What outstanding leaders can teach us about connecting with people

Early in my career, I learned some important lessons from my boss about connecting with people. Everyone who worked for him would go the ‘extra mile’ for him, me included. How come? 

I won’t embarrass him by mentioning his name, but he had a great capacity to connect with people and get the best from them. 

Here are three lessons I learned from observing him. 

Lesson #1 – Take an interest in people

Everyone has a story to tell. 

He took an interest in our personal and professional challenges, successes, obstacles, concerns. 

I don’t know how he did it, but he had an uncanny knack of remembering people’s names and important details, like what our children were studying. 

He was genuinely interested in our personal situation, as much as our career objectives.

Lesson #2 – Respect others

Whenever my boss asked me to do something important, he always said please respectfully.

‘I know you’re busy, but could you please take on this project?’ he would say. 

When I delivered the result, he would say, ‘Thank you for getting it done, particularly given everything else you have on your plate. I really appreciate it.’ 

Saying please and thank you sounds simple, but it has a profound effect. 

Lesson #3 – Believe in people

People often struggle with their fears and self-doubt. 

Outstanding leaders see beyond what an individual can see for themselves. 

My boss believed in me more than I believed in myself at that time and challenged me to step up. 

When I surprised myself by finding some new capability, he resisted the temptation to say, ‘I told you so!’

Future demand 

Leaders with social skills, like my old boss, are increasingly in demand according to research published in the HBR article, The C-Suite Skills That Matter Most.

The researchers reviewed nearly 5,000 C-suite job descriptions and found companies have significantly redefined the roles of C-suite executives over the past two decades. 

Companies are still seeking traditional capabilities like management of financial and operational resources. But when they search for top leaders, they place less importance on those capabilities and instead prioritise one qualification above all others: strong social skills.

The authors say, ‘Landing a job as a CEO today is no longer all about industry expertise and financial savvy. What companies are really seeking are leaders with strong social skills.’ 

🙋 How do leaders develop their social skills in your view? 🙋‍♀️

Best regards, Brian

PS: Get in touch if you would like to explore how coaching could help you develop your social skills.