Tips for Expanding and Strengthening Your Network

Last week, I offered tips on overcoming the challenges we face when stepping outside of our comfort zone and receiving feedback on those new behaviors.


This week, we'll continue our EQ journey by examining how high-impact leaders build and leverage strong interpersonal relationships, and why those relationships are essential for success.


After all, systems are only as good as the people and teams designing and operating them!


- Even the best systems require maintenance and upkeep.


Interpersonal EQ is built on authenticity -- You can't fake this.


You cannot imitate leadership, period. You can draw upon lessons from others, but if you try to copy their style or use some "fake it until you make it" approach, you'll fail. Your leadership style will feel forced or contrived which will prevent "buy in".


The roots of authenticity lie in the EQ domain of self-awareness; knowing and understanding your values, your goals, and the "why" that drives them. That self-awareness then guides how we express ourselves and interact with the world.


Strong relationships are, at least in part, the product of our authenticity. Stated another way, the values and goals that guide us - and our ability to express those values and goals - are the foundations upon which relationships flourish.


As our interpersonal EQ improves, so does the potential for mutually beneficial cooperation.


High interpersonal EQ makes high-level communication possible. This simplifies delegation, and allows leaders to achieve deeper understanding and connection. We can illustrate this in two ways.


Trust

Trust is the foundation of any good relationship. Trust also happens to be essential when delegating, and effective delegation is a key element of high-impact leadership.


You can't do it all on your own, so you must proactively develop and leverage your network. This means not just your internal team, but also your external teams and stakeholders - advisors, vendors, customers.


Conversely, consider a time when you've encountered someone who later turned out to be inauthentic or fake. Is that a person in whom you will continue to place ever-greater trust? Likely not.


Better Communication

A colleague told me last week that she began to see a cascade of positive impacts simply from incorporating "the pause" into her managerial style on a consistent basis.


Specifically, she noted how her direct reports brought issues to her in a more timely, proactive manner. In turn, this has meant that small problems get solved before they become large problems.


Self-awareness led to a positive change in her behavior/self-expression. That, in turn, created the opening for her team to positively change its behavior in response.


As a result of that one small change and some refinement, she's created the opportunity for a virtuous cycle of continuous improvement in her organization. Morale is up, and so is performance.


This will not happen overnight, so you must be consistent in your efforts of testing new behaviors, remaining objective to the feedback those behaviors generate, and then modifying and retesting until you reach your desired goal.


- Rehearsal = practice! Practice makes perfect.


How can current and future leaders enhance their interpersonal EQ?


Empathy

Empathy is our ability to view things from another's perspective, and to understand and share their feelings.


A simple way to practice empathy is to adopt a curious posture. "Tell me more" is a simple, but powerful phrase that can help you reach understanding on a deeper level.


From a business perspective, using empathy to gain greater understanding means an improved ability to identify and strategize around root causes of problems, as opposed to just the symptoms.


Active Listening

Active listening is both a component of empathy and a stand-alone skill.


We've all fallen into the common trap of listening to respond, rather than to understand. In this posture we're unable to make an authentic connection with the other person. This inhibits the development of deep, meaningful relationships (full, vulnerable disclosure -- this is something that I've had to work on a lot! But it has paid massive dividends!!).


To become a more active listener, a curious posture is again key. But in addition to what is being said, observe HOW it is being said, and the body language on display. 80% of communication is, after all, non-verbal.


Active listening is a powerful tool in any context - personal or professional. When combined with empathy, it shows concern for both the individual and the issue, and demonstrates a willingness to put effort toward understanding and the development of a solution.


Additional resources for developing and enhancing your interpersonal EQ.


Coaching is a proven, powerful tool for enhancing perspective and increasing EQ. What gets measured gets managed. Ascent's leadership coaching clients establish goals and benchmarks with the added benefit of accountability. This generates clarity and results, faster.


Additionally, I highly recommend the following books. Each contains tactics and real-world examples of their success for building and maintaining a strong interpersonal network.

  • Radical Candor

  • Humble Inquiry

  • Culture Code

For more reading suggestions, be sure to check out the My Ascent Library.


Next week, we'll discuss how this EQ work contributes to improved decision-making and outcomes.



About the Author:


Matt Beckmann is the Founder & Managing Director of Ascent Consultants. In addition to experience as a former Chief of Staff to the Missouri Auditor and as a Corporate Vice President and General Counsel, he has advanced training and certifications in law, business, coaching, athletics, and other disciplines. His blog content, inspired by his deep passion for unlocking his reader's best potential, consistently equips business owners and individuals with the knowledge and resources to overcome obstacles that may be hindering growth.


Ascent Consultants provides business and project management consulting, as well as executive and leadership coaching. By converting client growth goals into an actionable "game plan," we lead companies and individuals to extraordinary outcomes.



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