I have just returned from a workshop in North Carolina attended by about 23 power connectors, and I'm brimming with lessons learned. The Influence Style Indicator™ workshop (a brand new assessment instrument from Discovery Learning) was sponsored by AvoLead, a strategic leadership consultancy in North Carolina that was co-founded by my sister, Sarah Albritton, and her associate and friend, Charles Eakes.
The workshop participants were almost all professional coaches with impressive credentials and wide-ranging areas of expertise including executive leadership, transition management, and organizational effectiveness. These are men and women whose defining talent is helping their clients get in touch with themselves and those with whom they live and work. As a serious student of the Power of Connection, I was in a gold mine! I made a point to meet every participant, and I also observed the way they interacted with each other. Some knew each other, but many were meeting each other for the first time. These master connectors were wonderful role models for anyone wishing to become a better connector. Here are some things they had in common:
- Without exception, when they greeted me (and each other), they made eye contact, smiled, and offered a firm handshake.
- Even in the most brief conversation, they asked me something about myself in a way that seemed warm and genuine.
- If someone who knew my sister discovered our relationship, they spoke highly of her and her work. Since she is ten years younger than I, the ones who REALLY made points with me, commented on the family resemblance :-).
- A surprising number were able, in a very short time, to find out enough about me to recommend a book, ask for my card, or make a connection they thought might help me. To do this they had to have been listening, paying attention, and asking follow-up questions based on what they heard.
- Those for whom I'd written biographical profiles expressed appreciation for my work on their behalf.
- A hallmark of their interactions was the spirit of mutual support.
- When I returned I had emails from at least two people I'd met who were following up on something we had discussed.
These high level consultants knew instinctively–or had learned–the simple, critical elements of making a meaningful connection with someone in a professional or social setting: eye contact, touch, listening, asking questions to affirm attentiveness and glean more information, identifying interests or acquaintances of mutual interest, and following up. Of course paying a sincere compliment — to another person or to someone their family — is always a wonderful way to connect with them in a way that is both affirming and memorable.
Practice these simple things until they become natural–always using them with authenticity–and you'll find that not only will you make more meaningful connections, but you will be richer for the enlargement of your circle of influence.