Saturday, September 10, 2011

Law No. 10 - The Law of Connection - John C. Maxwell's 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

The Law of Connection says, 'Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand'.

John Maxwell is on to something here! I listened to a Christian evangelist preaching up a storm recently, and he knew something of the law of connection. He was preaching to a group of teenagers, most of who had never heard him preach, other than maybe looking at YouTube prior to the event. Did he just simply dive into his message? Did he just walk up to the stage, offload his theological persuasions, hoping someone might respond? He did quite the opposite. He began by playing his saxophone, to some background music, and got the crowd involved in singing some well known radio tunes. Why? Was it because he lacked enough content for a full sermon? No. He was building a connection with the listening audience. Then when he came to the crux of his message, he had people willing to respond. His name is Reggie Dabbs - YouTube him if you dare.

You may not be in the Christian ministry context, but the principle is the same. That's why Dale Carnegie (How to Win Friends and Influence People), highlights the point that if you walk into an unknown person's office, and you are seeking something from them, e.g. to sign over their money, you need to build a connection with them. He says that to make this connection you should quickly scan the room, and find something that you can talk about that connects with the person. I remember for instance walking into the office of a School Principal's office. I had never built a connection with this Principal before. As I entered the office, I scanned the room and saw a Certificate for being trained in Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People literature. I immediately leveraged off this to build a connection. I asked, 'How long have you been training people on the 7 Habits? It's a good book hey?' Very quickly I had built a connection. He began talking with excitement about The 7 Habits, and how he uses it to empower people to be better leaders.

While developing the connection with people is again, not rocket science, but John Maxwell is on the right track, and so many people miss it. They enter an important meeting with an executive and they talk more about themselves than anything else, and no connection is built. Or what about when you have two people on two different occassions speak on pretty much the same topic, and one of the communicators has connected with you so much more effectively? There are many factors involved in this connection, and some of them are:
  • Your respect for the communicator. The higher the respect, the greater the connection.
  • Their ability to emotionally connect with you, the listener. The greater the emotional connection, the greater the connection, e.g. they may share a story about being a foster child when they grew up, and if you were a foster child, you probably will feel an emotional connection.
  • The personality of the communicator and listener. Sometimes different personalities can either inspire us, or grate against us. An example being, that an organised, methodological kind of personality, may communicate about time management, and struggle to build a connection with a spontaneous, laissez- faire personality type. A communicator/leader who can build a connection with others across differing personality types is a seasoned professional!! 
  • Similiar likes and hobbies is an easy way that connections are built with others. You can hone in on the similarities and an emotional connection is established. We see this around the BBQ, when guys are talking about football, or cars, and a connection is built. 
Establishing a connection with another person is vital in leadership. A CEO who fails to emotionally connect or inspire his management team is on a road to failure. A Pastor who struggles to connect with their congregation, will constantly struggle to have support and 'buy-in' for their God-given dreams. A leadership trainer, who gather 15 people together for a session on 'Management styles in the 21st Century' for example, needs to build a connection with the listeners. The 15 will learn more if they emotionally connect with the trainer! That's a fact, and we all know it!!

So, how well do you connect with the different audiences/groups/meetings you take part in throughout your day? There are different techniques that can be used to connect with different size groups as well, and those of us who are leaders in these differing groups, must employ each of them to connect well in each context. Briefly, communicating to a large group, you might share a personal story that many can relate to. In a mid-size group, you might spend a moment thanking the people in the room that have helped to make the business/organisation what it is today. In a one-on-one meeting, you might, as mentioned, focus on the hobbies and passion of the one you are speaking with.

The Law of Connection from John Maxwell, puts some framework around what is intuitive to great leaders. You must connect with others before you can expect them to follow.
Acknowledgement goes to John C. Maxwell's 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, from which he writes Law No. 10 - The Law of Connection.
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