We all hear so much today about the importance of networking and hundreds of books have been written about it. But what’s becoming abundantly clear to so many professionals is that “networking” will get us only so far.
On the other hand, it’s true connection—a process that involves engaging your whole authentic self and tapping into your heart as well, which is what’s required to brings you in closer harmony and alignment with amazing people who can change your entire trajectory with the help they offer. True connection is also two-sided, allowing you to find new, exciting ways to be of service to others, which in turn transforms how you see yourself, and how you operate in the world around you.
To learn more about specific steps to take to become a true connector, and how that will support you, I was excited to catch up with Michelle Tillis Lederman recently, both here on my Forbes blog, and on my podcast Finding Brave.
Lederman, named by Forbes as one of the Top 25 Networking Experts, is the author of four books including the internationally known, The 11 Laws of Likability, and her latest The Connectors Advantage. Lederman is a connection creator and CEO of Executive Essentials, which provides customized communications and leadership programs for fortune 500, non-profit, university and government clients. A former finance executive and New York University Professor, Lederman is a regular in the media appearing on NBC, CBS, Fox, NPR, the Wall Street Journal, NY Times, CNBC, and others.
Here’s what Lederman shares on connection:
Kathy Caprino: What is a “connector” and why does it matter?
Michelle Tillis Lederman: A connector is somebody who is people-focused in their approach to interactions, to business, to life, to everything. A connector has a certain way of acting and interacting that enables stronger relationships.
Right now, more than ever we are such a disconnected culture. If we start to focus on our similarities rather than our differences, we can create a connected culture within our homes, our communities, and hopefully our world.
If we prioritize our relationships and our people, whether they’re professional or personal, we will get the connector’s advantage.
Caprino: What is the connector’s advantage?
Lederman: The advantage is that everything you want to achieve will be done faster, easier, better. Whatever it is you’re working on, whether it’s a job, a promotion, a new client, growing a business, getting a referral, even health and happiness, you will get that result, faster, easier, and often with a better result than you could have imagined.
If you think about all the accomplishments in your life, then think about who you would thank for helping you along the way, the list would be very long. People matter, more now than ever.
If you think back to the agricultural age, the most critical asset was your land, in the industrial age it was machines. In the information age, technology and data were most valuable. We are in the network age and our greatest assets are our relationships.
And the advantage is not just professional. There are health implications as well. Social isolation and loneliness are at epidemic levels and affects your health and happiness. I was shocked to learn that social isolation has a greater impact on your mortality than obesity! It affects your health and longevity as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day for 10 years.
When you have close work relationships, you boost your productivity by 50% and it predicts your happiness on the job. Work feels less like work when you are doing it with people you want to be around.
Caprino: In your book, you mention the 7 mindsets of a connector? Can you share those with us?
Lederman: Sure! I wrote the seven mindsets in the order below but they are not linear. These mindsets tend to enable each other.
#1: Connectors are open and accepting
When you are accepting of yourself and accepting of others, you open up the potential for deeper relationships. Be aware of your own strengths, weaknesses and unique charms, and be accepting of others. Learn about the five levels of emotional intelligence and the Ladder of Inferen ce—the thinking process you go to get from a fact or experience to a decision or action, often with untested assumptions.
#2: Connectors have clear vision
Know who you are, how you can be useful, what you are working on, and what assistance you need. Learn the SMARTER model of goal-setting to evaluate and refine your goals. Find balance in your life through daily rituals, and learn to ask for what you need.
#3: Connectors believe in abundance
Cultivate a mindset of “abundance” in opportunities, work and relationships. Acknowledge when fear of scarcity causes you to withhold from others, and learn to overcome it. Stop judging yourself in comparison to other people, and find opportunities to give credit to others. Transform feelings of envy into motivation.
#4: Connectors trust
Learn about the Four Pillars of Trust —authenticity, vulnerability, transparency and consistency. Learn how to work on rebuilding trust when it is lost, by apologizing and accepting responsibility, acknowledging its impact, and establishing a plan of action for re-establishing trust in the future.
#5: Connectors are social and curious
Learn the dos and don’ts of group settings, including eye contact and open body language. Find out why being an introvert or extrovert makes no difference in your ability to connect. Learn how to work a room, and find the format for connecting that feels right for you: virtual, group, or one-on-one. Find creative ways to connect, from gift-giving to podcasting.
#6: Connectors are conscientious
Find out why it’s important to follow through on your word—and make a plan on how you will do so. Learn about the communication hacks that will enhance new introductions and allow you to follow through. Know how and when to yes and no.
#7: Connectors have a generous spirit
Engage with others with an open heart and without judgment. Add value to others however small the action may be. Give credit to others and amplify their generosity. Set boundaries and, above all, be generous with yourself.
Caprino: What are the most common excuses you hear about why people can’t or don’t approach life with these mindsets? How can people overcome them?
Lederman: People tell themselves stories about why they are not prioritizing relationships and infusing the connector mindsets into their interactions and approach. There are many reasons I hear and the three most common are about time, discomfort asking for help and introversion.
Here is a quick tip for overcoming each of these three excuses.
Excuse #1: I don’t have time for all this!
Find the underutilized time in your life. And I don’t mean downtime. I’m thinking about after a meal when your brain is sluggish. I’m thinking about four o’clock on a Friday. I’m thinking about commuting time. The other idea here is to invite someone to do the things you are already doing. I have had business meetings walking my dogs and while getting a manicure!
Excuse #2: I don’t want to ask for help.
Get over it! You have to ask; if you don’t the answer is “no.” If you ask, you immediately increase your odds of getting a “yes.” That said, learn how to ask the right way that doesn’t put the relationship at risk. Try one of the types of asks in the book including the opt-out, make it easy, and non asks.
Excuse #3: It is not my style; I am more of an introvert.
One of the main reasons I wrote the book was to make connecting like a true connector accessible to all. I want everyone to understand that it is nurture over nature. Anybody can infuse these mindsets into their interactions to reap the same reward. But they don’t have to do it in the same way. Having a mindset is not having a certain way of infusing that mindset into your interactions.
Introverts have some natural advantages when it comes to connection.They are better at the one on one; where connection happens. They are natural listeners, the skill needed to leverage curiosity. Introverts can focus on their strengths and approach connection like an introvert, which is extremely effective.
Caprino: What do you want to make sure people know about developing a more connection-oriented approach to life and work?
Lederman: I am often asked about the difference between networking and connecting. What I want people to know is “Networking is something that you do, but a connector, it’s someone that you are.”