THE THREE QUESTIONS EVERYONE IS ASKING ABOUT YOU
Moving from communication to connection
By Elisabeth Boone, CPCU
If you’ve ever attended a Sitkins networking event or producer camp, you’ve felt the intense surge of energy that radiates from Roger and his team as they encourage attendees to ask tough questions and craft solutions.
This past April, Rough Notes went to Cape Coral, Florida, to cover the ProFit Networking event for Sitkins Group members. The one-and-a-half-day session featured panel discussions and interviews with group members plus presentations by Roger and his coaches.
A standout was a presentation by Brent Kelly, a dynamic young coach who, like Roger, creates his own energy field as he offers expert guidance and adroitly engages participants.
Kelly cited his coaching and leadership training with John Maxwell as contributing significantly to the content of his presentation. Maxwell is the author of The 360° Leader and is the founder of a company that provides executive coaching.
Posing “The 3 Questions Everyone is Asking About You,” Kelly explained that agency leaders often struggle to move beyond communicating with employees and clients and establish meaningful connections. “The greatest way for you as a leader to increase your influence is to move from communication to connection,” he asserted. “What does connection mean?”:
- Stronger relationships
- Sense of community
- Enhanced teamwork
- Increased influence
- Productivity skyrockets
Kelly cited a study conducted by Telometrics™ International among 16,000 executives that showed a strong relationship between achievement and connection with subordinates (see the graphic on page 16).
“The purpose of leadership is to add value to others,” Kelly told attendees. “Success comes when we add value to ourselves; significance comes when we add value to others. Everything rises and falls on leadership.”
By now it’s safe to assume that most business executives have read Jim Collins’ seminal 2001 book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … And Others Don’t. Kelly, an ardent Collins fan, shared a favorite observation from the book:
“Those who build great companies understand that the ultimate throttle on growth for any great company is not markets, or technology, or competition, or products. It is the one thing above all others—the ability to get and keep enough of the right people.”
“That starts with connection!” Kelly exclaimed. “This is a huge challenge for all of us, but luckily I learned it at an early age from my mother, who quoted this phrase from Dale Carnegie’s classic How to Win Friends and Influence People: “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still.”
The bottom line? “Stop convincing and start connecting,” Kelly told attendees, adding, “Connecting is as much about an attitude as it is a skill you can develop.
“Why do so many leaders struggle to truly connect with their team, their clients, and their community?” Kelly asked. He suggested three reasons:
- Immaturity. “I have five kids, and at one point I confronted my oldest daughter about the fact that she was behaving as if she were the center of the universe,” Kelly said. “She’s a great kid, and we had a good discussion about the meaning of servant leadership.” Maturity, he explained, “is the ability to see and act on behalf of others. Maturity doesn’t always come with age,” he added, noting that some people live to an advanced age without ever achieving maturity.
- Ego. “When you look at a group photo that you are in, where do you look first?” He cautioned attendees against tuning into radio station WII-FM: “What’s In It For Me?”
- Failure to value everyone. It’s easy for us to discount or ignore people who are not in our social or professional orbit. The networking event was held at a luxurious oceanfront resort on Florida’s Gulf Coast whose marina is home to multi-million-dollar yachts and that boasts a high-end spa and other deluxe amenities. Kelly asked attendees: “What is the name of the woman who cleans your hotel room?” To underscore his point, he added: “You are not in the insurance and risk management business serving people—you are in the people business serving insurance and risk management.”
The three questions
We’ve kept you in suspense long enough: What are those three questions everyone is asking about you?
- Can you help me? I want to grow, improve, advance.
- Can I trust you? Will you do what you said you would do? To illustrate this concept, Kelly used the example of an infant. “For the first six months, the baby values communication over credibility,” he said. “After six months, credibility overrides communication. This is true of our clients, and it’s true of our team members. Credibility is currency for leaders and communications,” he asserted. “You are your message.”
- Do you care for me? Do you value me as a person? Kelly quoted President Theodore Roosevelt: “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care” and the late writer and civil rights activist Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
When others affirmatively answer these three questions about you, Kelly said: “You create deep connections, you increase your influence, and you become a high-level leader. You begin to move yourself and your agency from success to significance.”
Kelly began a roundtable discussion by posing these questions to attendees:
What are the top ways you can show your team/clients/community that you can help them?
What are the key areas that you must improve upon to build greater trust with others?
How can you proactively demonstrate that you truly care about others?
In the lively exchange that ensued, participants shared insights they had gained about themselves and others during Kelly’s presentation and continued to talk among themselves after the session was over. Sitkins took the mic to congratulate Kelly and exhorted the audience against returning to their offices and falling into the trap of one of his famous acronyms: WDB (“Wrote Down Before”), where event attendees jot down the same notes meeting after meeting but never act upon them. Judging from the applause, attendees went home with an abundance of fresh ideas to share and practice.