Making Prime Connections
As an employee of ‘The Premier Career College’, our students and graduates depend on the community to host them as interns and hire them as graduates. Outside academia, businesses and other entities depend on a multitude of marketing and public relations gurus to usher customers to their doors in order to stimulate, catapult, and drive sales. These entities can drive traffic through their doors, but cannot keep customers from returning.
What is the surefire vehicle for growth? Rarely is the vehicle self-promotion. There is no real power in the number of the alliances, but clout comes from the quality of relationships and the wiliness to connect others through experience. Instead, consider connecting through partnering. Partnering endeavors to produce mutually beneficial outcomes. Partnering with your community may begin in multiple ways: a phone call, a referral, a personal association, networking opportunities and meeting your next door neighbor. Building one trusted relationship is often the catalyst for another.
Relationship building is not linear, nor are the sturdiest ties built from ease. ‘Resurrecting a project from trenches of despair’ as a joint venture can build camaraderie and solidify the alliance. Partnering with others takes energy. It takes guts to experience the glory. Creating steadfast and sturdy associations often creates the willingness to collaborate on future ventures.
Build your community and sphere of influence one person at a time. Focus and grow your community deliberately. Those who share deep connections with you may become your best connectors to others! Watch your list of strong, cohesive relationships flourish beyond your imagination!
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Prime-Connections: What is ‘Cindy Magic’?
People have asked me to define what I call ‘Cindy Magic’. Cindy Magic is the ‘thing’ that makes me unique or special. I just couldn’t put my finger on it until my grandson-want-to-be bought me a book from one of his school’s book fairs. The book is Cindy Moo by Lori Mortensen.
Interestingly enough, it was our special connection to each other and the partial title of the book ‘Cindy’, which spurred him to surprise me with both the gifts of the book and a private reading. Basically, the book was about a cow named Cindy Moo was inspired to jump over the moon after hearing the nursery rhyme Hey Diddle-Diddle read to one of the farmer’s children.
Hey diddle diddle,
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon!
The little dog laughed to see such sport,
And the dish ran away with the spoon!
Cindy Moo thought that if that other cow could jump over the moon, then so could she! After several valiant attempts resulting in utter failure (no pun intended), she paused to rethink the entire problem. Then it dawned on her! Cindy Moo saw a reflection of the moon in a puddle! It was an ‘aha’ moment! She got up, gathered some running speed and jumped over the puddle and simultaneously, over the moon! She continued to ‘jump over the moon’ and then invited everyone else to do the same! Cindy Moo delighted in solving the problem and shared in the joy of her barnyard friends as they took turns jumping over the moon!
My prime connection with my grandson-want-to-be and his opportune connection of finding that one special book at a book fair was just a small part of the magic. The story of Cindy Moo solved my dilemma of how to define ‘Cindy Magic’. I learned that ‘Cindy Magic’ is my special gift for explaining complex concepts. As an adult educator, these explanations generate new ways of thinking, learning, and problem-solving.
Recently, at a job interview, I was tasked to create a presentation on the topic of Compton’s Effect or Compton’s Interaction, which is, in essence, quantum physics. Many believe physics concepts are beyond their capacity to learn. Other learners’ eyes generally glaze over with sheer boredom when the word ‘physics’ is mentioned. Instead, I likened Compton’s interaction with matter to a game of billiards commonly known as ‘eight ball’.
Thankfully, I had a pool shark in the shark tank of interviewers. The lesson was clever and thoroughly enjoyed by all! Cindy Moo brought moon jumping to the other barnyard animals. As an educator, I bring often difficult material to learners who have preset notions of abilities. Like the animals in the barnyard who would not even entertain the venture of jumping over the moon, as an educator, I make inspire others to take a risk, take a leap of faith, and just jump into a new adventure of learning!
Success is a ladder that cannot be climbed with your hands in your pockets.
Is this all there is?
Congratulations! I thought I had arrived! I worked diligently to complete multiple college degrees to help land my dream job! I believed that obtaining my Doctorate in Education would land a role in Higher Education that would be remembered as the crowning jewel of my educational and professional experience! I put in countless hours of study and preparation to be qualified for a great opportunity! Then the economy crashed! I found myself unemployed and underemployed! As I moved along in my new journey, I asked myself “Is this all there is?”
