The 9-Step Connection Process (287)

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In this episode, I talk about how to create meaningful relationships with people.  I take you through an exercise that was presented to my Vistage group recently by Steve Bobowski, the CEO at Dale Carnegie. It’s a 9-step process that is effective whether it’s the first time you’re meeting someone or whether you’ve known that person for a long period of time — a great way in less than 5 minutes to really get to know someone in a meaningful way.

As leaders of our businesses, whether we’re entrepreneurs or executives, the people with whom we have the best relationships are the ones that are ultimately going to have the higher likelihood of creating the most trust — and trust is one of the things that you cannot buy.

Full transcript below.

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steve, welcome mat, glove, talk, metaverse, tennis racket, system, podcast, point, step, house, work, smile, president, emmitt smith, thatched roof, elephant, chimney, furrowed brow, plane


Mike Malatesta

Mike Malatesta  00:04

Hey, everybody, welcome back to the How’d It Happen Podcast. And I’m so happy to have you here for one of my special solo Friday episodes. And on this one, I’m going to talk about how to create meaningful relationships with people. Whether these are people you work with, or people you meet somewhere in less than 10 minutes, and I was inspired to do this by something I attended yesterday.

I had a Vistage meeting yesterday. And for those of you who don’t know what Vistage is, it’s basically a CEO group that that meets pretty much every month. And normally, part of the meeting is sort of a board-of-advisors-type meeting, informal board of advisors, with the other members, and then part of it is an expert that comes in and talks to us about something that can help us personally or professionally. And yesterday, we had a speaker whose name is Steve Boboski. And Steve, what a resume this guy has, I mean, he is presently the owner of Dale Carnegie Training in Wisconsin and Upper Michigan. But he before that, I mean, he’s been like in these super high-profile roles, he was the president of Ridell Sports. And if you’re not familiar with Ridell, they make equipment, sporting equipment. I know them best from football, because they made our helmets and shoulder pads and those types of things. And he actually told us a very funny story about when he was helping Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, and Emmitt Smith. So it goes back a while, but he was helping to design equipment to help Emmitt Smith be able to play in the Superbowl when he was injured with a separated shoulder, it’s really great story. I hope to have him on the podcast too, to talk about that story at some point down the road. But in addition to that, Steve has been a high-level executive at General Motors, at Procter and Gamble, and at Kimberly Clark and, and maybe some others as well. And I have to say that all I knew about Steve coming into this was that he had this Dale Carnegie Training business, and I was a little skeptical. First of all, I do love Dale Carnegie’s books, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” is one that I recall and that I think I have downstairs in my library. And anyway, he’s like an iconic guy right? Now everybody knows who Dale Carnegie is. But I was a little skeptical. Like, you know, this is going to be about, I don’t know how, to be Dale Carnegie, for example. And I feel like I’ve sort of been down that road many times before. But I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I’m going to share with you today this exercise that he took us through, which I mean, these are high-level people in this group, and this exercise that would help us, you know, connect with people was really eye-opening. And easy. And it was a system, right? And everybody loves a system.

Essentially, what Steve was talking to us about was, you know, how well we know our team members. And if you run a big business, you know, you have 100 people, 150 people, 200 people, 250 people, it can be a little challenging to know everybody, particularly if you don’t have a system for it. And particularly if you don’t have high turnover, either, which is a problem all on its own. So what he did, was he went around the room, and he laid the scene, right? He’d say, Okay, we’re going to basically build what I would call a Metaverse around a house, and he went to each of us [there are nine steps to this], and he went around the room asking people to help us build this home metaverse.

The first step was the welcome mat. He asked one of the members, and it was Bob, to design a welcome mat, what’s in the middle of it and what’s on the sides of it. And so Bob said, Well, there’s a an elephant in the middle, and it’s green all around the rest of it. And Steve said, Okay, well, what color is the elephant? The elephant is beige. So we’ve got a beige elephant. And we’ve got a green border around the elephant. So that’s the welcome mat.

So we’ve got the house, and he asked Deb to talk about the house. She said it was a like a hut. And it had green metal siding. And it had a thatched roof that was painted black. And there were pineapples hanging from the gutters. So that was the house.

Steve went on to the next person, who I think was Dennis, and he said, Okay, there’s a big picture window in the house. And who do you see inside the picture window? And Dennis said, the Addams Family, which was funny, and then we sort of went through as a group, who is in the Addams Family, and you got Gomez and Morticia, Uncle Fester, Cousin It and Pugsley and Wednesday, and anyway, you get the point, everyone that’s in the family.

Then he said, you know, on top of this thatched roof, there’s a chimney, and sticking out of the chimney is a work glove, and we know that it’s to work on because it says work glove on it. And he then asked someone to describe the work glove. Mike said that it was a like a yellow leather glove. The kind that you would use to be able to pick up prickly stuff or like, you know, weeds with purple pickles or like a rosebush or something. And Steve said okay, on the fingers of these gloves, there are gray tips. And one of the tips on the index finger has a big smile on it and the other one has a furrowed brow on it. So okay, so we got this yellow glove sticking up with gray tips. One is a smile. One is a furrowed brow.

Then he went to Mike and he said he said, pick a mode of transportation and put that inside of the glove and Mike said a biplane. And Steve said, Well, what color is the biplane and he said, It’s yellow too, a yellow biplane.

Okay, stick with me here. I know, this is a little weird, but then he went to Glenn and he said, Okay, So Mike’s got this biplane in the glove. What are the wings made out of? And Glenn said they’re made out of tennis rackets. And he said, so describe the tennis racket. And Glenn said, it’s a blue aluminum tennis racket with orange string. Okay, so that’s what the wings of the biplane are made of.

