Personal Branding Interview #2: John C. Maxwell | Personal Branding Blog - Dan Schawbel

Today, I spoke to John C. Maxwell, who is an internationally recognized leadership expert, speaker, and author who has sold over 16 million books. You should also read my previous interview with John from early 2009. His latest book is called Everyone Communicates Few Connect. In this interview, John talks about why everyone communicates but few connect, some ways to connect with your audience, his five connecting principles and practices, and more.

Why does everyone communicate but few connect?

I believe that most people are more concerned about getting across their point of view, trying to be heard and understood. To connect you have to do something counter-intuitive: focus on the other person and try to understand their point of view.

What are some ways to connect with your audience?

First, listen. One on one, I’ll ask questions and listen to the other person’s answers to get to know them. Even when I prepare to speak to a group, I still ask lots of questions to find out what my host and the people care about. At the event, I pay attention to what’s happening in the room. Sometimes how I’m introduced will give me clues to what would add the most value to the audience. Also, it’s amazing what eye contact and a smile will do to help you connect, whether with an individual or a group. Eye contact helps me gauge their response in the moment, and a smile lets people know I care about them.

What are the Five Connecting Principles? Which one is the most crucial?

  1. Connecting increases your influence in every situation.
  2. Connecting is all about others.
  3. Connecting goes beyond words.
  4. Connecting always requires energy.
  5. Connecting is more skill than natural talent.

The most important principle is #2: connecting is all about others. Just recognizing this truth will make a huge difference in a communicator’s ability to connect. The biggest single step you can take in growth as a connector is to change your focus.

What are the Five Connecting Practices? Which one has been the most important in your own career?

  1. Connectors connect on common ground.
  2. Connectors do the difficult work of keeping it simple.
  3. Connectors create an experience everyone enjoys.
  4. Connectors inspire people.
  5. Connectors live what they communicate.

Connectors live what they communicate. I believe that the greatest disconnect is when a speaker’s words and actions don’t line up. You can be eloquent and persuasive and be sharing a great message. But if the audience senses that what you say and who you really are don’t match, you lose credibility and the audience disconnects.

How can someone whose just entering the workforce create change?

It probably won’t surprise you that I believe the best way to initiate change is to CONNECT.

But think about it: Change within an organization begins with the people. So your ability to communicate and connect with others is a major determining factor in increasing your influence. And increasing your influence with them is your way of making change happen.

Some tips:

Be prepared to expend energy on connecting. It’s not something you can do when you feel like it or when it’s convenient. Also, we go back to focusing on others. Focusing on yourself or your agenda isn’t connection; it’s manipulation. Finally, look for common ground. By finding where you’re similar, you can begin to build a bridge.

John C. Maxwell is an internationally recognized leadership expert, speaker, and author who has sold over 16 million books. His organizations have trained more than 2 million leaders worldwide. Dr. Maxwell is the founder of EQUIP and INJOY Stewardship Services. Every year he speaks to Fortune 500 companies, international government leaders, and audiences as diverse as the United States Military Academy at West Point, the National Football League, and ambassadors at the United Nations. A New York Times , Wall Street Journal , and Business Week best-selling author, Maxwell was named the World’s Top Leadership Guru by He was also one of only 25 authors and artists named to’s 10th Anniversary Hall of Fame. Three of his books, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, Developing the Leader Within You, and The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader have each sold over a million copies. His latest book is called Everyone Communicates Few Connect.

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