Whether it’s maintaining personal health, thriving in a certain situation, reaching goals or organizational performance, leadership requires our reliance both on God and people—the “others” in our circle. We need them. And our outcomes greatly depend on the quality of how those relationships are working.
There are basically four possibilities when it comes to the kinds of relational connections we have in our lives, both personally and professionally. Drawing them into a rectangle, this model forms four corners. The first corner is what I call “no connection,” which happens when we find ourselves with little or no real connection to key individuals in our lives.
This can happen even when we have people around us. While we may be in relationships, both personally and professionally, we find ourselves with little or no connection to them. We are not understood, fueled, built-up, corrected and challenged in the ways that are necessary for thriving.
It could be a marriage, a friendship, a board of elders or directors, a direct report or a team. We need connection and are not getting it, for a variety of reasons.
Connection is broadly defined being able to be who we really are with others who are important to us. And, for them to be who they really are with us.
A connected relationship is honest, loving, kind and true…where we have operatives of “grace and truth” in our lives. We need love and support, but we also need candor and honest help.
Leaders who find themselves in this “less-than-connected” position with someone significant may experience many symptoms—all leading to lesser performance:
- Clinical symptoms, such as depression, energy loss, anxiety or even fear, loss of meaning, burn-out, addictive temptations, etc.
- Relational symptoms, such as feeling as if you are “in it by yourself” (even when there are people around), resentment, aloneness, isolation, loss of meaning and probably the worst one of all: hopelessness.
- Performance symptoms, such as failure to reach goals or one’s full potential, a limping-along unfulfilled vision or actual operational problems leading to poor results.
The first question leaders should ask themselves, is “how connected am I to the people who are crucial to my well-being and performance?” To the degree that we experience a disconnect from the ones who are important to “making it all work,” the more it is “not going to work.”
So, practically speaking:
- Take an honest audit of your key relationships—both personal and professional. How do you rate them? Is there disconnection you need to address?
- Take a look at that list again and evaluate whether you have the right people in your inner circle. Do they have the intent and capacity to provide what you need? Is a “necessary ending” appropriate or possible?
- Going forward, get a plan. It may be an honest conversation about how the relationship feels to you. It could be determining ways to create a more supportive, honest and productive connection. It may be a team-building retreat. Or, it could require getting third-party help from a counselor or mentor.
Living in a state of “no connection” is fatal for leaders.
Examine your life with a vengeance. If you find yourself in a state of “no connection,” do what God always asks us to do: get connected to Him and a key inner circle of people. Jesus did this when he prayed for one-ness with his inner circle in John 17. Find the “one-ness” He wants for you, and that will drive everything else.
Next week, we’ll explore Corner Two: Bad Connection.
Dr. Henry Cloud (GLS 2016, 2013, 2011, 2009, 2005, 1996) is a clinical psychologist, acclaimed leadership expert and best-selling author. He draws upon his experience in business and his background as a clinical and consulting psychologist to impart practical and effective advice for improving leadership skills, personal relationships and business performance.