Connection

And the word haunting me at moment seems to be Connection.

Since FB came into being at the kitchen table in a flat in Edinburgh seven years ago, I have seen myself as lone wolf, freelancer, outsider, Other… and it sort of worked to start with. Sort of…. and then in time, work-life just got lonely and heavy as I tried to do everything myself.. and I kind of drove myself a little nuts, if I’m being honest.

I had no real community in my work-world. I went to networking events to get business (I rarely did get business). I tried to formulate my USP (darkly chuckling to myself at the memories of the wasted ink on THAT particular fairytale) What WAS my sales proposition? Where was I positioning myself in the market? Which important person should I be talking to? A ton of pressure. Trying to speak a language of markets and commerce of which I had an unconvincing pidgin articulation of… Love it.

What has changed is connection. I started talking to and working with people who were less interested in what I did.. and more interested in who I was…and I tentatively began to show people Me. Real me. I experimented with connecting. Risky… and rewarding as all hell.

Over the last couple of years I have been challenged, cajoled, appreciated, told straight, laughed with, laughed at (kindly), questioned, listened to, provoked, pushed, held and.. well.. kind of seen, really… by a host of brilliant, kind and inspiring colleagues, peers and clients. Over countless glasses of wine, cups of coffee, mugs of tea ( non liquid alternatives are allowed) I have experienced the sheer human joy of good conversation and connection. I inevitably leave the conversation feeling energised, warm,  fuzzy (no. not just because of the wine) and I will have learned something, formulated something – seen something new in myself or a situation. It happens every time.

AND it doesn’t have to happen face to face. People offering out their stuff on twitter and commenting on my random tweets. Discussion boards on Linkedin. Sharing music on Spotify. People commenting on the blog. If it’s about sharing, for me,  it’s connection. Being seen. Being heard.

It boils down (mostly) to this: I’m interested in who you are as a person – I’ll be honest, I’m borderline disinterested in what you do (unless you get all lit up & shiny about it, it which case, speak on, good friend). I want to know your stuff. Want to be able to talk to you about mine. Up for it?

And what I want? What I seek and quest for and hope for? More and better connected conversations in work-spaces. Time to talk. Use of dialogue techniques, coaching conversations, facilitated team discussions, café conversations, action learning opportunities…. All those great things where we invite people to speak up and out – where the invitation is to connect. From where I’m sitting work can surely only be a better, more productive (more profitable?) place if there were opportunities for conversation and slow-time to understand each other a little better. Surely? or am I missing something?

And I know I’m getting a bit John Lennon over here – You may say I’m a dreamer and all that.. I get it… but in an ever shifting, rapidly moving world, surely what we need is the ability to connect authentically, as people?

It’s tiny… It’s huge.

ps: the instragram-ed photo is of 2 sugar lumps found at Balgove farm cafe outside St Andrews, having a cuppa following a very cool coaching conversation. The rest of the sugar wasn’t this shape…It felt like a wee gift.

22 thoughts on “Connection

  1. What a great blog – and I couldn’t agree more! Connection is what we crave across our life and it’s often lacking at work. I’ve been happily surprised at how good social media is for this. Won’t beat face to face but it’s great for quick fire, in the moment connection… Heres to more of it!

  2. Clare, thank you. I notice connection both through your comment here & your retweet of the link. I feel more connected to the outside world, even when tucked up at FBHQ, through these small connections… it makes the big connections – conversation, laughter, rapport – all the sweeter.

  3. I deliberately saved this post for a treat during my day in the office – don’t know why exactly but I knew I wanted to savour it and reward myself with a read of it. That instinct was spot on – love it – thanks Julie.

    Connection is everything… one of the challenges I think is to help people/teams/organisations see that performance isn’t the goal. Connection is the goal and through it comes success and perhaps performance. I say perhaps performance because once you have connection & success I wonder if performance “just is”.

    Looking at the Olympics & Paralympics, there’s been outstanding individual performances. By the measures of many there have been outstanding successes. But just look at the connection experienced by so many. That connection seems like a better, more memorable outcome than the number of Gold, Silver or Bronze medals doesn’t it?

  4. I think the Olympics offered all of us something wonderful terms of experiencing connection. The athletes time & time again talked about the crowd willing them on – the connection between the people rowing or running or cycling or boxing and the sheer will and noise of those looking on, which made the athletes dig deeper, go further, strive even more…. wow.

