Communication Or Connection?

Your team will be high on emotion, it’s important that you know those emotions and how to trigger them positively

We have discussed a lot about your team following you because they want to, not because they have to. We have also discussed that when people do follow you because they want to, they will go the extra mile for you and the team.

As opposed to doing the minimum required to get the job done, when they follow you because they have to. This all starts with building trust with your team. When you build trust and your influence increases, you can then improve your communication.

1. Moving From Communication To Connection

Basically, you need to move from communicating with your team, to connecting with your team. It is not good enough to just talk to your team when you need to tell them to do something.

Or, to tell them about what is happening with the job. That is not connection, it is simply communication. It baffles me by how many managers don’t connect with their teams.

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To be a highly effective leader, you MUST connect with your team.

Anytime I was ever leading a team, whether it be directly or indirectly, I would work my hardest to connect with them. For example, I was a senior project manager working in London and I had 11 senior engineers working on my team.

However, I wasn’t their line manager, so I was indirectly leading them in the project. Indirectly leading a team is tougher than directly leading a team. The team’s initial thoughts can be that they look at you differently, because you’re not the “boss”. So, on the first few days of the project I made it my goal to connect with every engineer.

2. What It Means To Connect

How I did that was to prepare one to one’s with every team member. I would ask each person about their background, taking an interest in them, and maybe tell some jokes. I wanted them to be as relaxed as possible around me, and not feel tension.

It was a really good way to get to know them before we started delegating project tasks.

Going into work early for me was essential, so that I didn’t miss anyone from the team to connect with. I didn’t get any further pay for it, but to me that wasn’t important. It was important to make those connections rather than worry about pay.

The senior engineers I was working with were a great group. When we would spend time connecting in the morning before the official meeting at 8am, we were talking about our lives and laughing. Sometimes I would stay silent and just observe, it was really rewarding to see the team talking among each other.

We laughed a lot but most of all we were connecting. They got a lot of enjoyment from it, so I made it a daily routine to come in early and connect.

The company I was working with was a worldwide engineering consultancy, with thousands of employees based all over the world. When the team and I were bonding and working together each day, it was very rare that we actually saw our real line managers.

They were either working at home or somewhere else. It came across to me that they didn’t seem to take an interest in us. So, I felt it was down to me to step up and become more than a senior project manager. I needed to be the leader.

If a team member had a personal issue that they would normally go their line manager with, they would come to me. I would do my best to help them with the issue, and offer my advice.

Or, if they needed time off for something, they would clear it with me first. I took complete responsibility for the team, and I felt even more connected to them.

There were the few occasions when the line manager called for a meeting with the team. The meetings were only ever called for if they thought something wasn’t going right, or they were getting a bit of grief from their boss.

3. How It Feels When We Don’t Connect

On one occasion it was noticed that we were overspending on the project budget, so my line manager called a meeting with the team and I. When he arrived, there was no “how is everybody doing?” No “how is the job going?” No “is everybody ok?” There was nothing like that.

He didn’t even say hello to us. All he wanted to know was why we overspent and what are we going to do about it. So, when the meeting finished and we came to a conclusion, I ensured that he left the meeting room first. That way, I could get back with the team and resume our connection.

My line manager did not have any leadership skills, he was just a “manager of people”, an insecure leader. He knew processes extremely well, but he knew people extremely badly.

During the meeting he only communicated with us, no connection at all. He didn’t have any influence with any of the team, he just stamped his authority through his position of power as the line manager.

As the team were working well and we were all getting along, we thought it best to pre-meet before any future meeting with our line managers. This was their idea, not mine which showed me that they were willing to go that extra mile for the good of all of us.

They discussed everything they were currently working on, what had been completed, and what was coming up in the near future. I gave my influence where necessary, but they basically had everything covered.

The team had gotten to the stage where they could lead themselves, and helped each other when they needed to. I was really proud of them, and privileged to be their leader.

The reason we would meet before the meeting is because our line manager was seeking a lot of information, so we ensured we covered all bases. If he was a secure leader and took an interest in the team, then he wouldn’t require as much information.

We also wouldn’t need to have the meeting before the meeting. He would be meeting with us a lot more often. The team and I didn’t trust him, so he had no influence with us.

A few days after our line manager’s meeting with the team and I, he wanted to have a conference call. The invites were; the commercial manager, his boss, me, and my line manager.

He wanted to confirm what we had talked about in the team meeting, and what ideas we were going to try and implement. It was his boss who chaired the conference call, and he was asking questions of my boss, not me. So, when my boss was asked what was happening, he didn’t have one answer.

