Connections. How many we have and how far afield our network extends has become both a topic of conversation and a badge of honour. The concept of networking isn’t new – what’s changed is how we do it, the volume of connections one can entertain, and the speed with which it all happens.
When I first entered the business world, I read an article on networking that got me started on the right track. I was pretty shy way back when. The thought of attending a business event by myself and approaching people I’d never met was daunting to say the least. I would have preferred a walk through a bat-filled cave at night with my hands tied behind my back. But the writer made one key point that resonated and has stayed with me to this day. When we’re feeling self-conscious and shy, we’re completely centered on ourselves in a way that will actually impede building new relationships. Reaching out to meet others starts with caring about them first. That got me over my shyness very quickly. I overcame social reluctance by asking about people’s interests and remembering those things when next we met. I still worry every now and then that I’ll trip while making what could have been a professional entrance or that I have a large piece of spinach stuck to a tooth from that last canapé, but the difference is those thoughts no longer get in the way. It’s helped me meet some pretty incredible people.
Today’s opportunities for connecting are almost endless. In-person conversations are still at the top of my list but the ways to meet and explore new relationships has greatly expanded. The infographic inserted in this article points out that 80% of Twitter usage happens via a mobile device – showing that we’ve evolved to the point where we’re networking no matter where we are. I can be on a bus or a train and ask a leadership question that will reach millions on LinkedIn. Responses will start showing up right away with a good chance that I’ll hear from people on all seven continents within a few hours. The viewpoints shared will be vastly different one from the other, and often a conversation will sprout wings and become something other than intended. It’s these informal learning moments that keep me reaching out and connecting with more and more people.
That’s what 21st century connectedness is all about for me — accepting networking invitations from people I don’t know and finding ways to share our knowledge. Reasoning out problems. Making fewer mistakes by learning from others. The medical community has even begun to recognize the ancillary value of social media to combat loneliness and isolation in the elderly.
What does connectedness mean to you? Is it important?
Trying something new means trading the security of a routine path for the exhilaration — and terror — of the unknown.
It’s not just our own terror that requires facing down. No one is an island. Any change you undertake will ripple through those closest to you. Here are three things to bear in mind that may help you temper your enthusiasm with a little empathy.
While you are feeling empowered and glorious in having just made the decision to shift something in your life, those around you are having your change thrust upon them. They weren’t with you as you moved through the stages of dissatisfaction, curiosity about what could be different, investigating options, and then making the final decision.
Your announced change could seem like a statement of condemnation about something others value or enjoy. Decisions around losing weight or giving up alcohol may not be embraced by your friends if overeating and drinking are a big part of your social life. At work, deciding to out-perform yourself or striving to win a productivity contest could put you in bad stead with those who see your new behaviours as threatening to their own standing – especially if your improved output raises the bar for the rest of the team.
Finally, there are those for whom any kind of change is traumatic. They may view your announcement with the same trepidation as a news bulletin stating the Earth will stop turning and your part of the planet will be thrown into a perpetual winter. For them, change is a big bad C word, second only to cancer in its negativity and guaranteed devastation.
While it’s important to be mindful of others’ feelings and help them adjust to your new goal or behaviour, this is not where your greatest resistance will come from. The hardest person to keep on the right track will be you. Old habits will begin poking at you as soon as your initial momentum flags or when you hit your first real obstacle. Negative self talk is a marvelous sabatoge method to get yourself off the hook. Watch what you tell yourself and be quick to substitute doubt-inducing thoughts with strong statements about what you want and what you are willing to do to make it real.
Managing change is not all doom and gloom and difficulty. The rewards are huge.
There is nothing like knocking down a few barriers and powering through obstacles to give one a feeling of accomplishment.
Exerting control over something in life is a great stress buster.
Each time you undertake and achieve a new goal, you increase your chances of success with the next.
So what do you want to make happen? Here are some of my favourite coaching questions to get you started.
What would you like to accomplish that looks impossible, but if it could be achieved, would change everything?
If you knew you could not fail, what would you do differently today?
What should you stop doing that is no longer working for you?