Those of you who receive my newsletter, know I have been running a book giveaway the last week. The goal is to help us make connections matter. Be “Super Connectors” if you will.
(Jump to the bottom of this post to enter the giveaway)
What drove to this book was me taking inventory of the people with whom I surround myself and the realization of the older I get the more I appreciate those people.
In our youth, our mindsets are different, we aren’t necessarily in growth mode. Some are in survival mode, others still have a fixed a fixed mindset – is there anyone else in the world able to relate to what I am going through or understand what I am trying to achieve? Sure, there are an enlightened few who actively seek out mentoring and coaching in their youth. In my mid-twenties, it just wasn’t me.
Now, life is different. One would say I’m in my third act, and my purpose for my network has taken on new meaning. While years ago, my network helped me gain important knowledge and made me a more well-rounded learning professional, my need for my network has evolved.
I’ve moved from simple networking to trying to seriously connect with purpose, and now my purpose is finding those who can help me synthesize the crazy ideas in my head. I’m secure with my place in the world today. This is not to say that I do not need support from drowning in ideas, both good and bad. People who will help me stay focused, people who will say, “What are you doing on twitter, you have a book to write!” – Yeah, I need more of those people. We all need more of those people. People who keep us honest and question our thoughts.
Networks and connections, as Mark makes mention below, should be a symbiotic relationship, circular in nature, regardless of its size. Consider it to be like geese flying south for the winter. You take to air in that glorious V-formation, each goose taking turns being the lead. This is because to always be the lead is tiresome. In our networks, being the lead can be emotionally draining. In order for all of us to get to our destination, we must place our faith in each other. Geese never fly alone. They know they will not succeed this way. Neither do humans.
Fast forward to last week.
I was having a discussion with Mark Sheppard (Great friend and sounding board) about this post. (He has shared his thoughts about social technologies on this website before.) The discussion about building connections and having the RIGHT people to support your network was quite interesting and ended up with me asking him to share his thoughts. After you read this, I’d love to know your thoughts or tips to building connections that matter in the comments below.
Please welcome Mark Sheppard, once again, to the pages of Learning Rebels.
The title character of “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency”, authored by the late Douglas Adams, anchors his belief in “the fundamental interconnectedness of all things”. While comedically absurdist in portrayal, Adams’ hapless protagonist draws conclusions and manages to solve mysteries from seemingly unconnected events, people, and circumstances.
Amusing, sure, but what does this, making connections through unconnected events, have to do with anything in our world? How can we make connections matter?
One of the enduring contrasts in society these days is how we seem to be more connected to our personal technologies and less so to the people in our personal and professional lives. I suspect more of us disagree with that sweeping assertion, but we can probably agree on the benefits of making these kinds of connections more meaningful. Maybe we can even solve some mysteries along the way?
It’s not about the followers, it’s about connections.
The average mortal isn’t likely to have millions of followers on Instagram or Twitter, nor are we likely to connect with anyone and everyone who sends us a request through LinkedIn…and that’s probably a good thing if you’re serious about networking to gain results.
A real network is one of give and take. Ideally, you glean information, ideas, and perspectives from people and organizations to share with your network. Similarly, they would be gleaning those same things from you and sharing to their network (See also, “working out loud“). This is how value manifests itself in our connections.
However, it may be fair to ask, are we truly taking the time to assess, and evaluate things that we are taking in from our network? As Harold Jarche often says (attributed to Clay Shirky), “it’s not that we have an overload of information, we have a filter failure.” This is not to say our networks should remain static, but we can do better when it comes to surrounding ourselves with information that truly informs. Are we simply smiling and nodding our agreement, or are we challenging thoughts and opinions?
What’s stopping us from doing better?
It’s not just one thing keeping us from creating connections that matter, it’s a bunch of little things. This said, there is one big thing to consider: It’s sometimes difficult to hear ideas and perspectives that appear so different from our own, but to truly network and connect with people, we need the ability to see alternate points of view.
Arguably, one of the hardest lessons to learn as an adult (and I admit I’m still working on being one) is being able to take in views that are opposed to your own. In the social technology “shouting chamber” we sometimes seem to exist within, it’s easier to dismiss the opposing views and continue to seek things that support our own perspectives. Essentially, to build stronger connections you need to be open to new ideas and constantly try to disprove your own thesis. As Kate notes above, you should be able to see both sides of the issue and believe both are possible. That’s not “having your cake, and eating it, too”, that’s critical thinking.
Don’t be afraid of change.
Some of us resist change and social technologies, as they sometimes inspire fear of “disconnection” and real-life social implications. It’s OK to disconnect or forge new connections. We need to accept that some professional relationships have an “expiry date”. There are times when the purpose has fulfilled itself and it’s time for both parties to move on.
In the same way in which job seekers often describe their efforts as being equivalent to a full-time job, the value of your professional network is directly related to the work you put in to keep it relevant, and to keep it current.
The power of social technologies has enabled us to expand the size and reach our networks, it also means that the effort required to keep our network relevant and valuable increases in importance. That’s not to say that your network is limited only to those people with whom you connect online. There’s a great value in the activities involved in face to face communications, transient gatherings, events, even infrequent dialogue.
Where Do I Go from Here?
Block off some time. Take a good look at who is in your network, how you connect, and where the mutual benefit may reside. Assess the value of those connections, along with their frequency, and originality. Are they just copying and pasting other items, or are they adding their own value? Can they engage in meaningful dialogue and interchange with you without relying on logical fallacies and Op-Ed offerings? You also need to determine what value YOU are adding for THEM, especially since a real network has reciprocal benefit.
Along with that first block of time, make a commitment to regularly reviewing your network and determine – essentially – who stays, and who goes.
The network you wind up with may be smaller, but I’m willing to bet you will see a near-immediate increase in its value.