Why couldn’t he answer his boss? Because he didn’t listen to anything I or the team said in our previous meeting. To be a highly effective leader, you need to be an active listener. So, you don’t talk when you are supposed to listen, which he always did.

4. Going The Extra Mile For The Sake Of Your People

In the end, I jumped in on the conference call because I had all of the answers to his boss’s questions. I had built up trust and a relationship with my team, and we prepared all the answers before my conference call. We could do this because we predicted what was going to be discussed.

My boss didn’t have any idea what was going to be discussed, he didn’t prepare well at all. He didn’t believe in connecting with his teams, he felt it was a waste of his time.

That is a trait of an insecure leader who doesn’t value his/her people. When secure leaders connect, they see it as an investment of time, meaning there will be a return on that investment, and that the whole team will benefit.

I usually know what’s going on at every level because I connect with everyone. When I’m leading a team, I take responsibility for everything because that’s what a highly effective leader does. I know how valuable connection is with the team.

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I don’t just rely on my own ability to achieve the team’s objective or accomplish our mission. I don’t believe in leading the team just to get paid. That’s how insecure leaders like to work with their teams. I believe in making as big a difference as possible for the benefit of everyone. That is how highly effective leaders think and operate.

How do your team see you? Do they trust you? It’s very difficult to force or make a person trust you. It doesn’t matter if you are the boss with the authority or not. The best thing you can do is talk the talk, and then walk the walk.

Basically, accomplish what you say you will accomplish for the good of the team. That is what it means to be a highly effective leader. If you can do that, then you have the best chance for the team to trust you.

Remember, who you are and what you believe on the inside will reflect on the outside. So, ensure you have the team’s best interests at heart.

Communication is an art form and connection is the paint brush. Ensure you paint a great team picture with connection.

I welcome hearing how this post has influenced the way you think, the way you lead, or the results you have achieved because of what you’ve learned in it. Please feel free to share your thoughts with me by commenting below.

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All the best,

Tom (LeadGrowInfluence)

22 thoughts on “Communication Or Connection?

  1. Ahh, Tom, I usually totally agree with your excellent posts, and this time only partially. You say somewhere in the article the manager communicated but didn’t connect. In my eyes, communication is always in 2 directions. And if not, it’s not communicating, but sending. As this manager clearly did.
    LOL, and now I can only hope you are not cross with me for disagreeing. I would hate that. 😀

    1. Hi Hannie,

      Thank you for your comment. Of course I am not cross with you.

      It is fine if you don’t agree. There is a difference between communicating and connecting. I would love to know what you think that difference is.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

      1. Phew, Tom, I am happy, LOL. Well, I knew you wouldn’t be cross of course. Good leaders can stand some well-meant criticism.
        I guess I would phrase it like this: good communication is connecting with each other, where bad communication is egoistic and one-directional. Maybe I just put the emphasis a bit different than you? In the core we probably mean the same. 🙂

        1. Hi Hannie,

          Thank you for your reply.

          We are both leaders, we are both professional and I’m pretty sure we do mean the same thing, just in our own unique way of explaining.

          I really appreciate you speaking your mind and standing against what you say. Keep that up because that is a quality of a highly effective leader.

          Please do return, keep engaging and keep leading.

          All the best,

          Tom

  2. This resonates with me and my postition currently. I am trying to brigde the gap between communication and connection. Sometimes I have found it is not quite as easy as it sounds. People can be hard to create that connection with, if for some reason in their past they have had issues with a non-effective leader. I have had personal experience with feeling like someone cares like a highly effective leader should, only to find out in a very not so nice way they could really care less about me or my wellbeing, only if I was able to get the job done at that time. Thank you for opening my eyes to more of how a highly effective leader should care for the ones they lead.

    1. Hi Cheyenne,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so pleased that you found the article valuable.

      I appreciate you sharing your personal experiences in feeling the differences between communicating and connecting. The more people who read this article will definitely be able to relate to your insights and can learn some valuable lessons.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  3. Hello Tom, thank you for your post between communication or connection. It’s worth to read such quality article. I always believe that communication and connection are two different things, and those are way different meanings. Also, it motivates people how to connect and communicate to each other, and talk to the world.

    1. Hi Ling,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so pleased you see the difference between communication and connection, and that you have found the article valuable.

      You are right, communication and connection are different things and it’s important as leaders that we know what those differences are.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  4. Hi Tom,

    It is so important to connect with your team. If a boss only communicates his concerns that relate to work but he never asks you how you are, how you are holding up, ar he connects the way you do, then there is no strong relationship, and I personally do not like to work for people like that. I think that leaders who do not connect with their employees probably have a high staff turnover, which is never good for a company …

    1. Hi Christine,

      Thank you for your comment. I couldn’t agree with you more that connecting with your team as a leader is one of the most important things we can do.

