In an effort to forge stronger connections among his team, a leader once observed that “we don’t even know the stories of the people on our team”, and wondered about the possibility of getting employees to share their stories somehow.
While I admired his intention - to bring people closer together - this sounded to me like a short cut.
For one thing, it’s hard to share your story. We only know things through our own eyes, but have difficulty understanding how others have perceived us, especially under challenging circumstances. You can’t form tight connections merely by publishing a collection of (most likely sanitized) stories.
True connections are forged under pressure. They are built upon a foundation of trust. It’s easy to help people when they are riding high. For example, if you are president of a company, every job seeker and subordinate will try to help you. But how many of those people would also help if you lost your job?
Imagine that you are in the fight of your life to turn a company around. Who among your team will work by your side every morning until 3, and who will cut out at 7 p.m. to grab dinner and a movie? Both may seem nice, but only one cemented a relationship with you by standing shoulder-to-shoulder when the situation looked both overwhelming and bleak.
People are thirsty to form stronger connections; it’s what nearly everyone wants. But there are no short cuts, whether you are trying to lead, follow, or just be a better friend.
Business - and life - is a roller coaster. The ups are fun and the downs are not. You form connections by staying together through many cycles of this journey.
I’m sharing these words with you partially to remind myself that service to others - putting their mission and needs first - is how I aspire to live. Although this has long been my priority, in the rush of day-to-day life, we all sometimes forget what matters most.
For example, as a leader, you may want to be there for your team, especially when they face times of need. But what happens when that time of need coincides with multiple obligations on your part? Will you still make time to help, even if it intrudes on your family, fitness, and work obligations?
There are no easy answers, no quick solutions.
Here’s what I know for sure: the more you prioritize the needs of others, the stronger your connections with them will be.