I recently read that Lyndon Johnson believed that it was better to give 5-minute speeches that allow for 15 minutes to connect with the audience afterward, rather than 15-minute speeches that only allow for 5 minutes to connect with the audience afterward.*
This is a brilliant thought. Shaking hands, looking into people’s eyes, and making conversation, always outweighs the talk. What, after all, is more memorable? My dad still tells about the time that he saw John F. Kennedy’s motorcade drive by in downtown Elgin in 1960, and saw the campaigning Kennedy through the window. I’d imagine that Kennedy gave a talk somewhere in downtown Elgin that day, but most people don’t remember what he said. They remember being there, however, because even the slightest connections outweigh prepared talks.
Connecting may be the skill that differentiates good from great leaders in the twenty-first century. We live in a world that is more connected digitally, and less connected in reality, than arguably any modern time. For the leader, this means we had better learn how to connect.
Connecting means walking the manufacturing floor, looking people in their eyes, and asking them how things are going. It means huddling in a basement to study the Bible, and developing the kind of trust that allows people to quit pretending that they have life figured out. It means turning the phone off long enough to give undivided attention to the kids.
It means date nights with your spouse.
And back to work, it means intentionally taking time to talk with people about THEIR lives.
Finally, it means face-to-face meetings are indispensable because they force people to sit together and talk, rather than emailing or texting.
It is the leader’s job to create space for connecting.
*While Johnson’s point was around connecting, much can also be said for brevity. Hence, you will notice that my goal is to keep each post under 300 words. The post above was 291 words, but who is counting?