What does being connected mean to you?
Dictionary.com defines connected as:
• united, joined, or linked.
• having a connection.
• joined together in sequence; linked coherently: connected ideas.
• Related by family ties.
• Having social or professional relationships, especially with influential or powerful persons.
Colloquially being connected means being in touch with the world wide web or having social media connections such as LinkedIn. How many of you boast over 100 connections between all your social media accounts? Likely most of you. We follow people on Instagram and Twitter, we add business connections through LinkedIn, friends through Facebook and so on. We can say that we are connected, but how connected are you really?
In the hustle and bustle of today, the art of connecting seems to be disappearing. We hide behind email or text never really taking the time to connect on a deeper level – that is, through a meaningful conversation. Connecting with people has become more of a click-based activity where we just add people to our social networks whether personal or business.
While this is efficient, it’s more of a modern version “Rolodex” activity where you collect information rather than build relationships. When was the last time you had coffee, a drink, lunch with someone at work and had a conversation that went beyond the superficial “hey how’s it going?”. What value are 100 plus connections on LinkedIn, if you really don’t know anything about the person? On average, people know about 250 people in their immediate network: this includes your butcher, your neighbours, the dog walker, your doctor etc. when this is multiplied by the people who know people you know, your connections number in the thousands. Obviously, having a rich relationship with all these people isn’t really that viable, but what would it look like if you could start the process reaching out personally to a select few?
You need to ask yourself ‘if I were to reach out to this person and ask for help, would I feel comfortable doing so? Do I have an actual relationship with them, other than having them as a “connection”, so that asking for help would not seem just self-serving? Have I done something for them to maintain the connection even when they are not in my immediate circle of connections?’
When I coach people that are in transition or wanting to move forward in their career, I ask them to look at their connections and think about who they might want to speak with. More often than not the reply is ‘well it’s been so long since I connected with them – I don’t want to appear to just be reaching out when I need something”.
The art of staying connected in my mind is doing so when you don’t need anything. Truly staying connected means being genuinely interested in others and taking the time to actually have a conversation with your connections; find out what’s going on with them; when you see something that might be of interest to them, sending it forward; connecting them to others who may help them in their work or business; it takes active effort to build the relationship.
When I started my business 20 years ago, I knew that connecting with people would be super important but I wasn’t really sure how I could best do that, so I made a pact with myself that when I met new people I would always take the additional time to get to know them better. This might mean following up and asking them for a coffee, a lunch or even a dinner so that I would actually have the time to ask them about their interests outside of a business networking meeting. My modus operandi is that I would then be able to follow up further when I ran across articles or events that they might be interested in. Yes, I can hear you thinking ‘but that’s expensive’. However, the very best move I made in growing my business was buying dinner for someone whom I was genuinely interested in getting to know. From that dinner, my business grew overnight as she referred me to an astoundingly large client. From that large client, I was continually referred within the industry so that my business grew on an annual basis expanding into other industries. To this day, 20 years later, I still stay in touch with this dinner partner, reaching out when I don’t need anything to keep the relationship and connection fresh and alive.
So, by all means, keep adding people to your social media and following them but do more than that. Make an effort to connect on a more personal basis, grab a coffee and take the time to have a deeper conversation. Rather than going for the largest number of connections, grow and maintain a selective group of connections. Nurture those connections into relationships by taking a bit of risk by being more open and you will develop trust which is really the basis of any good relationship. Set aside a regular time in your schedule for relationship building, putting just a bit more effort in and you won’t regret it.
What are you doing to build your relationships so that you stay truly connected with people?