Valuing friendships and connections

October 20th, 2010

Have you ever been to an event where you have come away excited, but unclear why? And have other people at the same event wondered what the point of it was? These are two extremes of experience with many shades inbetween and represent the great diversity of experiences we have at different events. What works for you may not work for me and vice versa. I think we get into trouble when we forget this and try to design events to please everyone. My suspicion is that such events don’t offend anyone, and probably don’t excite either, resulting in something akin to ho-hum.

While some people can be frustrated by the supposed lack of action, I think simply connecting with other people is somewhat undervalued, and misses the point of how action actually happens. There is a difference between activity and action.Β In a post that is not unrelated to these thoughts, titled Connecting Dots and Valuing Networks, Roland Harwood explains: “There is a sequence of activities that occur in networks that can seldom be bypassed. Namely you start with lots of conversations, some of which will lead to a smaller number of some kind of relationships. Eventually, and almost certainly long after the first time people met, some transactions may follow that create value, be it commercial or social.”

This was the basis of a talk I gave recently to a group of fourth year agronomy students at Uppsala University. My lecture was part of a series to help prepare them for working life.

I think we sometimes undervalue, or even completely ignore, the power of relationships and networks. I live in a society where great value is placed on being busy, doing something, producing. And I have certainly done my fair share of all three. The basis of this value is knowledge and information. The more you have, the more valuable you are. Yet the internet has changed the game while most of us weren’t looking. Information is virtually free. Knowledge is shared. My value is no longer in what I know but who I know and how I can connect those people and their ideas.

So my challenge to the agronomy students was to value their learning, their knowledge, their expertise AND to value the relationships, networks and connections they have equally so. To nurture existing ones, and look for new ones. This is where support will come for new projects, for funding, for research, for jobs.

This is the new face of leadership – where things get done through sometimes messy networks and relationships, with timeframes that are unclear, rather than through elaborate plans, gannt charts and milestones.

2 Comments so far

  1. Eva Schiffer on October 20, 2010 6:28 am

    Hi Viv,
    As an extrovert married to an introvert I get more and more alert to the fact that often our different experiences are because we either recharge through interaction or recharge through solitary time.
    One thing that worries me a bit in our professional context is that most of us facilitators are extroverts, because, honestly, if we didn’t get energy out of interaction, if a messy room full of shouting and laughing people was draining for us, we wouldn’t be in the right profession in the first place. So we could go on (and I love doing that) being extroverts and facilitating events in which we help our fellow extroverts connect better and everyone is happy. But how about people who don’t get the same buzz out of this but might also attend our meetings? And need to maintain networks, develop relationship centered modern management styles? How do we cater for those, if we don’t even really get the way they tick? Does this resonate with your experience? How do you deal with it?

  2. Viv McWaters on October 23, 2010 8:41 pm

    Hi Eva – I’d better start looking for a new profession πŸ™‚ As an introvert (and social extrovert) I’ve come to understand that we introverts are not so much anti-social or opposed to talking, connecting, even doing improv – we simply need time to ourselves to recover and recharge, ready for the next assault. Extroverts don’t need this time alone as much. I think this is an important distinction to be aware of when facilitating and designing events. Personally, I find social networking as an ideal adjunct to face-to-face gatherings which can really drain my energy (as a participant). When facilitating I simply turn up the social extrovert in me and make sure I can get away by myself during breaks etc. This is the very reason why I’m exploring different ways to facilitate conversations in workshops – to enable connections to be made, and possible relationships to develop (sounds like a dating service, but you know what I mean πŸ™‚ Cheers, Viv

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