By Laura Kitto, DWC VP of Human Resources - An HR professional for almost 20 years, Laura Kitto has a passion for creating strong work cultures that maximize the abilities of people and create healthy, happy work environments
Wondering if the work you do at your electrical distributor makes a difference? If you are a leader (and remember a “leader” doesn’t mean that you supervise others), you exemplify the right instead of the wrong. Leaders are accountable to themselves, others, and the company. Leaders seek out the opportunities to do and be better and make a difference for others. So, if you are a leader, sometimes you may wonder if what you are doing makes a difference. Well, I am here to tell you…. it depends. Ha, not what you were expecting, I know. In reality, you always make a difference. It’s just what kind of difference do you want to make? One easy way to make a positive difference is simply through building connections. The really great thing about this idea is that it doesn’t take that much time, effort, resources, or special skill. You don’t have to learn to extract data, write code, or even be someone you are not. You don’t have to go to your boss with a proposal asking for money either. The answer is at your fingertips. Here at DWC, we have been exploring what building connections is all about. We feel building connections is the first pillar in creating a truly exceptional employee experience, which makes a difference in our culture, employee engagement, and outcomes – including our ability to serve electrical distributors, So, what does building connections mean and how does it help make a difference for you as a leader? All good questions. There are 2 key areas we should explore for building connections.
Building Connections as a Leader
When you build connections with others, truly magical things can happen. A bond of trust is formed which creates an environment where people want to work hard for and with you. They will go the extra mile without even being asked. When you have a strong connection with the people you work with, there is a shared investment in success; therefore, their actions will be ones of support, beautiful candor, creative, and results-oriented. This trust that is formed when building connections makes it easier in tough times, makes those hard conversations not seem so daunting, and helps facing reality together a little nicer. The easiest way to better performance is simply to build better connections with those around you.
How? Just be yourself and take a little time to get to know others better. You don’t have to like everyone you work with. You don’t even have to like the same things, but you do need to be able to connect with each and every person if you want to create an environment of trust and success. Here’s what you can do: Ask questions. Simple enough, but I don’t mean, “Did you have a good weekend?” I mean, “What was one great thing that happened this weekend?” and then ask for more. Ask more in-depth questions based on their answer and remember to actually listen, which allows you to follow up about something they said in later conversations. In today’s current environment, I hear people often talk about the latest show they are binge-watching and that’s a good start but don’t hesitate to ask deeper questions. What do they like about the show? How does it relate to their own life? You are looking for some small common ground to jumpstart your connection.
If they are not a person that opens up very well, and we all know people like this; you may be one of them, you may have to put yourself out there first. Tell people who you really are. What are your passions? What keeps you up at night? What is something kind of funny about you that others don’t really know? Once you start sharing a little more about you, others will follow. This part is easy because only you are a subject matter expert on you.
Maybe you don’t want to start with personal stuff and you like to keep things a little more professional. First, I would say, the people you work with are a part of your life and a part of what makes or breaks a company, so….. you really need to learn to get comfortable with going beyond the surface level if you truly want to build connections. While it’s ok to talk about what is going on at your electrical distributor, don’t be afraid to venture beyond that. You can even be up-front about what you are doing; “Hey, I would really like to get to know you a little better. Do you mind if we just talk for 5 minutes?” Give it a try. If it seems awkward at first, keep at it. People will get used to you operating this way and will open-up more and more.
Building Connection to a Purpose
Whether it’s the company purpose or something smaller like the purpose of a particular project, the outcomes you are looking for will be so much more fruitful if people have a connection to it. Here’s the key, you must identify the purpose first and foremost. Depending on your role, you may be in charge of helping identify or promote the purpose for the company, department, or specific project. Maybe your role allows you to only identify what your own purpose is. Once you have the purpose identified, then you can start building connections to that purpose and help people understand what they do matters. Having a clear purpose, ensures people are working on the right things, provides meaning to work, and creates a sense of belonging.
How do you build a better connection to purpose? If you are a supervisor, ensure it is a part of your 1:1 conversations and connect goals to the purpose of the project, department, or company. Find out what’s important to your people and figure out ways to connect their work and what they care about to the purpose. When talking to peers or your supervisor, discuss how your actions relate to the purpose. Making the purpose a regular part of conversations and team meetings will keep people engaged and connected. If everyone is working together in the same direction, your chances of seeing the right outcomes are much greater than if people are isolated and no one knows if what they are doing really matters. This was my very first question to you. If you wonder if you are making a difference, just ask if you are working on the right things that connect to the purpose you share with others at your electrical distributor.
Building connections doesn’t take a specific skill, it just takes a little focus. People flourish when they’re connected to each other and the purpose behind what they do at work. Help build those connections, regardless of your role, to make a positive impact!