      You are so right, relationship building in the workplace is not just about work, it is about being human. It is about getting to know the people you work with on a personal level, that way we can find out their strengths, what fires them up, what energises them, how they like to be led, who is the leader within the team etc. etc.

      It’s great that you acknowledge this like a true leader.

      All the best,

      Tom

  5. That’s why team-building events are an awesome idea. A simple gathering for a barbecue with your team can lead to a massive improvement in connection as well as communication. Some leaders do this often because they are aware of the benefits.

    I’m now working on my own business, and so far, I’m the only employee LOL However, I’m visualizing the future where I’m going to have a team of my own and your article and your experience helps a lot to understand how to improve the connection with the people you work with. Thans a lot Tom!

    1. Hi Ivan,

      Thank you for your comment. It’s great that you find the article helpful.

      I couldn’t agree with you more, team building events are awesome as long as they are conducted in the right spirit. And, we can’t just leave team building at the event, we must work on our team building every day. When you eventually have the team of your own, please reach out to me if you need any further help with it. I am here.

      All the best,

      Tom

  6. Hey Tom, thank you for this wonderful insight into the difference between communication and connecting. And I honestly think that when there is a perfect blend between these two terms in any given organisation there will be some harmony.

    Over the years, I have always had this problem creating that special bond and maintaining that high level of energy with my team members, but i think that if we must move forward, then connecting with the entire team is essential for growth. Thank you for the great post.

    1. Hi Rinelle,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so pleased that you found the article valuable.

      I appreciate you sharing your experiences with your team members as there will be many (including me) who can relate to you and learn from you. You are right, to create that bond we need move further than communication into connection. All we have to do is keep practicing it every day.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  7. I have been a manager in the past and I learned too late that building trust was key in my role.

    I delegated too quickly without taking the time to understand my team.

    This meant that work was not completed to the required standard, and most days I ended up having to correct work already done.

    I can’t agree with you more on the fact that leadership starts with building trust with your team as this can improve communication. socialworkhaven.com

    1. Hi A ekufaa,

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so pleased that you agree with the article and that you found it helpful.

      I was in exactly the same position as you when I took up my first leadership role. I just thought that I had to delegate everything and then wait for the team to come back to me. When actually, it was me who should have went to the team and built the relationship, built the trust and earned their respect.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  8. I found through my years as a freelance software developer leadership skills somewhat lacking when it came to project managers and leaders.

    I found many just struggled in adapting to this role with many only doing enough and not going that extra mile with not connecting the way you describe.

    It takes a certain type of person and some just don’t have it.

    Thank you sharing another great post Tom.

    1. Hi Mick,

      Thank you for your comment. Really pleased you found this article valuable.

      I appreciate you sharing your experiences with us as there will be many who can relate to you (including me).

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  9. Throughout most of my childhood I didn’t have much interest in making connections with people, much less making friends. But as I went through high school, I slowly became more social and started making connections with people. I’ve made a couple of great friends since high school and I always try my hardest to stay connected with them. Unlike what I thought in my childhood, I now firmly believe that making connections with people is very important.

    1. Hi Alejandro,

      Thank you for your comment.

      I really appreciate you sharing your time when you were a child and through school. I was the same, I had friends but I wasn’t that interested in connecting with people. But, it is so important that we do, especially when we are in leadership positions.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

  10. Hi Tom,

    Firstly what a great post and I totally agree with your views!

    Personally I’m a project manager for a signage company up in Norfolk and connecting with our workforce is so important.
    As you mentioned, managers have questions that need answering and if you have a great understanding of the team then you can answer ‘which point a project is’ or ‘how a certain employee is performing’.

    I’ve worked for this company for nearly 13 years, starting as an trainee sign maker, I’ve worked my way up and now manage those who once trained me. Employees come to me before the Business owner and like you say I offer my best advice on how to proceed and take full responsibility.

    I make the time to pop down to the workshop, attend site installations and build that relationship with the team. Asking about their weekend and how the family are doing. If you buy into them, people tend to buy into you!

    Happy teams make for great work ethic!

    Once again great post!

    Damon

    1. Hi Damon,

      Thank you for your very thorough comment. I’m so pleased that you found it valuable and that you agree with my points.

      I am a project manager too and you are so right, it is very important to connect with the team if we want to make the project successful.

      I really appreciate you sharing your experiences with us as I can relate to everything you say. Making time to speak to the team on the factory floor is so important. They need to feel cared for, they need to feel heard and they need to be led. You sound like you are doing just that for them, so keep it up.

      Keep returning, keep engaging and keep leading.

      All the best,

      Tom

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