Sage advice can go a long way. In fact, some of the most accomplished people in business suggest that their success is due in part to good advice. We asked some ITA Group executive leaders about memorable advice they received early in life and how it taught them to connect with the people around them.
Humility is often an undervalued trait in today’s society; however, it should be looked at more often when looking for leaders. My father taught me at a young age the importance of being humble. Often it was the go-to topic whenever we would watch sports together. In fact, it was so important to him that he would often pick which team he would root for based on which team had the most humble players. But he didn’t just talk about being humble—more importantly, he demonstrated it in how he connected with people.
Humble leaders inspire teamwork and high performing work environments. They also tend to be better listeners as they understand there is always room for improvement and value the thoughts of others. Lastly, humble leaders do a great job of recognizing the performance of others. In this battle for talent where it is going to be increasingly important to find ways to attract, develop, and retain talent, humble leaders will become more sought after.
—Brent Vander Waal, President and Chief Operating Officer
Empathy Fuels Connection
The best advice is empathy—put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Expect that people are going through things that you don’t know about. Try to see the world from their perspective even if you don’t agree with them.
Translating to business, I think about negotiations. I was always taught that negotiating is just like playing cards—everyone is dealt a hand, and we all have to play the cards we’re dealt. Don’t always assume the other person has a better or worse hand. Ultimately, it’s never about winning or losing it’s about maintaining your dignity and your respect for others.
Combine empathy with a smile, presence and genuine curiosity, and you will connect and relate with more people on deeper levels.
—Rob Danna, Senior Vice President – Sales and Marketing
Communication Beyond Words
Connecting with people requires doing more listening than talking. One needs to consider what’s underneath the words being spoken and yet unsaid. I do my best to appreciate the possibility in others and be curious about what’s important to them. Once those connections are made, I find it easier to relate, partner and support others. One of my favorite authors is John C. Maxwell. In his book, Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, he shares some great advice that sticks with me when choosing to connect with others.
“Good communication and leadership are all about connecting. If you can connect with others at every level—one-on-one, in groups and with an audience—your relationships are stronger, your sense of community improves, your ability to create teamwork increases, your influence increases and your productivity skyrockets.”
Connecting is the ability to identify with people and relate to them in a way that increases your influence with them. Connecting requires answering three questions that people always ask themselves when interacting with others:
- Do you care for me?
- Can you help me?
- Can I trust you?
You need to be sure your communication goes beyond words, by connecting on four levels: visually, intellectually, emotionally and verbally.
As leaders and communicators, our job is to bring clarity to a subject, not complexity. And clarity, remember, begins with understanding.
—Carrie Valster, Vice President – Client Services
Share Your Knowledge
Starting with my very first job, I learned the value in doing the hard stuff that nobody else wants to do. Some of the best bosses I’ve ever had taught me to lead by example—not just in asking someone to not do something I wouldn’t do, but all the way to my day-to-day behavior. I want people to feel I am consistent in my approach and decision making. It shouldn’t feel like they will get a different answer based on my “mood” that day.
I also see a lot of value in people knowing the real me. I have many of the same struggles and challenges as my team. I want them to feel supported not only in their professional life but in how I can help them personally as well. Some of the best advice I ever received was to share my knowledge. Job title doesn’t matter; I believe someone else should know how to do my job. Not only is it a development opportunity for someone but also the responsible thing to do for the company.
—Sarah Haines, Vice President – Event Management
Listen and Share Your Happiness
Narrowing it down to just one thing isn’t easy—that’s why I’ve chosen two. But at the root of each is the same message: treat others the way you’d want to be treated.
“You can learn a lot by listening.” It’s so simple that it could easily be a Yogi Berra quote. But I have found that a lot of people are genuinely horrible at listening—and this is such a missed opportunity! People love to talk about themselves. Take the time and make the effort to actively listen to them. Ask questions and show them you care about what they have to say. The more you learn, the more you’ll find you have in common.
When you lead with a smile, you’re letting others know you’re in a good mood (approachable) and show others that you care. Gratitude and kindness will never go out of style. Be consistently kind, even to those who can’t do anything for you—and especially to those who don’t deserve it. When kindness is your core, you build real friendships that are way more fulfilling than business relationships.
—Tim Heaston, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
Kindness Goes a Long Way
The best pieces of advice that stuck with me were to be kind and never expect more than you are willing to give. Both of these tips help me better relate to people and be invested in those relationships. I love being around people and getting to know how they think, exchange thoughts and opinions, and see the world. In most anything that’s important there is work to keep it thriving. I’ve found leading with a kind heart and investing in others is sound advice.
—Maura McCarthy, Vice President – Communication Solutions
Want to take the next step and start making strong connections with your team members? Check out how you can create meaningful interactions that will connect your employees in our ebook, Fostering Human Connections in the Workplace.