Then he ended it by saying, Okay, so on top of this plane is a red flashing light — the red flashing light. Okay, so those are the nine things. And then he went on to explain what each of those nine things were, with our help. And so I’ll take you through them. So and this is the system, right?

Number one is the welcome mat. Now in this case, it was a beige elephant with a green border around it could be anything doesn’t matter. The point is, that’s the first step. That’s the introduction and that’s the learning of and the using of someone’s name. So very important that you that people you know, their name is one of the things that is most important to them. So learning their name, and being able to remember their name is super important first step and connecting with someone.

Number two is the house, which in this case was a thatched-roof house, like a hut more than a house, and that was number two in the system. And that’s for that’s a reminder to talk about and learn about where people live and where they’re from.

Number three is the picture window. Remember, inside of our picture window was the Addams Family. And the point about the picture window, which is step three is learning about the person’s family, of course, and where they’re from, you know, all of that, and their pets. Make sure you talk about their pets and ask about whether they have pets. So step three in the process, family and pets.

Step four, the glove in the chimney was, you know, what do you do? Now, if you have someone that’s working with you, you know, on your team, you may already know what they do. But outside of that, you may not, and I don’t always like it when people ask me what I do, so I tried to figure out a way to ask people what they do without asking what they do, but it doesn’t matter. Step Four, glove in the chimney, glove represents work. In fact, it says work glove right on it, if you remember.

Number five, the fingers, right? So smile or furrowed brow. And that’s a reminder to ask people about what lights them up? What lights them up at work, or what lights them up in their life and what challenges them. So what makes them smile and what makes them you know, have a mean face? My wife always says I have a mean face. So that’s the fingers. Right? So that’s step five.

Step six. What’s in the glove? Well, the what’s in the glove was a biplane in our example, a yellow one, as a matter of fact, and that is their travel, you know? Where have they been? Where’s their favorite place where there could be again, getting back to where they grew up and stuff, and how do they like to get around? What do they like to do for entertainment, where they look to do for vacation? Where’s the favorite spot that they’ve lived? Those types of things? So that’s number six.

Number seven, what are the wings made of, and it could be the wheels if it’s a buzzer car, you get it? But in this case, it was a plane. So what are the wings made out of? And Glen said they’re made out of tennis rackets. So that’s another reminder to figure out what hobbies does the person you’re talking to have? What do they like to do? Outside of travel? You know, what lights them up in their off hours? Is it exercise? Is it reading? Is it being with their family? If it is being with their family, what is it exactly about being with their family, you know, those types of things. So that’s number seven, hobbies.

Number eight, what’s in the string? I may skip this on the first part, but Steve told us that in the strings of the tennis racket, you’ve got a Wall Street Journal, and you’ve got a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which is the local paper here in southeastern Wisconsin. Point is, it could be any newspapers, it could be books, it could be anything you are trying to find out, you know, how does this person look at the world? What do they pay attention to, what interests them — could be what they read, it could be what they listen to, a podcast or whatever, radio, music. It’s just trying to get at who these people are, you know, if it’s in the work environment, outside of work. What is really surprising to me, I’ve had hundreds of people on my teams, and it’s really surprising the interesting stuff that people do outside of work that they never, ever, ever bring up at work or not, you know, to me, at least, so the newspapers in the strings of the tennis racket are, you know, step number eight in the system.

And step number nine, which in this case, was the flashing red light on the top of the plane. That’s the connection parts, right? So you’re trying all along as you go through this, not only to find out information, but you’re trying to connect too, right? So having similarities or having similarities in where you grew up, or where you went to school or where your family is from, or the places you’ve been, or what you like to do outside of work and all of those things. So you’re always trying to resonate, connection points. And when you think about it, it was kind of cool because then we broke up into sessions with a couple of us each and we went through this with one another. Now we already know each other, of course, but we were still going through this sort of nine-step system was a great way for us to program our brains to walk our way through something where, in this case, I found out something new about Deb when I went through it with her that I didn’t know. Even though I know a lot about her, there was something I didn’t know. So the point is, it’s effective even if it’s the first time you’re meeting someone or it’s someone you’ve known for a long period of time. And like every system, once you practice it, it sounds more normal. Obviously, it sounds more natural, you get better at it like you do at everything that you practice, but just having a system where you can go out and you know whether it’s, again, depending on your team size, or depending on the places that you end up, it’s a great way in less than five minutes to really get to know someone on a level that you would be easy not to.

The point that Steve was making is that, as leaders of our businesses, whether we’re entrepreneurs or executives, the people who we have the best relationships with in business are the ones that are going to ultimately have the higher likelihood of creating the most trust, and trust is one of the things that you can’t buy. You can’t just talk about it, you have to create it, and it has to be genuine and it has to be a two-way street.

So the nine-step program for essentially creating a Metaverse house [Metaverse as a metaphor for meaning], for making meaningful connections. Hope you found some value in this little story. Steve Bobowski, I credit you for this exervisse, but you didn’t just help you, just flat-out inspired me to do this today. You can find Steve on LinkedIn – Steve Bobowski. 

Thank you for joining me for another solo Friday and for investing your time and energy in my podcast. I hope that you got a positive return on your investment today. And if you did, please share this episode and follow or subscribe to the podcast so that every episode comes to you automatically. And until next time, maximize your greatness.

Mike Malatesta

Mike Malatesta

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