3 Ways To Connect So You Can Lead With Their Genuine Trust

Common sense dictates that the more your direct reports and teammates see you as a real person, the more engaged they’ll be to follow you.

And yet, a common mistake that new managers and team leaders make is to use a classic command and control leadership style (FYI: image = heartless machine).

More than ever, it is critical for both new and experienced leaders to recognize that before you can lead or even collaborate with someone, you have to connect with them first.

Without connection, there is no trust. Without trust, there is no real engagement.

Older, cynical or even hostile members in your team or project make this a big challenge – an impossible one without trust.

Using the Pixar Pitch technique that Dan Pink introduces in To Sell is Human, here’s a case I recently experienced:

Once upon a time there was an ambitious young project manager who was tasked to create a sales tool to be rolled out across the entire global organization.

Every day, he pushed his team relentlessly to keep the unrealistic deadlines (unclear from start).

One day, worried they were falling too far behind, he escalated the project status to “critical” thus involving upper management.

Because of that, the trust between him and team was badly damaged.

Because of that, the conflict grew and the motivation to move forward shrunk to zero.

Until finally, they managed to successfully roll out a pilot in a few countries but were completely “stuck”… and the big roll-out was still ahead of them.

Click on video to hear more:

How to connect from the start

I believe the above situation could have been avoided with a more human approach to leading the project team.

There is no sure-fire formula for connecting with others. However, your chances of doing it will greatly increase if you apply these human strategies from the very start:

Strategy 1: Get to know your team members personally, and let them get to know you.

Benefit: This creates common ground, mutual sympathy and a solid foundation for a trusting relationship.

Tip: Ask them real questions, listen to their answers and follow-up with information about yourself.


You: “What was the best thing about your holiday on Corsica?”

Direct report: “I really liked the diversity of the island – mountains, forests and tropical beaches”.

You: “That sounds quite diverse. How did you get around the island?”

Report: “We rented a car and drove around the island, stopping at attractive beaches and other sites. It’s also a nice mix of Italy and France – food, culture, language.”

You: “My wife and I have always wanted to visit Corsica. We both love visiting Italy and France. Can I come to you for some tips before we go?”

Report: “Sure, please do.”

The question requires more than a simple yes or no. Personal information helps them get to know you.

Strategy 2:

Seek to understand their goals & aspirations, not just strengths & weaknesses.

Benefit: This shows that you’re personally interested in their development beyond what they can do for you right now. It also creates ownership on their side, a must-have for real motivation.

Tip: Explore options together and co-create a development plan, asking about their current and future goals and aspirations.


You: “How would you assess your public speaking ability?”

Report: “I think I could improve this skill…actually, I’ve been wanting to improve this…”

You: “OK, I also see this as a an area you could improve. How might you develop your skills in this area?”

Report: “Actually, there’s an interesting workshop I’ve been looking at…”

You: “What would be realistic option to develop this skill right now? How can I support?”

They tell you want they need and want to improve, not the other way around (key to ownership!). You are there for support and guidance.

Strategy 3:  Collaborate like they are partners, not followers.

Benefit: If they feel like a partner, they’ll be motivated to give 100%.

Tip: Look for opportunities to consult with them and make decisions together (e.g. co-creating development plan – see strategy 2).


You: “I know you have experience in this area, I could really use your input on this. Could you brief me on an effective course of action here?”

Report: “Sure, I’d be happy to. And you know what else I…”

Acknowledge their knowledge and expertise and you will for sure spark their interest and motivation.


As illustrated in these tips & strategies, in order to go fast, you need to start out slow.

It takes time to build real, genuine trust. But once you have it everything else will fall into place.

Rule of thumb: Connect first, lead and collaborate second.

Here are 3 “actionable” tips to help you live this rule:

  1. Share personal information to show your human side, including your challenges, fears, etc.
  2. Always offer your support, even if only in the form of creative brainstorming.
  3. Ask for their help, don’t order them (even if you have the direct authority).

This will improve the quality of your relationships and the quality of your collaboration.


Which of these strategies have you tried? What tip can you add to mine?


  • Maria Maragudakis

    Reply Reply July 10, 2015

    Tim, I love your 3 strategies. and as always when reading your posts I love to internally articulate them, as they are so straight to the point.

    Be HUMAN. Go to the core (PASSION). BE partner & BE friendly.

    Yet, I believe if we RE-learn to live/ act naturally, acting intuitively, from our very nature, without training, without How Tos or strategies,
    just by BE-ing oneself, “strategies” are redundant, not needed any more.
    There will be a natural flow, in harmony, with grace, fluid, no effort.
    lots of energy bursting…

    • Tim Nash

      Reply Reply January 4, 2016

      Agreed – an effortless & flowing “being” without strategies is the ideal state to achieve! Thx for sharing, Maria.

Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field