Building Those Relationships

Some tips for increasing our network given to us by MOR include:

  • Make a point to connect with people
  • Show up a few minutes early at meetings, walk out with someone different, engage with others more readily
  • Ask people how they are doing and listen
  • Have a cup of coffee with someone or go to lunch
  • Take your employee to breakfast on his or her anniversary

After a meeting, conference or other social gathering MOR suggest you reflect on the following:

  • What kind of energy do you feel you brought to the room?
  • What image are you conveying? What is the image you want to convey?
  • How are you interacting with others? What impression are you making?
  • Think about your voice, tone and projection. Do they convey the image you want?

Since I just came back from #aln14 this is a perfect time for me to reflect on my presence and networking. I had the perfect opportunity to “put it into action” since I was working in the Technology Test Kitchen. This event consisted of talking with faculty, instructional designers and administrators about how they would like to use technology, what problems they were having and what their goals were. I had three full days of opportunity and sometimes I was more successful than others. We were set up in a corner of the room where the vendor showcase was so there were people who were intentionally stopping by and those who were just strolling along. While some people did the initiating most people walked by looking and wondering what was going on. I “read” these people as someone who is looking to be asked to join in. This was great practice for reaching out and initiating. I had the opportunity to connect with all kinds of people and practice inquiring, investing and in many cases influencing. Now that I am back it is time to reflect on my presence.

I observed my actions and those of the other “chefs” when thinking about what energy we each brought to the room. One of the great joys of working on a team is the different skills and energies we each brought to the room. Some were silly, some were serious and others were in between. I think of myself as in between. I’m not the one who will jump up and down and do something crazy silly, but I  am also not the one who is all business. I think my energy was to make people feel welcome, and that this was a “safe place” to ask questions, play and experiment. I’ve been told that I have a very positive energy, and that I make people feel comfortable. My skill was getting people to tell their story and engage. I was the “gatherer” who invited people in and communicated why they would want to spend time in this space. After hearing their story I would either help them or send them to one of the other “chefs” who better fit their area of interest.

When I think about the image I want to convey, it is of someone who is easily approachable. I want to come across as someone who is confident and knowledgeable but not a “know it all”. Based on my interactions and feedback I’ve gotten from others I think this is the image I convey.

I will continue to keep these questions in mind as I find myself in a range of situations and reflect on my presence in different contexts.

What Will You Do When You Come Back to the Workplace

This is what it is all about. We can attend workshops, read, watch videos and reflect but it all comes down to putting it into action. We’re being told again and again to “get out of our comfort zone”. One of the new skills we are supposed to be working on is our presence and the 4 I’s:

  • Initiate
  • Inquire
  • Invest
  • Influence

When walking into a meeting or room where you don’t know someone, instead of pulling out your cellphone and reading e-mail, initiate contact. The first step, which can be the hardest, is simply sticking your hand out and saying “hi, I’m Patrice”.  Don’t leave it at that, inquire. This is something that needs to be practiced and some thought should be put into it. Don’t just ask questions, but ask meaningful questions. What do you really want to know about this person? What information would be helpful to you in building a relationship? Most importantly, invest. If you are asking questions but not actively invested and listening it will come across. When having a conversation you should only be focused on that. In our multi-tasking overworked world this can be especially hard. Working at building relationships will then enable you to influence. Don’t forget to practice your elevator speech. Be ready when somebody initiates with you!

At the first meeting I attended after our first session I felt I missed an opportunity to “put it into action”. I walked into a room where everyone knew each other and I didn’t know anyone. They were not engaged in conversation as they waited for the meeting to begin but sitting and reading their phones. While I think of myself as an outgoing person, I found it difficult to try and initiate a conversation with people focused on not conversing. If someone is busily reading e-mail are they: catching up on work and don’t want to be interrupted? Feeling uncomfortable and going to their phone to avoid conversation? Hoping that someone will approach them and start a conversation?

For me getting out of my comfort zone isn’t just about initiating conversation with people I don’t know but in situations where I am uncomfortable. This could be a meeting I’ve been invited to that is not directly in my area of expertise. As I reflect on how I interact in different situations I’ve realized that when I’m in a space that is not my “area of expertise” I am less comfortable speaking up and voicing my ideas and opinions. This quote shared in our MOR materials seems very appropriate:

“Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. What if they are a little coarse, and you may get your coat soiled or torn? What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice. Up again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson