Be Purposeful in How You Connect With and Coach Others
“I’m glad I could help.”
Over the last year, I’ve found myself using this phrase with great regularity as friends have been reassessing their lives, and in particular their careers. There have been so many unintended consequences of the global pandemic, and one of them has been experiencing work in its purest, most distilled form.
The frills and perks of work that many of us would have enjoyed during normal times – new cities, great restaurants, relaxing hotel rooms, and all those loyalty program points and perks – have all been stripped away, leaving us with the persistent sameness of working in a virtual pandemic world.
So here we are, one year later, and the amount of self-reflection I hear from others is significant. I actually reviewed my calendar since January 2021 to count the number of friends and colleagues with whom I’ve had coaching conversations. In just three months, I had engaged with 27 successful professionals who were clear they needed something more in their careers.
The one theme that stood out was simple yet profound – how they spent their time really mattered. They all had jobs and were grateful to be employed throughout the pandemic. But as vaccines have become a reality and the prospect of choice began to re-emerge, so did the need to be fulfilled.
I’m fortunate to have many peer coaches in my life. One of them is Beverly Kaye. There’s no deeper expert than Bev in the world of career development – full stop. Her human-centered view of talent has been present for decades – long before it was in vogue to talk about emotional intelligence, purpose, mindfulness, inclusion, engagement and servant leadership. Her tips below on building our professional connections are well worth adopting.
Connection “Know Hows”
1. Know What You Want
Knowing a number of people is not enough. Successful networking requires that you know what you want so that you can direct your valuable time and resources productively.
2. Know Who’s Out There
A collection of contacts that you update is the centerpiece of networking. Gathering and organizing the names of people you know from a variety of situations helps define your network.
3. Know How Others Can Help
People can help you in a variety of ways. It is essential you know what functions you want people in your work to perform. The six networking functions are advise, inform, nurture, sponsor, teach and connect.
4. Know the Odds
Successful networking doesn’t just happen. It takes effort. Effort is comprised of three basic elements. Effort = Time + Money + Energy
5. Know What to Offer
All serious networking is reciprocal. People who devote time and energy deserve something in return. Find ways to give back. Listen to learn what people might need.
I appreciate how Bev challenges us to think about the person with whom we’re connecting. If there’s one lesson we’ve learned during the last year, it’s that time matters. When it comes to seeking career guidance, be purposeful in how and when you “consume” someone else’s time.
In addition to the classic strategies centered on the person seeking advice, it seems equally relevant to reflect on strategies for the person offering advice. For me, there are five behavioral principles that cause individuals to gravitate towards someone for guidance, and it’s not just their positional power and influence. As an advisor, ask yourself these questions about how you engage in career conversations with others:
First and most importantly, do you create a sense of psychological safety for an honest and open conversation? Individuals who are at inflection points in their careers – perhaps in their lives – value being able to share their perspectives in a judgment-free environment. Like most problem solving, a clear definition of the problem is a prerequisite to a meaningful solution. To really help someone, you need to hear what they want and need to say.
Second, do you allow the other person to set the pace? Career moves can have lasting and far-reaching implications, so avoid managing the other person’s decision process. It’s not your career, it’s theirs.
Third, do you offer a new connection or idea each time you connect? Reflect on your own network and offer to introduce non-obvious connections that could offer a fresh perspective outside your expertise. Conversations with new sources can spark new insights about success factors or decision criteria to include.
Fourth, do you convey a sense of optimism? Help others adopt a growth mindset, which includes experimentation, learning from others, and a focus on progress. Careers are not sprints, so the long view often creates greater optimism than the immediate circumstances someone is facing. Never miss the opportunity to tell someone what you admire about them and appreciate them for the individual that they are.
Lastly, do you aspire to establish mutual trust? You never know when those you have helped along the way might do the same in return. Lifting up others is not only good for them, but it’s good for you, too.