Empathy is crucial – for understanding others, to wield influence on them or simply, get them to agree to your point of view. It is difficult to have a positive impact on them without understanding or sensing how they feel. I have realised that, it is essential to get ‘personal’ ( though I draw a line to certain limit) with your juniors who report or with customers to whom you want to sell. I do not see much difference in today’s times: even your ‘smart’ juniors are like customers – we need to convince them before asking them to do something as the boss:employee relationship is fading away soon.
Yes, there is short ‘available’ time to prove oneself : the results are required by the management as early as possible in any new assignment and it always involves team effort in order to succeed : so, first, build rapport!
I do this often. Whenever I walk into a customer’s office, the first thing I do is scan the room to pick up on something that the customer is enthusiastic or happy about – that’s where I start my conversation. Many times, during my free time, I make personal visits to my customer: I call them ‘personal visits’ because there is no agenda! I just go to discuss or chat with him and he feels happy and we end up having lunch together. It is a very informal meeting to strengthen relationship. Now, this calls for persuasion skills! After office hours, while on my business tour especially, I spend time with my dealers’ family at his place ( when he invites rather insists) or we go to a tourist spot together. While I was in Kores, I personally knew most of my dealers’ family, children (if any). Unknowingly, the rapport was built.
In case of my juniors reporting to me, many would confide in me their personal problems as I choose to listen to them and offer solutions, if asked for. Persuasion, most important in sales, is further lubricated if we can identify a bond or commonality. While I was in the Middle East, I would go mountain hiking with Denzil ( my customer) on weekends and he would drive me around in his Pajero. I do not think it is a detour from my profile : in fact, it helps in building a good relationship.
I believe in delegation and developing others – while I monitor the team, ‘motivating’ to an extent that my juniors are uplifted and they acknowledge my efforts in gratitude. It is essential to build a ‘consensus’ by engaging in ‘free for all’ discussions. I have also noticed that the dealers in my Kores assignment, were very ‘happy’ when I build personal bonding with them : they would trust me and explain their ‘business’ difficulties sometimes even business secrets willingly.
Let us understand, we are dealing with people and not machines. Leadership is effective only with people skills in plenty. Of course, I do not mean losing focus on the task; what I recommend is : first, build rapport!