Coaching conversations: connection made

“I don’t understand how the last card is played, But somehow the vital connection is made”
Elastica – Connection

In my last post, reflecting on the value I’d found in LocalGov Digital’s UnMentoring, I started to explore the role of a ‘connector’ within (human/social) networks and ahead of my next coaching conversation with Carl Haggerty, I wanted to think a little bit more about this.

In my early conversations with Carl I talked about how I perceived myself as a connector within the network, but talked about this in quite a negative way. At the time I was pretty unaware of the way Malcolm Gladwell talked about the role of connector in his book, The Tipping Point. Had I read it then my feeling around the role may have started to change a lot sooner!

I don’t want to go into too much detail about where my negativity came from (because I’m actively letting go of that stuff and moving on) but it’s interesting that alongside that a number of experiences have cast a different light on ‘connector’ for me. Not only am I now thinking more positively about it, and able to not just accept but embrace this role for myself, but actually aspire to build upon it, and align it with my other skills – empathy and hive mind storage.

Let’s just go over what I mean when I talk about a ‘connector’ in a network. From my view this is someone who sees links between people in the network and joins those people and ideas up. I really like the way it summarised in this article by Charlie Gilkey:

Connectors make change happen through people. They galvanize people. They’re natural hubs. That’s just the way they’re oriented to the world. These are people who, every time you ask a question, start flipping a Rolodex in the back of their mind, saying, “Who do I know who knows this? Who do I know who has done this? Who do I know that I need to connect you with?” They love connecting you with people, because they’re all about the people. You might be a connector if:
 – You are constantly referring people to the right expert or service to solve their problem
– You love networking and talking with people, just for the sake of doing it.
– When you’re talking to people, they say, “Wow – you know everyone!”
– The stories you tell always focus on the people, not the ideas or the sizzle.

This description, of the Roladex, really resonated with me and something I actively recognised myself doing during a recent UnMentoring conversation. I knew I had some ideas around the issue my conversation partner described, but I also knew that despite these I wasn’t best placed to directly help. This was a positive thing because I knew that I did know people who probably were and that my value, my role, was in joining those people together.

How does this fit with the other skills I’ve recognised and begun to more actively nurture in myself? First, let’s talk about accessing the hive mind.

In The Tipping Point Gladwell states that ‘we store information in other people’, Twitter and Google are regularly addressed as ‘the hive mind’ and it is this concept also which feeds into my view as a connector. That there is power in people, in possibilities, in individual experience but a shared knowledge or memory of it. But just like in the old world where you needed to be able to find the right section and shelf in the library to access the knowledge you needed now I need to know who in my network has the information or experience to move my ideas and understanding forwards. I have to be able to see the nodes in the network as much as the connections between them, I need to have the relationships with each person for them to allow me to access their knowledge.

Which brings me to the last skill set I’m thinking about at the moment – empathy. I’m still thinking about this skill set, how to develop and manage it well and how it fits into my professional life.

Overall, I’m starting to think about my own skill set / nature as being strong on:

  • connecting people and ideas in a single or across dispersed networks
  • creating individual and team strength through encouraging knowledge to be held by different people, but shared openly
  • empathy.

Having recognised these I now need to actively practice and improve upon them, learn how to best use them (and how to avoid using them badly) for the benefit of all. And what I need to protect against anyone trying again to diminish the power in my skills or to stop me from using them at all.

I am part of the network. I am an empath. I am a connector.

And those qualities are what give me my value and allow me to be a catalyst.


Here’s Elastica’s Connection because, why not…

You can find me on Twitter or writing words about music as Features Editor for Louder Than War.

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