Develop a sincere interest in others.

One of my favorite sayings is an adaptation of a Dale Carnegie quote: “You will accomplish more in the next two months, developing a sincere interest in two people than you will accomplish in the next two months, trying to get two people interested in you.”

This has been my experience, not just in my personal life but in my professional life as well. Many of you want to be leaders, lead people, to make a difference. But you might be spending too much time self-marketing and not enough time researching, building bridges by taking in interest in someone. It’s natural for us to do this, we want to get the breaks or network—and to us it is all about awareness and opportunity.

This is the wrong way to see things. It is not about getting discovered.

In true leadership situations, where a good coach/visionary is called for, listening comes before arm waving. I was fortunate enough to be immersed in Stephen Covey’s work during the difficult business days for dotcommunists after 2001. Believing in abundance is important. If you want to connect with your team, you have to assume an outlook that leaves room for other people to be in the picture. Instead of facing a crisis situation with a “what we need” summary, begin with “first, here’s what we wave”.

Do you know what you have? Are you dialed in to the gestalt of your company’s culture. Do you know what your frequent business contacts are WILD about? If there was a favorite song amongst your troops, do you know it? I bet you wonder what music has to do with business leadership, don’t you?

I’ve learned that sometimes the quickest route to a relationship is a mutual interest. Music is an incredible opportunity to do just that, because it can sell itself to anyone with an open mind and a song in their heart. I mean it. Anyone can be converted to respect your favorite band or song. And it makes you feel better about you, and them in return.

Coach Mack Brown on the Texas Longhorns knows this. He loaded up his IPOD with hip hop and hard rock last year, and came to like it. Some say it may have been the breakthough between coach and players in a system that required trust – which is usually an act of reciprocity.

He realized that the power of his connection with the players would determine the execution of his offensive system (Give the ball to Vince). In a USA Today article, he was asked as to why he took the time to load an IPOD (given to him as a gift) with the music his kids listened to, he replied:
“I needed to do a better job of looking into these kids’ lives and learning more about what’s important to them…When we were kids, shoot, they were talking about elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash being rebels. Cussing. They’re ruining our music. Now we’re all saying some of the rap music is so vulgar and so awful that they’re ruining our music. But they’re no different. It’s just the times. And what I needed to do, I thought, was do alitter bit better job of staying up with their times.”

As Dr. Wayne Dyer would say about Brown: he’s open to all and attached to nothing.

Check out these articles on Brown and his IPOD: USA Today, Boston Globe

In my book (The Likeability Factor), I have an exercise that anyone of you can do today to boost your ability to put your ear to the ground, and develop a sincere/mutual interest with anyone – even your business colleagues. The following is an excert from the book. Try it out and tell me what you think. This exercise has been done by thousands and hundreds have emailed me to tell me about new “instant connections”, shared interests and “passion matches” have come from it.

Excerpt from The Likeability Factor:

I usually refer to interests and hobbies as passions because most people are more passionate about them than their work. Thus likeability and interests are related, because when two people have a passion in common, they are connected at the sweet spot, which is at the heart of being relevant.
On a fresh piece of paper in your journal, write the header “My Stash of Passions.” Now list your favorite activities outside of work, leaving two blank lines beneath each one. (You’ll come back to these empty lines at the end of this exercise.) Examples include exercise, music, politics, attending ball games, visiting art galleries, doing yoga, and shopping. Don’t forget your hobbies, such as collecting stamps or antiques, and projects you enjoy, such as model-building or home improvement.
After you’ve listed all of your passions, under each one write the names of friends and acquaintances who share these passions. Then, returning to the list one more time, write down one of your current acquaintances whom you suspect might also enjoy this activity.
Think hard. Be creative. Consider what other people like, and whether or not a bridge can be built between their interests and your passions.

Identify the interests of your most frequent contacts
Now, reverse your perspective. Instead of thinking about your interests, think about others’. In this exercise, you will identify others’ passions and try some of them on for size–or at least, develop some curiosity about them.
Return to “My Top Ten Contacts List.” You know these people well; it’s time for you to leverage that knowledge.
When making the list, you left a few extra blank lines beneath each name. On the first empty line, write the word “Passions,” followed by a colon, and then one activity or hobby this person enjoys.
If you wish, expand your thinking to include anything your frequent contact enthuses over, whether it’s cats, an alma mater, or cable television.
When you finish, you’ll notice the pattern of various interests among your frequent contacts. Review the entire list. Circle at least three activities you might yourself enjoy. Perhaps you’ve already thought about them. If so, you’ll find an easy connection between a friend’s existing interest and you. Say something. Your friend will probably be happy to hear about it. You’ll feel your relevance rise on the spot.
Keep an open mind while looking at the list. You may decide you’ll have to participate in some type of activity you previously didn’t take a shine to. In doing so, you will learn the key to relevance: relating to other people’s sweet spots. Open yourself to something new, because there’s a great chance you’ll like it and wonder why you never did it before.
You might be surprised to learn that you don’t know your frequent contacts as well as you thought, much less their passions. Don’t despair. If you’re drawing a blank, ask people to talk about their favorite hobbies, and encourage them to describe them. Give them space to talk, and really listen so you can understand why they enjoy what they do.
Your friends will appreciate your giving them a chance to talk about these passions, and you’ll find your relevance increases simply because you are showing an interest. Be willing to share some of your passions to kick-start the conversation. But remember, this exercise is not about you.
I suggested you start this conversation with your frequent contact circle. Once you’re comfortable with it, make it a habit with others. Find out what people are interested in even before they fall into your frequent contact circle. If they want to show you one of their projects, take a look. You might find that no one has ever shown an interest in their passions before.