Recently I read Lamont Dozier’s book, “How Sweet It Is.” Dozier is one of the most gifted songwriters and producers of our time, with over 50 No. 1 hits to his credit(!).
One of the principles for songwriters in his book is to find an “emotional connection to your subject. If it doesn’t resonate with you, it’s probably not going to resonate with someone else.”
That’s a vital characteristic of effective leaders, too. Our best bosses engaged with us on an honest, personal level. They cared for us and for the work we were doing. They had an authentic emotional connection with us.
The problem is that common leadership practices today rely on antiquated Industrial Age command-and-control thinking. Too few leaders engage from an authentic emotional connection. Some leaders perceive “emotional connection” as a sign of weakness. Others perceive it as irrelevant to getting stuff done.
When leaders disrespect, demean and discount the ideas, efforts and contributions of employees daily, the lack of authentic emotional connection is blatant.
The only way leaders can create and sustain a work culture where good comes first — where employees are treated respectfully and are validated for their contributions — is to embrace authentic emotional connection.
To attract and retain talented, engaged team members in today’s pandemic-brutalized economy, treating employees with respect is expected by employees.
To demonstrate an authentic emotional connection with their team leaders and team members, leaders must communicate, demonstrate and validate these three things:
- First, respect. Respect is the foundation of effective, honest relationships. Start by honoring the knowledge, skills, passion and commitment employees bring every day.
- Second, integrity. Being truthful and honest, even when the news is not good, builds upon that positive, respectful foundation. Employees deserve transparency from leaders about strategy, operations, finances and opportunities — every day.
- Third, optimism. Optimism is a tendency to look at the more favorable side of conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome. When leaders are proactively optimistic, they help build confidence in the business, the plan and one’s peers — and they inspire engagement in their work.
These three strategies can help you build an authentic emotional connection and lead a “good comes first” work culture.
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