The Skills of Connection
If you want to operate a business, any business, but especially a coaching business, your ability to connect with people is a key skill that you need to learn. I want to share some insights on the skills required to build connections and some tips on how to become better at connecting with prospective and actual clients.
What is Connection?
Connection is the attachment and relationships we form with others. It is essential to human survival, and it helps us feel aligned with ourselves and others.
Connecting with others helps us to build trust and rapport – and these are two VERY important criteria for someone to buy from you.
In this episode, I’ll talk about
* What connection is
* The skills of connection
* Practising and developing the skills
* You don’t need a marketing course to learn connection
* Putting yourself out there
Think about the last time you bought a service – price aside, why did you buy from that particular person?
Chances are, it was because you felt a connection – a sameness, or alignment of values or experience – that helped you to have enough trust to want to work with them.
I have a couple of my own examples.
Once, I hired a business coach who was younger than me and who had only been in business for two years. She has specific experience that I didn’t have, but the whole time, I had discomfort and uncertainty around her overall business knowledge and therefore, her value as a professional. It was a short-term arrangement.
Much later, I worked with a business coach who was a similar age and had specific experience that I didn’t have….but she is a lot more like me in personality. She also has 10 years’ experience in her specific craft with a proven track record, a coaching qualification, a team working for her, and a book published. It was also a short-term arrangement, but I constantly refer others to her, promote her and would willingly go back to her, and may even approach her for a strategic alliance in future.
The subtleties of our personality fit, values and professional ethics are incredibly influential and powerful in our business relationships. Knowing how to connect is therefore critically important.
It’s about more than just attracting clients – it’s also about knowing who ISN’T your client.
What are the Skills of Connection?
Strong connections are built on good communication, common ground and a common, meaningful purpose.
If you want to build your skills in connection, you need to know what the skills are and find ways to practice them.
The skills required for creating connections could include:
- Active listening (being able to listen intently on what is being said – without thinking of what you will say next)
- Asking positively-framed, big picture questions
- Reflecting back what you hear someone say
- Reframing, i.e. even though (negative), there is still (positive)
- Having respect for the other person as the expert in their own life
- Seeing the other person as resourceful and able to find their own solutions
- Being able to identify shared values or beliefs in something
- Clarity on your vision and values
- Self-regulation (the ability to regulate your emotions & behaviours regardless of what others say or do)
- Trusting yourself
You may notice that these skills relate largely to the ICF core competencies #4 – cultivating trust and safety, #5 – maintaining presence, and #6 – listening actively. I’ll include a link so you can access them and see the full details.
Being able to truly listen to and understand another person is a key starting point for building a connection.
But that last point is also important – it’s trusting yourself and feeling confident enough to initiate conversations.
What do I mean by this?
Well, consider how your own confidence affects your ability to start conversations. How important is that for you?
What helps you to feel more confident?
I would hazard a guess that it’s about three things:
- practising the skills
- developing self-efficacy about your skills, and
- regular exposure to new people.
Let’s talk about how to do that.
How to Practice and Develop Your Connection Skills
No matter what your starting point is, you can learn and improve your communication skills and become better at making connections.
Practising the skills can be done in a number of ways. I will brainstorm a few ideas with you here.
(1) Pick one skill and polish it up
This is a good method if you’re a fairly confident person and a self-starter kind of person.
Firstly, you can choose one of the skills (like active listening) and practice it over the next week with someone you live with or someone at work. Then at the end of each day, write a reflection on how you went, and what you learned.
Once you feel you have made some progress you can dive deeper, or you can pick another skill to add to the mix.
Remember, it’s not just about mastering the skill – it’s also about making it a habit, so don’t rush this process. It takes around 83 days on average for a habit to become automatic – take your time and do it well.
(2) Watch and learn
This is a good method if you’re a bit less confident or are a kinaesthetic or interactive learner.
Secondly, you can research coaching or other videos, or identify people you know who have a skill you want to learn and watch how they do it.
All animals learn through mimicry and play, including humans!
Setting aside time each week to study and observe others is a great way to ‘see how to do it’ before you start practicing for yourself.
There are plenty of videos on YouTube that can help, or your coach training organisation may have sample videos for you to watch and deep dive into.
(3) Find a mentor
This is a good method if you lack experience and are not very confident in yourself or your skills.
There are plenty of coaches around who offer free or paid mentoring.
Practising your connection skills at a more professional level is incredibly helpful if you want to get some live feedback and tips as to whether you’re doing it right.
(4) Join a Community of Practice
Community of Practice (COP) is something that many coaching associations offer as an opportunity to build and practice specific skills with other coaches.
For example, ICF members have access to free and low-cost sessions, 1 – 2 hours long, where you learn about and practice specific core competencies.
I recently attended one of these that was free to ICF members or $50 for non-members. It focused on maintaining presence, ICF core competency #5, and it was a lot of breakout room work for practice conversations with other coaches of varying levels of experience.
I gained a lot of insight into how I can improve my presence and got practice with building connection.
You Don’t Need a Marketing Course to Learn Connection
I know I said earlier that connection is an essential skill that you need to run a business – but you’ll notice I didn’t mention anything about marketing training or courses here.
That’s because connection is useful in marketing, but I feel it’s better developed in a more personal environment that focuses on core communication skills – like the coaching industry offers.
Putting Yourself Out There
Although you might be shuddering at the thought right now, the next step is to start meeting a wider circle of people to practice your skills.
Your ability to build a business relies on your ability to build new connections that might connect you with potential clients, or who might be potential clients themselves.
Finding ease in communication and conversation can break down a lot of those confidence barriers and make it much easier for you to start approaching people you don’t know, or don’t know well.
To help you on this journey, I suggest you go back to episode 56 of this podcast, about icebreakers. Once you have polished up your connection skills, learning how to start conversations is a logical next step.
Today, we talked about connection and its relevance in building your coaching business.
Connection is defined as the attachment and relationships we form with others, and it is something that builds trust and rapport – two very important criteria for having someone buy from you.
The skills of connection are simply related to many of the core coaching competencies, particularly in terms of building trust, maintaining presence, and listening.
You also need to trust yourself and feel confident enough that you can have conversations with people – and the only way to build that trust and confidence is through practice.
We covered four ways to practice and develop your connection skills, including:
- Picking one skill (at a time) and intentionally practising it
- Watching and learning from others
- Finding a mentor
- Joining a community of practice.
It may seem like you need to learn marketing skills in order to learn about connection with potential clients – but this simply isn’t true. It’s the coaching competencies and practice that will help you develop good communication skills, and marketing becomes an extension of that skill set.
From there, learning how to break the ice will equip you to go out into the big, wide world, and start building connections with your newfound skills.
THIS is actually the secret to building your business.
Ready to get clarity on your pathway to success?
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