Every day people all over North America will collectively spend millions of dollars on birthdays or on specialty days (Valentine's Day) with the purpose of showing their love through the purchase of gifts. These external sentiments are appreciated for the moment, but do not usually carry lasting value. Why? Because these gifts are externally focused and do not centre on the internal needs of the person.
In order to truly make a lasting impact in any personal or professional relationship, the emotional needs of the person must be met. This can only be achieved through quality relationships. I know many men who went out last month and spent hundreds of dollars on lavish gifts for their significant other in celebrating Valentine's Day. It will bring a moment of joy for their loved ones but within days reality set in and the external pleasure of the gift lost its impact. I also know men who did not spend hundreds of dollars on expensive gifts but rather they celebrated the relationship they have with their significant other. Why the difference? In a world that promotes pleasure, status, and wealth, one would think that an expensive gift would be the perfect gesture of love. Maybe... for a day or two.
The truth is that these expensive "gestures of love" do not meet the emotional needs of the person. Emotional needs (feeling safe/secure, significant/valued, loved, etc.) is not found in what we possess in our bank account (or material possessions) but rather in our emotional bank account. The people who 'deposit' (asking questions of interest, giving a complement, encouraging, giving recognition, understanding the needs of others, supporting, giving of time, etc.) into their relationships every day will make the greatest positive impact. In organizations, leaders who 'connect' with their employees will see more fulfilled people in their work and will experience an increase in their performance and productivity. In personal relationships, people who 'connect' with their family/friends will experience increased self-esteem, confidence and fulfillment.
The person who deposits into their relationship with one large deposit (an expensive gift) will have a lesser impact on connecting than the person who deposits daily. Why is this so? Because depositing daily overtime creates a greater return on investment. In the "banking" world they call it compound interest and in the leadership world it is referred to as compounding relationships. The people who deposit daily rather than annually (or rarely) understand that the heart must come before any task. The times that I personally connected with others (versus not connected) always focused on the relationship first.
Once trust and genuine care was developed, I was then able to focus on other things. So what is the major shift that needs to happen in a leader’s mindset? The focus must be on giving first and receiving second. What happens in relationships where one person is consistently "withdrawing" (taking all of your time, asking for help, correcting your behaviour, controlling your actions, dominating the conversation, being needy, etc.) from your relationship more than "depositing" in your relationship? Usually this leads to a major disconnect within the relationship.
Think of a person who you enjoy spending time with or who impacts your life positively. I guarantee you that this person deposits into your relationship more than they withdraw from your relationship. In other words, there is a healthy "balance" in your relational bank account. Now think of a person who you regularly conflict with or a person who you have difficulty connecting with. What does your relational bank account look like? Is there a significant "balance" there? I am sure that this person withdraws more than they deposit. I remember Zig Ziglar once said, "If you give people what they want, you will get what you want?"
Unless we shift our focus from adding value to ourselves to adding value to others we will not see the impact of meaningful and rewarding relationships. In order to add value to others, you first have to understand the needs of the person you are connecting with? Is it to be heard? Is it to receive acts of service? Is it to receive support in the workplace or in the home? Is it to receive a positive affirmation or recognition? Make it a habit to ask yourself every day, "What am I doing to add value (connect) to ________________(insert name here)?" By adding value to your personal and professional relationships you will move from just communicating to connecting. Not only will you see increased engagement and satisfaction but you will be more fulfilled and confident in all of your relationships.
Here are three questions you can ask yourself to determine whether you are communicating or connecting.
In your relationships with those you lead or live with, do you generally ask questions to understand or do you try to be understood?
Do you generally try to find out the person's story, hopes, dreams, or are you all about the task; the end result (focus only on the goal)?
Do you generally listen to what the person is saying or do you focus on what you want to say in the conversation?