Taking Control of My Professional Life
Quickly, I learned that I am responsible for my own success! It was very difficult to create strategic and imaginative answers to the question “What will I be doing in the next 3, 5 and 10 years beyond?” This was a tough order when the economy was sluggish. I discovered that book-learning is very different than learning new skills! It was a scary and often overwhelming time! I also learned that by focusing on college studies and the job that previously held, had made me very vulnerable. Because I was so busy, I had no time to cultivate relationships! Many of my former prime-connections had move away, retired, or just plain vanished into thin air!
I looked around. There were many others in the same predicament! I joined several networking groups and began meeting with people for various reasons: some for comradery, some for support, and some to help create prime-connections towards identifying new career possibilities. I met so many ‘strangers’ who assisted me in my journey towards enlightenment and onward to career prospects. It was a truly humbling experience!
I created an inexpensive business card and began to trade them like baseball cards. These cards were my reward for an excellent networking opportunity and quickly my LinkedIn contacts grew. I began to create prime-connections for my new acquaintances with others I met along the way. Soon, these folks were doing business together and I found great joy connecting and promoting others as they promoted me. These prime-connections provided advice to improve or clarify next steps current role and these same people can provided both leads and opportunities that were quite exciting!
During an entrepreneurial pursuit, it was suggested to list all of the people I know and provide these people’s contact information. Fine. Then I was encouraged to contact them and tell them I was unemployed! Ugh! Lastly, ask them for leads and ask them to connect me with their prime-connections! On my list was someone I hadn’t seen in 10 years. I mustered up all of my courage and she hired me! Three years later, I have a different job, but I continue to create prime-connections everywhere I go as well as to pay it forward to those who are in need. I am much better prepared, more confident and much more skilled than I was when I first lost my job. Indeed, I took a road less traveled, and like Robert Frost said in 1920 in his famous poem The Road Less Traveled, ” I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference!”
From TV shows, improvisation (improv) is often used by a comedian to supply a quick rebuttal towards hecklers or naysayers. However, when I attended Rochester Women’s Network Summit Business Conference, I curiously chose the breakout session on the topic of improv. The presenter, Ms. Caitlin Drago from the McArdle Ramerman Center in Rochester, NY, demonstrated that improv is a great technique which can empower trust, especially during critical conversations that often result in communication break down and ill-will.
The attendees were paired up and were given a scenario. One lead with the problem and the other teammate responded with the problem statement and then added the word ‘AND…’ followed by another statement that was not necessarily congruent with the first.
It went like this:
Scenario: A teenager was confronting his Mother regarding curfew.
The teenager said ‘Mom, the curfew you have given me doesn’t work for my social life’.
The Mom replied ‘Yes, I understand that the curfew I have given you doesn’t work for your social life AND you need to be home early on school nights.
The teenager said ‘Yes, I understand that I need to be home early on school nights AND I need some time with my friends after spending all day in school.
The Mom said ‘Yes, I understand that you need more time with your school friends after spending all day in school, AND, I am tired by 10pm and need to go to bed knowing you are home and are OK.
The teenager said ‘Yes, I understand you are tired also, and you want to be in bed by 10pm AND thanks Mom for caring about me!
I would challenge each of us to continue critical conversations by reiterating the words from the speaker. This forces us to REALLY LISTEN. Resist the urge to use the word ‘BUT’, which tends to refute the value of the speaker’s ideas or sentiments. Instead, try inserting the word AND to link the conversation towards negotiation and understanding.
Those who participated in Ms. Drago’s presentation felt very awkward in the face-to-face confrontational scenarios. Many of us commented that our need to be ‘right’ or our need to ‘win’ the argument was sometimes overwhelming and definitely presented a challenge. In a competitive world, many have been trained to win at any cost. OUR ideas must be foremost and final. Caitlin helped each of us understand that improv can help us to say ‘yes’ in new and creative ways, rather than shutting our partner down through bullying or power trips. Improv’s goal is to increase trust, teamwork, listening skills, and creativity among people.
