Entrepreneurship is more about building a business than inventing a product. It's more about the quality of the execution, rather than the quality of the idea. Most importantly, it's more about being a proactive leader who connects to customers and the team deeply, rather than a bright light that struggles to be seen amidst the glare of a million other bright lights.
Achim Nowak, noted business coach and author, in his recent book "Infectious: How to Connect Deeply and Unleash the Energetic Leader Within," talks about how technology today allows entrepreneurs to communicate at a furious pace. They exchange more emails, texts and tweets every day. Yet many know less and less about how to really connect, and get people to commit to their business or product.
I've seen this all too often in my own work with startups. More noise always means more hours a day working, but it doesn't necessarily mean more business or more productive connections. Nowak talks convincingly about how successful entrepreneurs connect deeply with others at the highest of four levels, with less effort and more results:
- Level one: Talk at the social level. Talk is the first of four levels of communication. It is the surface of many business experiences, and some people never get beyond this level of relationship. They don't engage with a measure of skill and ease at this level, which inhibits any resonation at a deeper level. You need to move past this level quickly.
- Level two: Connect through personal power. Every entrepreneur has personal knowledge and strengths which can get them past the social level in connection. These should include professional position, existing relationships, specific expertise, professional appearance and passion for your cause or business. Use them effectively.
- Level three: Shape the intent of the connection. Great connectors don't just fall into conversations, they carefully shape them with conscious intent and tone. Action verbs are key to creating powerful intents, and they unleash forward-moving velocity. Don't waste your precious time, or theirs, on long boring conversations at lower levels.
- Level four: Energy conquers all. Energy and passion is the realm where all resonating connections truly unfold. If an entrepreneur doesn't have it, or doesn't show it, he or she will never be able to build deep connections and commitments from customers, partners or team members. Everyone recognizes the visible and verbal queues of energy.
Entrepreneurs who understand how to connect with people on all four levels are able to shape conversations with effortless grace and create infectious connections that are the key to business success in this age of relationships.
For many business people, the hardest part of establishing relationships effectively is dumping old habits, and learning to ignore some old myths and common beliefs. Here are a few of the things you probably need to unlearn, according to Achim, for better business as well as social connections:
- You need to find common ground fast. Common ground is, in many ways, a wonderful thing, but is irrelevant when it is forced. Take your time to discover common ground, and relish the many things that you do not have in common.
- Avoid charged topics. In today's media-saturated world, being comfortable discussing current and controversial topics is critical. In business, having the confidence to disagree, explore points of conflict and learn new points of view builds real relationships.
- Don't show the cracks. In reality, not taking any risks in showing the personal cracks guarantees that you will be viewed as a business robot that nobody really wants to work with. The power of a vulnerable moment is a powerful connection.
- Don't get stuck with a loser. Some business people are so busy looking for the right connection, afraid of losers, that they are never really in any relationship. It is far more powerful to really connect with a few key people than to skim the surface with many.
- I will, I will, I will be perfect. The notion of perfection negates the wonders of all that is not perfect, such as the beauty of an awkward moment, the thrill of the unrehearsed encounter and the delicious learning of solving a business problem.
Today, more than ever, people buy based on connections, and commit based on relationships, no matter how great the technology is behind your product. In addition, we are all human, and we need good relationships to be healthy and happy. Maybe it's time to take a hard look at your people connections, and use these tips to kick your results up a notch.