Connecting the dots brings new meaning and great value. Value that far supersedes what the dots by themselves bring. When applied to people, there are lessons to learn about these ‘connectors’. These are people who have the knack for building relationships and connections that go beyond natural boundaries. They are so much in demand. Be it the employee who has relationships (or just plain knows a lot of people) across organisations or the friend who will connect you with someone to solve a problem.
Mark Granovetter‘s most referenced paper in Social Sciences, “The Strength of Weak Ties” holds vital clues. Several years ago when I first landed the paper, I became present to the need for weak ties. The realisation that ‘weak ties’ were not really ‘weak’ but a great value-add for progress and change, was powerful. Therein started an active cultivation of an existing interest in others, the humanness in them and their contexts. It has lead to few deep friendships and innumerable conversations, discoveries and a way of life that is powerful.
Yet at times when I come across people for whom this comes naturally, I am awestruck by their way of life. This is not a ‘put on’. This is a way of living and working. Last week, after spending time with a few such, here are a few things that I jotted down reflecting on what these folks do.
Heres some additional context. I am making my preparations to attend SHRM 18 that will have over 20000 participants. It sure promises to be a great place to find such connectors. Writing out my own learnings from the ‘naturals’, I reckon, will both help me find more connectors and reenergise the connector within me!
So, who are these connectors? How do you identify them?
1. Connectors offer to help as a default.
The first thing that you notice is the willingness to help. In fact, ‘how can I help’ is a question that comes up many a time. They offer their perspectives. Bring people together. They put in a word. Point in a direction. In the modern day world, these are precious.
This offer is genuine and often goes into areas that are obvious. Truthful and well within means.
2. Connectors are interested more than merely interesting.
Not that they aren’t any interesting. With all their stories and connections, they are extremely interesting! Just that they don’t have any compelling need to talk about themselves and their achievements. The keenness to offer their ear and soak up your story trumps any sharing of their own story, unless you ask for it. They ask questions, more to get more details. The best ones, don’t offer any advice until specifically asked for. That to me is a marker for an awesome ‘connector’.
3. Connectors are a carrier of stories.
Connectors are natural carriers of stories. Natural because they are privy to so many of them. And when they share the story forward, it is the ease at which they mask the details of the person whilst sharing the essence of the event or the intended lesson. It is such mastery that elicits further sharing that is a great foundation for a trust laden conversation.
Connectors are sought out for the stories they carry. These stories can alter thought and help make new connections and possibilities in the mind.
4. Connectors don’t look at immediate RoI.
Connectors are not the quintessential ‘networkers’ you see at parties. People whose intent seems to be in having your business card and ensuring that you have theirs. After few pleasantries and the business card exchange, off they go to the next conversation. Connectors are interested in conversation. They are invested in people who are willing to invest the time and energy in a conversation for the joy of conversation. I have had amazing conversations with no agenda in mind. Just sitting down and getting to know and talking. Sometimes, it has had tangible immediate benefits. Many times none at all. But that’s beside the point. The point of sitting down and talking is the sitting down and talking. The benefits that come impact in ways that are beyond the obvious.
And those are my top four. We are a product of our experiences and each of our experiences shapes our thought. The list is a product of my experiences and I look forward to hearing from you to hear your experiences as well.
If you are coming to SHRM 2018, please do give me a shout. Would be lovely to exchange notes and make a new connection. If not, the big wide networked world offers us limitless possibilities. We are limited only by the intensity of our intent!