Business leaders are the ultimate multitaskers. Whether you’re directing a meeting or putting out a fire, you’re likely juggling multiple priorities at once. Out of everything on your plate, though, one task should always be top priority:

Creating connections.

Connection-building truly is the foundation of your role. Leaders need to connect with employees, customers and other leaders to maintain the core of their businesses—even when things get hectic. Here are some key ways to become a leader who connects with others.

Stay Visible Online

In 2021, there’s no excuse for fading into the background of your business. Online media gives leaders a voice, making it easier than ever to connect with others. Post on social media, write content for industry blogs and explore podcasting. Staying visible shows your employees, associates and customers that you’re not only present—you’re engaged.

Remember that creating content is a two-way street. This is where the real connection comes in. Use these platforms to start conversations with your audience and be sure to respond. Even a few minutes per day replying to comments can boost your brand.

Battle Your Busy

Building connections takes time. So you need to make the time for it. It’s easy for leaders to get in a pattern of putting their employees and customers on hold to attend to this task or that one. But remember, you’re always going to be busy. Leaders can combat the hustle by carving out uninterrupted time in their schedules to connect with others.

A morning coffee meeting or five-minute standup can be enough for employees and fellow leaders to feel heard. You can also encourage colleagues to book time on your calendar for longer check-ins. As for clients, occasional phone calls and lunches can encourage meaningful conversation.

While you don’t need to tear up your to-do list, making time for these touchpoints will build and maintain your connections.

Get Personal

It can be tempting to resort to surface-level conversations when meeting new people. They’re safe, digestible and easy to replicate. But one-dimensional back-and-forths only go so far. At happy hours and webinars alike, you need to get personal to build lasting connections.

So what might making these personalized connections look like? Consider starting with relatable narratives from your own life. Then ask personal (yet appropriate) questions. Getting real about your fears, failures and joys will encourage others to do the same.

Learn What’s Important

What do your customers actually care about? How about your employees? If you can’t answer that question, you might not be truly connecting with them. When you know what your clients, employees and fellow leaders care about, you’ll know how to best serve them. So don’t hesitate to ask.

Schedule monthly one-on-ones with your employees to get to know their minds. Talk about their values, challenges and goals. Send out surveys to customers, and take your business associates to lunch. Taking time for genuine conversations will give you the information you need to be a better leader.

Engage With New Clients

Your rock-solid sales team is doing the legwork to onboard clients. But the early stages of these partnerships offer prime opportunities for building connections. As a leader, you’ll want to be part of making this first impression.

Connecting with clients means strengthening one-to-one relationships. Small gestures like sending gifts and remembering personal details can go a long way. Even if your account managers cover the bulk of communications, try to make occasional phone calls to check in. You’ll fortify client relationships by representing your business in a positive and authentic way.

Commit to Your Culture

When it comes to culture, leaders need to walk the walk. Your company’s culture will define the way you connect with others in your organization. Leaders have an opportunity to create a culture of kindness, openness and trust.

Culture changes won’t happen overnight. As a leader, you’ll need to make small changes to build a culture of connection. Slack or another messaging platform can help.

An all-office channel will keep you up-to-date on everything from new babies to deaths in the family, allowing you to reach out in a caring way. A “new and good” channel will provide openings to celebrate your team’s professional and personal wins. Consider hosting book clubs or workshops on topics like empathy. Over time, these efforts will begin to make their mark.

Be Transparent

The benefits of transparent leadership are significant. Being open about positive and negative business happenings keeps your employees in the loop. It also fosters connections across the board. As a transparent leader, you’re keeping employees, fellow leaders and customers on the inside—which will make them more likely to be transparent with you in return.

Much like getting personal, being transparent can be challenging—especially when you want to maintain a sparkling business image. However, by owning your mistakes and shortcomings, you’re showing your human side.

Through transparency, your organization will become a well-connected community that solves problems, rather than hiding them. As a result, your customers will better relate to you and your business.

You’ve worked hard to hone your skills as a leader. But few skills are as meaningful as the ability to forge genuine connections. When you maintain personal relationships with employees, customers and associates, you’ll run a people-first organization. And your business reputation will precede you.

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