To connect, or not to connect - a question of leadership?

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Connect, according to the Oxford dictionary means – to make a link …. between one thing and another, between someone and something, between someone and oneself. 

 

Sounds easy, and it can be, unless it isn’t.

 

In instances where you are not feeling good, for whatever reason – who doesn’t get out of bed the wrong side every once in a while? – or maybe your counterpart just found out that their car insurance has gone up – again! – ......    and suddenly something so intuitive, so natural to much of human behaviour, of humanity, becomes a lot more difficult than it might be.

Social psychologists posit that any one person’s identity is made up not only of the personal identity, but also of their social identity, which reflects the groups an individual belongs to and identifies with, thereby satisfying his or her basic need of belonging (Tajfel & Turner, 1979).

 

The need for belonging is also referenced in Maslow’s pyramid (Maslow, 1943). Albeit not brand-new in publication years, these theories remain of interest and in application in psychology and provide a good basis when considering human interactions.

 

So how do you connect, as a manager, maybe a team leader, with that employee, who intuitively seems to know how to press all your buttons?

 

How do you connect with people who may not ‘be your cup of tea’ at first glance?

 

In my experience it pays off in this instances to, as they say in German ‘sweep in front of ones’ own front door’ (maybe that is why it is so clean everywhere in Germany. 😊) and see what you, as a leader, can do to make the first move, ease the tension, and approach the person in question with as much of a "I'm OK, You're OK" attitude as you can muster (T. A. Harris, 1998).

 

(More on that aspect of transactional analysis, a brilliant tool when reflecting on how to deal with others, another time.)

 

One of the reasons this tool is to powerful is that it can put you as a leader in a position where you focus on yourself.  You can focus on what you know is important to you, what values your leadership is founded on, and maybe even have an idea of the reasoning behind why something is bugging you (beyond the feeling of ‘my cheese has been stolen’). 

 

From this position of self-assurance,  it is much more likely that you can build connections from a place of personal strength, without feeling threatened or annoyed by someone else’s behaviour. The ability to accept that even if another person is "ok" for us, their behaviour may be "not ok" for you (also a tenet of T.A.), gives you a whole other playing field on which to connect, and build strong, sustainable working relationships on. 

 

And these connections at eye-level, not only provide us with a satisfying feeling of belonging, they put us in a position where we can flexibly develop new ideas... From a position of confidence, for us and for our counterparts, developing a connection that will benefit both sides. 

 

... and that is important, at any time, and particularly in these divided times. Happy connecting! 

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