of the reasons John F Kennedy succeeded
was that he was able to make the television audience feel connected to
him. The same kind of connection developed between Ronald Reagan
and his audiences. And in the 1992 election, Bill Clinton worked extremely
hard to develop a sense of connection with the American people – to do
it he even appeared on the talk show Arsenio and played the saxophone.
You can’t move people to action unless you first
move them with emotion. The heart comes before the head.
I believe Bob Dole is a good man. But I also know he never connected with
the people. Ironically, after the presidential race was over, he appeared
on Saturday Night Live, a show that made fun of him during the entire
campaign, implying that he was humorless and out of touch. On the show
Dole came across as relaxed, approachable, and able to make fun of himself.
And he was a hit with the audience. He had finally connected.
The Heart Comes First
You first have to touch people’s hearts before you ask them for a hand.
All great communicators recognize this truth and act on it almost instinctively.
You can’t move people to action unless you first move them with
emotion. The heart comes before the head.
An outstanding orator and African-American leader of the 19th century
was Frederick Douglass. It’s said that he had a remarkable ability to
connect with people and move their hearts when he spoke. Historian Lerone
Bennett said of Douglass, ‘He could make people laugh at a slave owner
preaching the duties of Christian obedience; could make them see the
humiliation of a Black maiden ravished by a brutal slave owner; could make
them hear the sobs of a mother separated from her child. Through him,
people could cry, curse and feel; through him they could live slavery.’
Connect in Public and Private
Connecting with people isn’t something that needs to happen only when
communicating to groups of people. It needs to happen with individuals.
And the stronger the relationship between individuals, the more beneficial
it will be and the more likely the follower will want to help the leader.
That is one of the most important principles I’ve taught my staff over
the years. My staff used to groan every time I would say, ‘People don’t care
how much you know until they know how much you care,’ but they also
knew that it was true. You develop credibility with people when you connect
with them and show that you genuinely want to help them.
Connect with People One at a Time
A key to connecting with others is recognising that even in a group, you
have to relate to people as individuals. General Norman Schwarzkopf remarked,
‘I have seen competent leaders who stood in front of a platoon
and all they saw was a platoon. But great leaders stand in front of a platoon
and see it as 44 individuals, each of whom has aspirations, each of
whom wants to live, each of whom wants to do good.’ That’s the only
way to connect with people.
Put a ‘10’ on Every Person’s Head
One of the best things you can do for people is to expect the best of them.
I call it putting a ‘10’ on everyone’s head. It helps others think more highly
of themselves, and at the same time, it also helps you. According to Jacques
Wiesel, ‘A survey of one hundred self-made millionaires showed only one
common denominator. These highly successful men and women could
only see the good in people.’
Benjamin Disraeli understood and practiced this concept, and it was
one of the secrets of his charisma. He once said, ‘The greatest good you
can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his
own.’ If you appreciate others, encourage them and help them reach their
potential, they will connect with you.
The Tougher the Challenge,
the Greater the Connection
Never underestimate the power of building relationships with people.
If you’ve ever studied the lives of notable military commanders, you have
probably noticed that the best ones understood how to connect with people.
I once read that during World War I in France, General Douglas
MacArthur told a battalion commander before a daring charge, ‘Major,
when the signal comes to go over the top, I want you to go first, before
your men. If you do, they’ll follow.’ Then MacArthur removed the Distinguished
Service Cross from his uniform and pinned it on the major.
He had, in effect, awarded him for heroism before asking him to exhibit
it. And of course, the major led his men, they followed him over the top,
and they achieved their objective.
The Result of Connection
in the Workplace
When a leader has done the work to connect with his people, you can
see it in the way the organization functions. Among employees there are
incredible loyalty and a strong work ethic. The vision of the leader becomes
the aspiration of the people. The impact is incredible.
You can also see the results in other ways. On Boss’s Day in 1994, a
full-page ad appeared in USA Today. It was contracted and paid for by
the employees of Southwest Airlines, and it was addressed to Herb Kelleher,
the company’s CEO:
• for remembering every one of our names.
• for supporting the Ronald McDonald House.
• for helping load baggage on Thanksgiving.
• for giving everyone a kiss (and we mean everyone).
• for listening.
• for running the only profitable major airline.
• for singing at our holiday party.
• for singing only once a year.
• for letting us wear shorts and sneakers to work.
• for golfing at The LUV Classic with only one club.
• for outtalking Sam Donaldson.
• for riding your Harley Davidson into Southwest Headquarters.
• for being a friend, not just a boss.
Happy Boss’s Day from Each One of Your 16 000 Employees.
A display of affection like that occurs only when a leader has worked hard
to connect with his people.
Don’t ever underestimate the importance of building relational bridges
between yourself and others around you. There’s an old saying: To lead
yourself, use your head; to lead others, use your heart. Always touch a
person’s heart before you ask him for a hand.
This is an extract from The 8 Pillars of Excellence by John C. Maxwell. To buy the book now, click here