Connect Before You Collaborate

Connect before you collaborate. Listen before you lead. Partner before you persuade.

Building relationships is not something that chitchatting slackers do to avoid getting real work done. Developing these bonds, in a mindful and meaningful way, is not only part of your job. It is the real work of leadership. Because how else would you make an outsized impact that far exceeds what you could deliver on your own?

I remember having a conversation with the chief technology officer of a public company about influencing, and she described how she had seen too many projects led by great, passionate people fail because they tried to be a lone influencer.

To grasp just how essential relationships are to influencing without positional authority, imagine trying to get anything significant done without them. Let’s say you need someone’s help to move forward with a project that’s at a standstill, but you don’t know that person very well. I hope you’re up for a challenge because here’s what it might take:

• First, you need to convince that person the conversation is worth her time and wrangle a spot on her calendar.

• Then you need to prepare for the conversation and come up with a strategy for pitching your request.

• You’ll need to contemplate what objections the person might raise, how to overcome any concerns, how to persuade her to help you, and what would motivate her to take action. But you don’t know the person yet, so you’ll just have to guess.

You know what’s a lot of hard work? Convincing someone to do something when you don’t have a preexisting relationship. Depending on the person, it can feel like cajoling, pushing, and begging. And pleading ain’t leading.

As a leader, trust is everything. Having a bright idea—even if you’re right—isn’t enough to get people to follow you. You’ve got to gain trust before you can influence.

Connect before you collaborate.

Listen before you lead.

Partner before you persuade.


Adapted from Woman of Influence: 9 Steps to Build Your Brand, Establish Your Legacy, and Thrive (McGraw-Hill) by Jo Miller.

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