How often do you hear people speak with envy about companies with "real heart"? Companies like Starbucks, Ben & Jerry's, Southwest Airlines, Harley-Davidson, Nordstrom, The Container Store, Apple, FedEx, Fossil and Google, to name a few. Outsiders are constantly looking for their "secrets" to success.

The secret lies in the hearts of their teams. That connectedness is what drives extraordinary results. These teams have strong, intangible connections that yield tangible results.

I remember observing a tangible benefit of connections. I was touring the distribution operation of a national retailer that is well known for building highly connected teams. As my host and I approached the receiving dock, I saw a young worker, maybe 20 years old, waving frantically to the truck that was just pulling away from the dock. He got the driver's attention and waved him back to the dock. Then he quickly grabbed a broom and swept out the floor of the rig, then just as frantically waved the driver off as he yelled, "OK, you're good to go. Thanks!"

Since I was there observing their work processes, this intrigued me, so I approached the young receiving clerk and introduced myself. I asked Lance to describe what had just happened. As he puffed, he said, "Well, that truck is headed to our main store where one of my teammates, Ross, is doing a rotation. Ross has a new baby at home and has had a tough few months, plus he just started this new rotation and he's learning the procedures on the store side. Anyway, I just wanted to make it a little easier for him when the truck arrived. This way, you know, he won't have to sweep out the truck on his end."

Now, that's the power of a connected team! This seemingly extraordinary act of service by Lance was actually the norm at this company because its leaders have taken the time to build connected teams. They do it because they, like other inspiring leaders, believe it's the right thing to do. As a byproduct, these connections yield discretionary effort - teams willingly give their extra time and effort to achieve team goals.

Want results tomorrow? Connect with your team today. Most of us are so technologically connected that we could not disconnect if we tried lest we stare down the dark tunnel of technology withdrawals. But I am talking about connecting vs. being connected.

We live in a hi-tech world but leadership is still a high-touch job. At the risk of being accused of being old school (no risk to me as I am nearly ancient to my kids), let me suggest a simple way to create real connections with our teams, and anyone else for that matter. These are the kinds of connections of which winning relationships are made. I call it QC² (sounds pretty hip to me). It's a simple tool to initiate connections - human being to human being.


Asking questions is the least used and most powerful leadership tool you have. Asking questions is selfless and self-serving at the same time. It demonstrates interest in your team while providing you with insights into someone else's world - their motivations, passions, challenges, assumptions and aspirations. Once you ask, make sure you listen. Don't ask if you won't listen - that's the fast track to employee cynicism. Leaders who really connect listen at least 50 percent of the time ... and most of the remaining time they are asking questions. Keep it simple by asking things like:

  • How can I help you?
  • What type of project gets you really excited?
  • When do you feel like you are in the zone?
  • What's one thing you would change to improve your work process?
  • What's your vision for this project?
  • What would you like to do less of?

Common Ground

We spend at least eight hours a day with our teams, so we have plenty of topics in common with them. Find common ground as a platform for building a relationship or even a bridge to mend a relationship. When we really observe, watch, ask, listen, it's easy to find things in common. This is more about our mindset than it is about reality. Consider two people who are at odds and walk away from negotiations as a lost cause. Then a mediator walks in and quickly finds a win-win solution. The contentious parties are focusing on differences while the mediator is focused on commonalities.


We do more for those who appreciate us. As long as our compliments are sincere and meaningful, we can pile them on. A sincere compliment is the quickest way to turn an enemy into an ally, a frown into a smile and resistance into acceptance. Look for things your team members are doing right. In addition, look inside of them to find a trait you admire. Are they punctual? Creative? Well-dressed? Optimistic? Intuitive? Willing to do the right thing? Putting the team before themselves? Serving others in the community? There are abundant opportunities to sincerely compliment your team members for who they are and for the impact they have.

Old school or new school, sometimes the basics work best. Forget about connecting through T1 lines, next generation networks and Wi-Fi. Use QC² to really connect!

Action Questions:

1. Who on my team do I need to really connect with to build a deeper, more productive relationship?

2. Which of the QC² components am I most comfortable using to connect with others?

3. Which QC² component can I try to use more frequently?