Need a way to build prime connections with significant others? Let your listening skills be sharpened through capture and repetition. Bridge both person’s statements with AND, and lastly, have ‘no buts about it’!
An appreciation of diversity was learned at our kitchen table. A first generation American of Dutch decent, Dad found employment at a local printing company and later was promoted to a supervisory position. The 1960’s brought so much social change including the term ‘race relations’, women’s rights and the Viet Nam war. Certainly, these were confounding times.
As there was pressure to employ entry level positions with diverse candidates, Dad hired many. He hosted Webster’s version of the “International House of Pancakes’ and welcomed these foreign-born workers to breakfast every Saturday morning to fill up on pancakes and share life stories. Dad enjoyed learning their exotic phrases and often learned just enough to poke fun or to help correct a work issue.
Fast forward thirty years, as an educator in a local college, one half of my classroom was attended by English speakers of other languages, two of which were from Viet Nam. Enlightened though our Saturday pancake breakfasts, I still struggled with these two pupils. As I reflected, I understood why. No Asians attended Dad’s breakfasts, but the TV newsreels of our soldiers being maimed and killed in Viet Nam attended dinner daily. I became acutely aware of the impact of these images.
I decided to do what Dad modeled. Although rather reluctantly at first, I befriended the Vietnamese culture. Stories and photos were shared and an understanding had been reached. In essence, the war had not left their families or their country unscathed either.
Both successfully completed the program and I successfully overcame my own discrimination. As a token of my graduate’s gratitude, I received a package that contained a painting from Viet Nam of a rice farmer working in a field. Prominently displayed in my home, it is a reminder that like sowing rice, peace is sown through creating prime connections with people groups, one person at a time.
As I learned by my father’s example, making prime connections with those who are culturally diverse takes time and effort. Not all of our neighbors in our small town were as enlightened as Dad. Overcoming fear of miscommunication and being misunderstood is risky and takes practice. It also takes diligence and determination, but the outcomes can be life-changing for all!
A symposium of Indonesian visitors were our guests this week at Rochester Women’s Network. The purpose of their visit was to gather information to improve their own business practices through dialog with American citizens and business organizations.
Not all spoke English. Two ‘prime-connectors’ served as interpreters. Each translator took turns at various intervals throughout the meeting. One interpreter took notes in an attempt to translate verbatim. She would stop to clarify and then relay the communication. The other, did not. The female interpreter asked one English speaker to ‘please slow down’ so she could be more effective. It was her partner’s turn to translate when a slang American term was referenced. The male interpreter kept on speaking into his machine, without hesitation. Apparently, our guests understood because laughter prevailed. When I asked the translator, how he decoded the funny phrase, the woman answered. Perhaps the male interpreter was more skilled or perhaps the woman was able to read his mind. Maybe she was a quicker responder. Maybe I had asked a very common question. Nevertheless, the woman said, “We work around slang”. But my question was, ‘How did you interpret that phrase?” I wanted to know verbatim. Another question was asked elsewhere, and so, we moved on. I never received the exact wording.
We all have times in our lives when we need an interpreter. I call these experiences ‘culture crossings’. ‘Culture crossings’ occur during those times when advice is needed outside of our own wheelhouse or we are facing a new challenge. We look for a ‘prime-connector’ who will interpret for us-to bridge the gap in our own understanding. Depending on our own experience, the skill-set of that interpreter is critical to our well-being, especially if we need details or an extensive plan. At times, we prefer to allow someone to read our minds and respond from their own experience.
Take a few mental notes as to how you receive information and how you interpret the steady stream of incoming messages. Who are your ‘prime-connectors’? How are both you and your ‘prime-connectors’ supplying feed-back? Become more aware of who is speaking for you. What they are saying and what is being interpreted?
The challenge is choosing the proper ‘prime-connector’ at critical junctions and also choosing to become the ‘prime-connector’ for others by slowing down the conversation and asking clarifying questions. Revisit conversations to correct areas of misunderstanding. Don’t move on until appropriate and sufficient understanding is reached.