I’ve  heard that Chick-fil-A says they’re in the people business, not the chicken business. That should be said of all leaders, regardless of what kind of organization or business they are in. All real leaders are in the “People Business.” Dan Rockwell shares 7 ways to master the most important leadership skill—connecting with people.

Originally published by Dan Rockwell

Intimidation is about reward and punishment. Leading is about connecting.

The ability to connect with people is the magic ingredient that multiplies every leadership practice.

Your brain is wired to connect. (Social)

Those who connect go further.

Those who detach become arrogant. (Mintzberg)

7 ways to master connecting:

#1. Don’t manipulate responses.

Skillful connectors don’t use overstatement to solicit respect or sympathy. Allow people to respond naturally. Accept natural responses, even if they’re surprising.

#2. Know the difference between disagreement and being wrong.

Everything is black and white to a closed mind.

Skillful connectors acknowledge other points of view and offer alternatives without belittling others.

#3. Respond with curiosity to correction, feedback, and disagreement.

Connectors lean in when their feelings get hurt. Hurt feelings aren’t the end of the world.

Your spontaneous response to correction might be defensiveness, but skillful connectors learn to explore instead of defend.

#4. Speak clearly with kindness.

Ambiguity builds fake connections, but being direct doesn’t have to be a slap in the face.

Aggressive communication is designed to silence dissent.

Clarity builds fulfilling connections between adults.

You don’t connect when you silence others.

#5. Don’t be touchy.

Everyone dances around thin-skinned leaders.

You can’t connect with a person who over-reacts.

#6. Set people free.

Connectors don’t paint people into small corners. Your opinion of someone is an opinion, not fact.

Connectors stay open.

#7. Validate emotions.

Connectors don’t fix the way people feel. They acknowledge it.

Our grandson threw an interception during his football game. I didn’t want him to feel bad, but it’s better to acknowledge that he did. I said, “I bet you didn’t get up this morning planning to throw an interception. I don’t blame you for feeling bad.”

What helps leaders connect?

What blocks connection?