Helping Your Leaders Learn to Connect Better

The right skills your leaders must develop to help transform their employees.

How are your leaders doing in really connecting with their employees? Do they even know how staffers are feeling about today’s changing workplace?

Martha Bird, business anthropologist from ADP’s Innovation Lab and author of “Remaking the Workspace to Boost Social Connection,” stated:

“…People need to feel respected, valued, and acknowledged, and this comes down to how we relate to one another as individuals. Positive interpersonal relating is at the core of our sense of self.

The most successful managers will be those who demonstrate genuine curiosity about what employees find meaningful. And it can start with five words: ‘Tell me what you think.’ There is no compensatory substitute for building positive human connection—and no action is more powerful than paying attention.”

Chief Executive magazine looked at the key talent and leadership trends for 2022. It saw that today’s leaders will need to be proactive in developing deeper connections within their organizations.

This concern for leaders to better connect with employees was identified as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the perpetual videoconference meetings that have emerged. If nothing is done about creating healthier connections, leaders fear seeing employees retreat into their silos, or worse still, exiting the doors of their companies.

Learning and Development (L&D) needs to help leaders hone their skills to become better active listeners. They need to follow the late Stephen R. Covey’s famous mantra, “leaders must learn to seek first to understand.” At the same time, this need for connection is everyone’s responsibility—not just that of leaders. For that to happen, though, leaders must not only emulate connecting activities, they also must inspire employees to behave the same way.


Development Dimensions International provides insight for improving interaction skills for next-generation leaders. These young and emerging leaders will need education and coaching on how to effectively communicate and interact with others. It is also essential that they learn how to demonstrate greater empathy and other skills associated with Emotional Intelligence.

David Rock, the cofounder of the NeuroLeadership Institute, recommends that leaders wanting to retain their very mobile employees should focus on what they can control and then work with employees to make their lives better.

From what Rock observed, leaders have been too preoccupied with trying to survive a diminishing workforce. He believes leaders have been focused on asking, “How can we retain our top talent and not burn people out?” They are trying to rectify a depleting, exiting workforce and sustain an unchanging culture.

To correct this, he suggests figuring out the answers and solutions to two questions:

1. How do we make people better off by working with us?

2. How can they get smarter, healthier, and wealthier during their time here?

Leaders must learn how to enrich the lives of their employees. Some basic practices include:

  • Have remote employees turn off their computers at the end of their workday.
  • Ensure virtual meetings have a time when people can chat and respond to personal questions.
  • Hold leaders accountable for having regular two-way, one-on-one sessions with their direct reports.


Employees want leaders who will listen carefully to their needs and concerns. They want to know their leaders truly care about their health and well-being and that of their immediate family.

Organizations and their operating systems are getting more and more complex. This means leaders must develop a more simplistic and humane approach to change. They must prioritize and give meaning to the future direction they want to lead their people to. They must translate that vision into action-oriented behaviors that become these essential habits. Finally, leaders need to create systems and processes to help reinforce and recognize people who display these behaviors.

Roy Saunderson, MA, CRP
Roy Saunderson, MA, CRP, is author of “Practicing Recognition” and Chief Learning Officer at Rideau Recognition Solutions. His consulting and learning skills focus on helping companies “give real recognition the right way wherever they are.” For recognition insights, visit: For more information, e-mail him at: or visit: