As business leaders, it is essential to create business plans and sales strategies to ensure you and your employees focus their time and efforts towards achieving company goals. However, over the past year and a half, uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, politics, and a fluctuating stock market have made business ventures unpredictable. As a result, business owners struggling to predict the next quarter’s earnings are taking less risk.
Despite the drop in sales or performance you may have experienced during this time, the beginning of 2022 may not be the ideal time to double down and focus on increasing those numbers. Pressuring clients to invest in additional products and services when they have experienced similar losses will likely strain your relationship. Instead, this year may be the ideal time to focus on establishing yourself as a trusted business partner with clients and an empathetic leader to employees. The connections you build now will create opportunities for future success.
The Importance of Human Connections
Like much of what you do in the business world, human relationships require an investment. However, this is a wise investment. You trade some of your time now for impressive dividends down the road.
Human connections fill a basic human need to feel a sense of belonging. Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs ranks it among humanity’s most basic needs, including food and shelter. Meeting this need and establishing these connections impacts personal health and wellness, as well as business productivity and outcomes.
- Trust – Human connections naturally engender trust between individuals. This trust allows people to express opinions and ideas freely. It fuels compelling debate and brainstorming that lead to problem-solving and innovation.
- Common Ground – Investing time to get to know others reveals our shared interests, goals, and values. Individuals are more likely to be influenced or persuaded by those they perceive as sharing common ground with them.
- Loyalty and Engagement – Employees who connect with coworkers and managers feel a stronger sense of commitment to the organization. They are vested in the company and have a greater interest in the outcome of projects and initiatives. This cohesive company culture leads to increased productivity.
- Health – While many don’t seek personal relationships at work, those connected to those they work with report lower levels of stress and greater feelings of happiness – both indicators of future health. Social support also correlates strongly with a lower risk of depression and high blood pressure, as well as a lower body mass index (BMI).
As human beings, the process of making connections is the same, whether it be between a manager and a team member, a sales representative and a client, or the head of HR and a recruiter at a staffing company.
1. Sincerely Inquire
Especially during stressful times, seek to find out how individuals are affected. Team leads and managers may be well acquainted with the challenges facing the department or holding up a project. Making human connections requires learning about the effects of trying circumstances on the individuals in each department.
Look beyond the office to the impact on their personal lives – their spouses, parents, children, and other loved ones. Spontaneous inquiries can be particularly fruitful as they illustrate a genuine interest in understanding their unique situation. Find out what tools they have at their disposal to overcome these challenges and offer your assistance where possible.
Do not shy away from opportunities to show vulnerability by sharing your story as well. Shared experiences build connections.
2. Foster Empathy
Many employees check their personal lives at the door, like hanging a coat on the hook. From nine to five, they are all business. However, this approach to business is not beneficial. Individuals who feel their employer cares about their welfare and offers praise for work done well are more productive. The quality of their work is higher, and because they are treated with empathy, they are likely to pass along that same empathy to clients. The attitude engendered by leaders trickles down to the client defining business interactions.
3. Change Your Focus
With your priority refocused on building relationships, you may need to re-examine your definition of success. How will you measure the results of your efforts to establish new connections and strengthen existing ones? You may need to change the KPIs you monitor. Instead of focusing on how many sales you make, perhaps you should monitor the number of new contacts established, customer satisfaction, or employee engagement.
Uncertain times are an opportunity for business leaders to hone their networking and relationship-building skills. After all, the connections between human beings make life and work fulfilling. Companies rise and fall as groups of individuals working towards a common goal, and organizations succeed by meeting the needs of individuals. More often than we think, business-to-business interactions arise from successful human-to-human interactions.