Connections Make the Difference

In 2004, the Coca-Cola company was in trouble. Under CEO Roberto Goizueta (9th CEO of Coke's history), the company had risen in market value from $4 billion to $150 billion over his 16 years of leading the company. After he died, the next 2 CEOs failed to continue to lead the company well. Seven years later, Neville Isdell agreed to come out of his 3 year retirement, and was named CEO. In his 30 years of working for Coca Cola, Isdell was never considered for the position of CEO. Nevertheless, Isdell went on a listening tour repairing a relationship with McDonalds, and visiting and rebuilding relationships with bottlers, other partners, and also other executives within the company. With his team, he developed a growth plan that was more than just new strategies and a mission statement. With everyone on board, it was their plan. They owned it and believed in it.

Leadership is always a people business. This is why it is so important to touch a heart before you ask for a hand. What Isdell knew is that people do not automatically commit to you when they understand you - They commit to you and follow you when they feel understood. This happens when you, as the leader, act in the following manner:

  • Value them

  • Let them know that you need them

  • Include them in the journey

  • Adopt a teachable spirit for yourself

  • Ask questions

  • Listen well and often

  • Know their perspective

  • Give credit to those who help you

  • Express gratitude to those who help you

  • Replace the "me" with "we"


Let's highlight a few of these aspects:

Seeing the world from another's perspective is not always easy. Often times there is a stalemate where both sides think their perspective is correct. And - like most situations - the truth is found somewhere in between. If we can accept that our version of a story is not complete, then there is a possibility that there can be more discussion a been chance of resulting with a Win-Win.

Always ask questions to better understand. This may seem contrary to people in leadership roles now. It often seems like leaders should give directions to others to get done what they want. However, when you give directions to your team, you frequently confine them. When you ask questions, it creates a discovery opportunity. People get to create solutions. The closer a person is to the problem, the greater likelihood of developing a solution that works best.

John Maxwell once had a discussion with a leader, who said, "If I ask questions I cannot control the response that is given." Remember, leadership is influence, not control. You don't want to control people's responses. You want to influence their thinking and actions. Asking questions will enhance your leadership, not weaken it. In Simon Sinek's book Start with Why, Simon said: "We make decisions based on what we think we know. At a time when the majority of people thought the world was flat, they feared doing much exploration, else they would sail right off the ends of the earth. Once they figured out the world was round, behaviors significantly changed."


How many times have you heard people complain that their boss doesn't listen? (Maybe you complain about that as well?) Herb Cohen was an author and negotiation expert who said, "Effective listening requires more than hearing words. It demands that you find meaning and understanding in what is said. After all, meanings are not words, but in people."

And John Wooden once said, "Why is it so difficult to realize the others are more likely to listen to us if we first listen to them?" We can never get the best out of people if we don't know who they are, where they want to go, what they care about, how they think, and how they want to contribute We can learn those things only if we listen.


Enjoy your connections! I hope this helped!


Brian