    I believe we do extraordinary things if we know we are seen and heard in a positive way. If we know there is someone ( or lots of people) out there cheering us on, pom-poms out, getting a bit giddy on our behalf. Equally, when we are in darker moments, the sheer relief of being able to look up and see someone looking back at you, quietly saying “you’re OK, I’m here”. Not fixing, just believing you have enough in you to fix yourself – just connecting.

    For me, David, if and when we have a connection, good stuff happens. Performance improves because there is space to experiment, to fail, to try. There is humour and bravery and people willing other people on… stuff gets generated – ideas, options, debate, disagreement – and if it is well-held, it leads to new or different outcomes.

    And yes, I’m evoking my inner John Lennon again… but seriously? Isn’t this just…as it is??

  5. Well said Julie, your blog is as engaging as ever, and your conclusion feels right.

    Where I would debate with you is over the degree of connection. “Being seen. Being heard” is arguably not a big driver for at least half the population, i.e. those who prefer introversion. And isn’t the social networking form of connection a generational thing in the sense that it seems to hold less appeal for many of the older members the population?

    Who knows? I’ve got a couple of books which might inform my own views a bit more widely – Robin Dunbar’s “How many friends does one person need?” and Susan Cain’s “Quiet: The Power of Introverts” – so I’ll look forward to reading them with an added amount of interest!

    Cheers,

    Mac

    • Love this! I was itching for some debate… helpful, Mac – thank you.

      I agree about the being heard & seen thing being problematic for some people.. and yet, time and time again, with clients, friends, colleagues, I hear stories of being truly seen or heard – not huge Ta-Dah! Moments (in fact, I wonder if big-scale Ta-Dah! moments are often when folk are very cleverly being unseen?) – but small moments of connectedness. Rapport. Being understood. Understanding.

      For me, this stuff isn’t noisy and back-slappy. For me, this seen/ heard stuff can happen in whispers and corners, or it can happen in a group where someone bravely says “I don’t agree” and others feel relief, support for that individual.

      Don’t extroverts and introverts both seek these moments? Just in (potentially) different ways? I’m up for that exploration. Susan Cain’s TED talk sounds to me like someone who is making a plea for introverts to be seen.. heard.. appreciated for what they bring and who they are… and it is beautifully done: http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts.html

      Agreed, social media isn’t for everyone. Connectedness can be a letter, a postcard, a phone call…. it’s contact, I think…

      And I guess one of my points is this – to be truly seen or heard, you have to be prepared to be truly seen or heard. It makes you vulnerable. It requires bravery and fortitude. Bring truly seen is not for everyone, on paper and might mean different things to different people… but as I said… Risky? Yup. and rewarding as hell.

  6. Mac – I have both those books on my shelf. I heard Robin Dunbar speak at the Book Festival a couple of years ago. I tweeted that I was going and Scott – someone I knew of through twitter but had never met – contacted me to say that he was going too and could we meet up! Connecting that way was surprising and interesting.

    As for Susan Cain’s work..I found a lot to help me understand not so much about being loud ( or whispering Julie) but when I wanted to be heard. When I wanted to connect.

    • Beautiful, thank you Jackie. You were the one who got me started on Twitter.. Now THERE’s a connection.

      And I love anything that helps us be seen (or heard)… I wonder if it really is greatly different for introverts.

      As an extrovert (yeah, I know… Shocking!) I can easily “hide in plain sight”. Connecting asks for a bit more than talking..

      Like I say… Tiny, but huge.

    • I watched Brene Brown a few months ago – I think she helped me catalyse something – about being open and honest, even if that makes me vulnerable – as part of creating connection – thank you for sharing this. It’s perfect for where I’m coming from.

  7. Amazing when reading a persons explorative thoughts, how similar meanderings can occur. Connections with people can be warming and intriguing, yet the deep, unselfish and insightful connections with our authentic selves can be sometimes painful and extraordinarily fulfilling and joyful. A lovely
    Article…thank you

    • Thank you, James. Please watch this space _ I”m working on trialling some sessions on exploring better dialogue in the near future. Running sessions in Edinburgh & London.
      For me, open dialogue requires some subtle, careful set-up – starting with connection and moving out to conversations which are more meaningful, or have more possibilities because of that first connection…. potent stuff….

      Huge thank you also for your warm words on Twitter. Kind & appreciated.

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