New Ideas to Create Conscious Connections
Last month, Founder of Ideas with Impact, Karen DeTemple, co-hosted and spoke at Strategies for Success in our Connected World, an event that, “bring(s) together smart, committed women who have risen to success in the corporate setting and brave women who are successful entrepreneurs to share their experiences and offer growth hacks to propel careers to the next level.”
After an invigorating conversation, we felt we had more to share on the topic. This month’s article will be capturing some of the talking points of that session, as well as bringing in new ideas on creating conscious connections.
Throughout my years as a professional, I have often heard industry leaders speak on the importance of connections. Connections will bring in business, expand reach, and propel a career forward.
Often times the subtext of this message can be “get more business cards,” or “add more people on LinkedIn.” While in some instances I might agree with this, I often feel something is missing from this conversation. I believe ten strong connections are worth more and will serve both parties more fully than one thousand weaker connections or acquaintances. But in order for this to be accurate, those ten connections must have strong foundations and be fostered to create long-term value.
We all know it’s important to “put your best foot forward,” but it can be difficult to know how to create the strong impressions that will result in what I like to think of as good ROI — and by that I mean bring joy and value to both parties lives and/or businesses.
Authenticity: Show Up As Your Whole Self
Eighteen years ago I got a phone call from a man named Martin. He was a sales person for an AV company, who reached out and asked for a meeting with me. I agreed and met with him. As we closed our meeting, he had checked all of the boxes: he was smart, his company had good experience, and was professional. My initial next step was to tell him to keep in touch and I planned to ask him to bid on future projects.
However, the next day I received a FedEx package in the mail. During our chat, Martin had told me how he loved to bake, and it was a favorite hobby of his. I had quickly responded, “Well, I love to eat! So we’ll make a good team!”
Inside the box was an aluminum loaf pan with a lumpy sort of bread, and a note that said, “Thanks for taking the time to meet with me. This is my signature Chocolate Chip Loaf Cake. I look forward to being on your team.” While admittedly, the presentation of the gesture was certainly lacking, I appreciated that Martin was showing up as his whole self, not just as his résumé or business experience.
Since then, I’ve watched Martin show up as his whole self on most projects. He’s an expert in leading a team and finds the right balance of laser focus and light-hearted fun for a crew. He is sought after just as much for his personality as for his expertise. I appreciate that he doesn’t keep everything just business, and brings parts of his interests to the table even if they aren’t directly related. It’s made him memorable, and built a strong foundation for a lasting connection.
Early in our time working together, he requested that we set up a “Fluffa Nuttah Bar” (peanut butter and marshmallow cream on white bread) for all of the crew as a snack. Martin knew it was a favorite of many in the crew, and a welcomed moment of sugar bliss during a demanding show.
We not only fell in love with the tradition of having a break and a quick sugar fix together on last day’s afternoon break, but I was impressed that he advocated for the team while looking for ways to bring more fun and personality to a stressful situation. It’s been years now and I still look forward to our Fluffa Nuttah breaks. It is moments like this, and Martin’s ability to infuse his personality, passions, and professions that made him one of the first people we call upon for Technical Director or Stage manager needs.
Intention: Create Alliances in New Arenas
Before I jump into this next story, I want to make a note. Connections are people in your network, people you might collaborate with or look for new business referrals from. Sometimes your connections are your friends. Sometimes they are colleagues. Recently I’ve started using the word “alliance.” To me, an alliance is different than a connection. My alliances are relationships that embrace vulnerability and directness around our real experiences. These are the people who you don’t have to be diplomatic with. Because they are positioned to understand you with “gloves off” they are an incredible asset in helping navigate tougher situations where diplomacy is important and communicating carefully is critical. But, alliances are not necessarily your close friends either. Let me explain.
Last year I met a woman at a retreat in Big Sur. She was an executive at a Fortune 500 company, who had come on a personal retreat, and I was there to attend a program on technology, business and mindfulness. We sat together at breakfast, and before the end of the day I had left my program to join her. We spent the day talking about how we show up in the workplace, and what we want to bring to our careers and work environments.
It’s been almost a year, and I haven’t chatted with her but a few times. But several months ago, I got a call where she was contemplating a big shift in career, and she wanted a fresh perspective. In fact, she didn’t feel she could talk to any of her colleagues or close connections because they lacked the perspective I could give her as an outsider.
This is the magic of creating alliances: they don’t have to be your best friend. You don’t have to have lots of connections in common. In fact, the best alliances are people who are outside of your normal routine or business orbit. They can offer powerful perspective, insightful advice, and a place where you don’t have to wear your diplomatic hat. With that, creating alliances in new arenas takes intention and conscious consideration. You might also find that they take a long-term commitment where there might not be an immediate return on investment. Yet in the end, alliances can be a key relationship in your toolbox.
Mindfulness: Your Most Powerful Connections are In Unexpected Places
When most industry professionals talk about building a network, or creating connections it is easy to think of old bosses, colleagues, and those who you would associate with your professional self.
It is important to recognize that all the connections in your life have value, not just those made at business events. For example, when I was launching Ideas with Impact I reached into my personal connections to create a trusted think-tank (even though they weren’t all directly related to the customer I was trying to serve).
I reached out to my sister who was a VP if Marketing, my longest childhood friend who I’ve known since Nursery School who was in Client Services, and my College bestie who was a Language Specialist. They came together to create a marketing brief, named my company and got my branding off the ground. It would have been easy to think that I needed a professional firm or invest lots of money before getting going, but I was able to leverage the connections I had by simply being mindful to look for them in those unexpected places.
As we move into the New Year, now is a great time to put together some goals around the kinds of connections you want to be creating, fostering, and growing in 2017. How can you add some intention to reach out to new arenas? Or allow yourself to show up more fully in your business relationships? I’d love to hear new commitments you make or ideas you have to create conscious connections in 2017.
Karen DeTemple is the Founder of Ideas with Impact, a brand communications and event marketing company based in San Francisco. With a background that spans from brand marketing to psychology studies, Karen understands what it takes to motivate people and shift behaviors—for both client teams and her own. Known for her candor and wit, Karen ensures every attendee journey has both big and small moments for people to learn, absorb and take action. Karen is a natural team orchestrator, bringing together the right mix of people, inspiration and process so that everyone can shine to the fullest.