Connecting is one of my big “C”‘s in my Powerpoint that describes my office. In addition to counselling, and teaching people how to better compete, connecting people with opportunities is what I do most days. While everyone tells me this is my “gift”, connecting is too important to be left to the gifted. Seth Godin calls the post industrial world of today as the Age of Connections. Connection is the currency of success for the 21st century.
Ever hear someone described as, “He/She’s got connections”? This statement usually implied the person has more connections than ability. Yet I would argue that to be able to connect with people and to maintain relationships are skills that requires both ability and effort. I know plenty of talented, energetic people, who started with everything going for them and blew it because they lacked the interpersonal skills to maintain their connections. And I have seen the opposite as well.
Having become a connector, I wondered about how that came to be? Was it somewhat genetic? Absolutely. If you knew my parents you know where my ability started. Was it also due to some intentional work? Yes. Any connection success today is based on my consistent application of certain daily tasks over an extended period of time. Looking back, certain decisions and actions developed my connection skills:
1) Recognize the value of connections. I have seen doors open and doors closed by unplanned circumstances. Since I no longer lean on my own understanding of the future, I treat everyone I meet as that sixth degree that might introduce me to the next big door to walk through.
2) Decide to become a connector. Early on, I found that by connecting either people to opportunities or ideas to people who would run with them, my value to both parties increased. The value wasn’t always monetary, in fact, the greatest value has been in appreciation coming back to me. The value of someone telling you how much they appreciated your helping one of their friends is priceless.
3) Seize opportunities before the value is known. When I meet someone or hear an idea/opportunity I immediately raise the following question in my head, “Who would this be a really good fit for this?” When a name pops in my head, I act on it without regard for my benefit. This form of sowing first, has led me to where people now call me in hopes of connections. Opportunities abound for me and I no longer worry about what happens next.
4) I mentally assumed that I could become a connector. This may sound simplistic and it’s not. If someone else can develop connections, I believed so could I. And I did. Too many people, who could duplicate what I did, self defeat themselves with negative self talk.
So if you want to become a person of connections here are my suggestions:
1) Decide to become one. Decisions always precede action.
2) Practice asking 3-4 questions of anyone you meet or talk to before ever using the word “I.” One great question would be asking someone what their number one challenge is in their business. If you have a problem with this, read Dale Carnegie. Seriously.
3) Write down what you learned about the people you meet each day. This may not be necessary after a few years but it sure helps at the beginning. Something magic happens between the head and the paper (or tablet).
4) When you sense a connection opportunity ask either person, “If I run across someone or something that could improve your situation, would you like me to connect you?” Program your future today and turn loose your subconscious mind.
5) Set a goal of making a connection a month, then a connection a week. Be intentional in your goals and spend some time each day thinking about connections. This is too important to not put have a deadline.
I didn’t start out to be a connector. Having relocated over ten times in my career, I should a loner. Yet by following these simple traits on a daily basis, the connector tag has found a home.
Of course Jesus took a lot fewer words to describe the process of developing into a connector. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Amen to that.