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A Thank You to a family, or what Christianity means to me

When I was 9 I decided I wanted to be a Christian.

My parents were definitely not Christians and I’m not entirely sure what led me there. I think a craving for values and loving a good hymn. I was young and can’t really remember the details but what I do know is that aged 9 I started going to church on Sundays alone.

And what I do know is that from the first Sunday I went, I was not alone, because one family took me in. Every week they were there to sit with and to answer questions. They were great fun, but also took me and my (I’m sure) precocious need to ‘do religion’ seriously and helped me grow with it.

They took me and their wonderful daughter on so many holidays where I got to help her learn to swim, and stand with her as her grandpa got ill, and hear the very first Harry Potter read to us for the very first time.

My mum asked me recently which couple I admire most and somewhat bizarrely without a second thought I said them.

It was a lifetime ago but to this day they are what I understand Christianity to be.

Tomorrow I get to watch that beautiful daughter Hannah walk down the aisle in that perfect little church where her parents watched as we grew up. I’m so proud to have been a weird little part of your family for a while, so glad to see that family grow. And if you and Jon manage to bring even a tenth of the good into the world that your parents have, then your union will be one of the most blessed I know.

(And apologies for the cheesy essay but we don’t say thank you enough and this seemed a good opportunity to show my appreciation for a family who truly made a huge dint on my life :) Happy Wedding Day!)

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Skills and Diversity on boards: My Girlguiding #trusteesweek interview

In October 2016, NVCO asked me to write a blog on being a trustee for their annual Trustee’s Week which spends a week each November celebrating trustees and encouraging others to join non-profit boards; so I obliged! Here it is in full:

When did you become a trustee?
I became a trustee for Girlguiding in February 2014 when I was 25.

What the charity’s name is and what it does in brief?
Girlguiding is the national arm of the UK’s leading charity for girls and young women, which provides over 500,000 girls aged 4-25 with the opportunity to discover new experiences and grow in confidence, through Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and beyond.

Why did you become a trustee?
Girlguiding is super focused on youth participation and girl-led programmes so when they did an overhaul of their governance process in 2014 and opened up spaces on their national board to their wider membership on a skills basis, I remember being hit with messaging from all over the organization that they were keen for all types of people to apply.

I’ve always been ambitious and recognized that at some point I would want to be on boards, so I thought even just the experience of applying would be worthwhile. I am also extremely passionate about opportunities for young women particularly teenage girls, and loved the idea of a chance to get under the skin of how Girlguiding could help serve them better.

I honestly didn’t expect anything to come of applying so was surprised to be asked to interview and even more surprised when I was offered a place on the board. I think I am case in point that young women underestimate their unique skillset and value. In particular, I realise now that what I thought were fairly generic digital skills were actually quite unique and advanced, and I have gone on to be the trustee representative on a monthly operational digital board for the charity where I supported the overhaul of the national website and CRM system.

I’m also under no illusion that it helped to have an interview panel of mainly women who weren’t scared to work with someone different to what they were used to – brave boards will attract brave people, and I try really hard to make sure we maintain that fearlessness.

How do you make sure you are being effective/ doing a good job – both individually and as a board?
I joined the board at the start of a new governance structure so we’ve been pretty rigorous in appraising ourselves and the wider board against Charity Commission best practice. The includes online 360 reviews and the use of an external consultant to facilitate development discussions.  More informally we are very supportive of each other as a board – we challenge hard in meetings, and it can be quite tough, so outside of the board room we make sure to tell each when we though a good point was made and ask for feedback on what felt relevant or what wasn’t quite so imperative.

What’s been the best thing about being a trustee so far?
Professionally, it’s lovely being 3 years in to my term and seeing how decisions we made or chances we took a few years ago are starting to pay off.  Girlguiding volunteers rely heavily on an online management system and a new version is about to be rolled out which will make the lives of our volunteers so much easier. It’s been a big investment for the charity but we’ve ensured it’s stayed accountable and I’m so proud of how aligned the staff have remained to the core needs of our volunteers.

Personally the best thing has been to work with some of the smartest and most successful women in the UK as fellow board members. I am aware that it is quite a luxury in this day and age (still..!) to sit on an almost all female board, and I am constantly grateful and awe-inspired by the wisdom and courage I learn from them. It has given me so much confidence in myself as woman who has experienced professional success at a young age and all the serious imposter syndrome that brings with it! We talk constantly in Girlguiding about how important role models are but we as a charity, and as a society still have to keep improving. What is starting to interest me a lot is that we’ve got better at highlighting female role models but not so much at highlighting young role models.  I am in no doubt that most of the 14 year olds I work with have more wisdom, courage and sense than most adults – we have to harness those talents, and engaging them in senior leadership or governance positions is imperative to that.

