ATD Blog

Strengthen Your Leadership by Accepting More Bids to Connect

Monday, February 2, 2015

Relationships built on connecting with others are the heart of leadership. Thus, to strengthen your own leadership and help others do the same you must turn toward and accept bids for connection instead of turning away from them. This flies in the face of the core principle of time management: saying “no.” But then connecting more deeply with people was never going to be a time saver. It certainly takes time—and is probably the first, best use of your time. 

Understanding How Relationships Connect 

In Emily Esfahani Smith’s excellent article in the Atlantic on the 2 Traits of Lasting Relationships she describes John and Julie’s Gottman’s research on married couples. They figured out that successful couples accept 87 percent of their partners’ bids to connect while unsuccessful couples turn away 67 percent of the time. In general, couples respond to each other in one of four different ways: active destructive, passive destructive, passive constructive, and active constructive.

Successful couples, referred to as “masters,” default to trust and intimacy. Emotionally and physically comfortable, they accept/turn toward bids for connection, assume positive intent and respond with active constructive interest, and support 87 percent of the time marked by kindness and generosity. This is a learned habit.

Unsuccessful couples, referred to as “disasters,” default to a “fight or flight or “attack or be attacked” mindset. They turn away from bids for connection 67 percent of the time with contempt, criticism, and hostility. In doing so, they make their partners feel worthless and invisible—not there and not valued.

Steven Covey used to preach that we should focus on the important, not urgent things as a way to overcome the urgent, not important things over time.  The trouble is that things that are urgent but not important to us are urgent and important to someone else. Every time we choose to turn our attention away from these things, we’re turning away someone else’s bid to connect with us.


Get the point? Don Corleone in The Godfather was wrong when he said, It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business.” Business relationships are inherently personal. There is a price to be paid every time we turn away someone’s bid to connect.

Consider these examples. Colleague comes to you and says, “I used the new tools you taught us.” You respond in one of four ways:

  • “Hope you did a better job than you did in the training session.” – active destructive
  • “Great. We’ve got some other tools you might find useful as well….” – passive destructive
  • “Congratulations!” – passive constructive
  • “Wonderful. How did it work? Tell me about it.” – active constructive

Only the fourth, “active constructive,” response accepts the bid for connection. The bid is not to inform you. The bid is for you to share the bidder’s feelings and strengthen your connection with him or her.
Connecting Bids to BRAVE Leadership 


Leadership and development is about inspiring and enabling others. The BRAVE Leadership framework encompasses behaviors, relationships attitudes, values, and environment:

  • Behaviors – What impact? (Implementation)
  • Relationships – How to connect? (Message)
  • Attitudes – How to win? (Strategy)
  • Values – What matters and why? (Purpose)
  • Environment – Where to play? (Context) 

Crossing these concepts with the idea of accepting bids to connect leads to the following implications.

  • The prelude to moments of impact matters. Take the time to think through the context, the purpose and the strategy. You must ask and answer questions about where to play, what matters and why and how to win in order to be ready to make an impact.

  • Recognize and embrace moments of impact. These are moments of connection. You live your message in what you say and what you do AND in how you respond to those bidding for your attention. Who and what you choose to pay attention to and how you do so screams volumes.

  • How you follow through makes it real. Make sure you do what you say you’re going to do so you’re building relationships through the implementation.
About the Author

George Bradt has a unique perspective on transformational leadership based on his experience as a business leader, consultant, and journalist. He progressed through sales, marketing, and general management roles around the world at companies including Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, and J.D. Power’s Power Information Network spin-off as chief executive. Now he is a principal of CEO Connection and managing director of the executive onboarding group PrimeGenesis.

George is a graduate of Harvard and Wharton (MBA), co-author of four books on onboarding, including The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan, and co-author of a weekly column on, The New Leader’s Playbook.

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