Business psychologist, corporate consultant, and coach Melanie Katzman has been dubbed the “C-Suite Listener” for her ability to understand and guide executives, employees, and entrepreneurs toward profitable and meaningful objectives. Now she’s distilled her advice into an engaging and bestselling guide, Connect First: 52 Simple Ways to Ignite Success, Meaning, and Joy at Work. The book focuses on the necessity of creating a shared emotional understanding in the work- place—and beyond.
“These lessons are for anyone looking to create a strong, rewarding bond with another human being,” says Katzman. “What we need is a professional, practical way of establishing quality relationships by connecting first as fellow humans, and then as coworkers and collaborators. From this personal foundation, great teams are formed, and goals are realized.”
The actionable tools Katzman offers in Connect First have come at a most opportune time. “The pandemic reminds us that we are all inextricably linked,” Katzman says. “Yet screen dependency means we’re in danger of being good at instant communication—rather than human communication.” Katzman delves into numerous other important, timely workplace issues in Connect First. “We’re living through a moment of long overdue focus on diver- sity and inclusion,” Katzman says. “I offer step-by-step ways to help people build trust and bring everyone into the fold.”
Connect First is designed to give readers an easy-to-follow path toward identifying mutual concerns and motivations in order to create a deeper bond with coworkers— even when communicating virtually. Katzman’s book is divided into 52 chapters. Readers can follow the chapters in order for a yearlong, weekly program of self- discovery, or select a chapter for immediate advice. Each short chapter is packed with practical advice, research to support why the suggestions make a difference, and case studies from around the world and across sectors, demonstrating the rule in action. “The ideas take just a few moments to implement,” Katzman says, “yet have a lasting effect.” For example, she suggests beginning virtual meetings with a quick, personal check-in. She notes the importance of eye con- tact, active listening, and paying attention to col- leagues’ reactions during these calls. “These moments of mutual respect,” Katzman says, “generate a sense of appreciation, and affirm that individuals have been seen and heard by others. Connecting at the shared human level creates a sense of belonging which is the bedrock of inclusion.
Katzman’s advice is applicable at all levels of an organization. She has advice for employees: “I suggest aiming to be a magnetic colleague, so people relax and know you are on their side. Be curious about others and find ways to help them shine. Try to challenge negative thinking, in yourself and in others.” And she has a message for bosses, too: “Avoid an undiluted focus on goals. Listen, and let others speak. Take time to notice the atmosphere in the room, actual or virtual, and try to create a nonjudgmental space for discussion.”
Because Connect First is broken into easily digestible, stand-alone chapters, Katzman says readers “can dip in where they want to respond to an immediate situation.” Connect First creates a shared office language and is meant to be book- marked and slipped onto your boss’s or colleagues’ desks.
“I start with the things that feel familiar,” Katzman says. “Remember to smile, say please and thank you; use your human senses—see each other, hear each other.” Once the basics are mastered and trust and respect have been established with colleagues, Katzman tackles bigger issues. “We move on to some of the more challenging experiences like clearing conflict, managing narcissistic colleagues, and establishing forums to answer questions with no obvious answer,” she says. “Readers learn to face the future without fear, to bring in novel voices, and to collaborate effectively to not only solve problems but also dream big—and make a real difference in the world.”