New York City. Manhattan. The Big Apple. Do you prefer the concrete jungle or the farm? Do you prefer the hustle and bustle of the city or the peace and quiet of the farm? A few days ago, I took my family to Manhattan. We did a few of the “touristy” things together and then I split off. It was fun. I enjoyed some of the tourist spots – for a while. But then I headed off to Soho and Greenwich Village for a change of pace. It was great!
I hit a couple of the local parks. Watched live music. Witnessed a young man propose to his fiancé (yes, she accepted!). And generally watched as people enjoyed their afternoon. The weather was beautiful. Sunny and in the high 70s with a light breeze. People were out. Walking. Reading. Skateboarding. Riding bikes. Talking. Playing chess. Eating outside. Stretching out on the grass. Splashing in the fountain. It was an idyllic afternoon full of great memories.
At one point, I ended up at a local coffee spot and struck up a conversation with a couple other patrons and the barista. I spent close to two hours talking with a young trader (an intern actually) from Chicago, a barista who’d grown up in Russia and a businessman from Singapore. We talked about global politics, soccer, the US presidential election and a number of other topics. The conversation was easy and natural as we flowed from one topic to another and back again. It was a great way to spend a portion of my afternoon.
Enjoying a talk with strangers was not always so easy for me. I’ve always liked people but it wasn’t always easy for me to talk with people I didn’t know. It’s taken practice. I’ve had to work at it and get out of my comfort zone. Travel has helped. Increased confidence has helped. Trial and error (and the associated learnings) has helped. But I’ve had to work at it.
Some of you may find it easy to talk with strangers. Others, not so much. Regardless of your mix of extroverted and introverted behavior, some of you hesitate to talk with others. You find it hard to connect, to relate. I get it. It’s not always easy or comfortable.
As a leader, it’s important to connect with others, to talk with strangers, to find a common bond. Whether you’re connecting with another executive, a parent, an employee, a customer, a stranger or a potential customer, your success is, in many ways, related to your ability to connect with others. And great leaders know how to talk with people.
The first key is to recognize the value of talking with people from all backgrounds, geographies, races, ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds. The second key is to work at it. Develop your skills. Increase your confidence. Practice. Read about how to do it better. Take a course. The more skilled you become at connecting with others, the more effective you’ll be. Great leaders know how to talk with people.
You may never be an extrovert and you may never be a global adventurer, but you can learn how to talk with people. And as your skills in this area increase, so will your value and effectiveness to your organization, community or team.
As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.
Dr. Robert Gerwig is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.
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