What’s the hardest thing been?
I’ve found that when you’re new to being on board, the hardest thing is knowing whether you should keep challenging on something, or whether you might actually be in the wrong. You will always get push back to challenge, that’s the point, so I’ve found it’s so important to do your homework and canvas as much opinion or expertise on something as possible to both feel confident in your challenge and also to help the person you are challenging understand where you are coming from and together find a solution.

I also think it’s sometimes hard for older board members to understand how to relate to and include younger board members (as it would be for any group to relate to a group different from them). I actually feel lucky that on the Girlguiding board I haven’t encountered much of this but I know other young trustees have, and I also know that in our wider organization it’s always something we strive to improve; we pride ourselves at Girlguiding on being ‘girl-led’ but this means having adult volunteers who are skilled to facilitate that – and that’s not an easy or innate skill.  I came across a great article this week about what younger colleagues wish you knew, and I think it’s a great starting point for boards wanting to get more out of younger trustees. There is often fear or misunderstanding of the unknown but if you speak to those people around the table who you’re not as sure of, and just ask them what motivates them and what they need in order to thrive, I promise you will unlock potentially your greatest governance asset.

Would you recommend it your experience and to whom?
I would recommend being on a board to anyone who a) has a significant skillset in a certain area / areas, and b). who has the confidence in that skillset to challenge people who in other circumstances you probably wouldn’t challenge. I particularly think there are young people out there who might have been volunteering for a particular cause, building websites, or debating at school since they were very young and therefore have as much if not more of a skillset in those areas than much older people. Similarly, someone who has travelled the world or been a stay at home parent will have developed significant skills in areas that someone in a professional career won’t have.

I think it’s imperative that we have more diversity on boards but I also think that has to be backed up with real skillsets otherwise the diversity will become tokenistic and unsustainable.

Originally published on TrusteesWeek.Org.

Why my brain is happier in the North

I moved from the capital to the North of England 1 year ago and I don’t know how else to describe the feeling in my head except that my brain feels happier. In trying to work out the cause of this, I realised some of it is political stimulation, some of it is how I see myself, some of it is health.

  1. It’s the heartland: Something spooked me with Brexit that didn’t seem to be talked about much. That yellow bubble around London – an island in this country, completely disconnected with thought elsewhere. I personally want to explore that. I want to understand the thought outside of London. I don’t want to stay in a bubble surrounded by people who agree with me and boost my ego. I want to learn. I want to challenge my ideas. I’ve always felt that way about learning, and I’m surprised more people don’t want to come out into the counties to challenge themselves too.
  2. There’s still work to do: The north is at least 10 years behind when it comes to equality. There’s a different understanding of men and women here and I’m not even sure the desire to change is there. Again, I could just stay in the capital where things are moving along nicely, or I can see how to take what I’ve learnt and seen progressed there to share insight in these northern cities.
  3. There is actual peace: You can talk all you want about yoga an mindfulness in the capital, I don’t think you truly know peace till you’re 5 minutes from your house in a field, pretty certain that you could stand there for an hour with no one bothering you.  There’s a calmness to life in the North, at least some of the time. Work still (at least for me) is intense and stressful and constant, but here at least the weekend stops. You’re not stuck in a box and there’s no to pressure to go make the most of your £2k a month location, where anyplace you’d go is no further than 2 meters from another person.
  4. There is diversity everywhere you turn: Yes London has a great mix of cultures, but there’s always a sense that it’s being smushed into a single idea of a single multi-cultural city. I drive home every day through a part of Bolton that could be India if you woke up in the middle of it. I utterly love it. Likewise there are tens of cities all with their own separate history and determined to retain their own culture here.
  5. I am a human being: rather than a generation rent / millennial / career woman. For all the paths you can supposedly explore in the capital, for all the different people you can dream up and be, someone always wants to but you in a box. Surrounded by advertising and limited so greatly by your environment (namely the costs of that environment), you can maybe manage a bit of creativity for a few hours in a class but ultimately you don’t have the space or financial freedom to just be.  Here I see women of the same age and backround to me living a hundred different lives, and all respecting each other for it. Gosh is that powerful and oddly rare.

This article is part of challenge to write a post every week, to share my perspectives and understanding of the world. I work a lot with young women to encourage them to be brave  and share their voice, but too rarely do I practice what I preach. If you know me / follow me and would like to see a post on a certain topic, please tweet me @xbluexskiesx with the hashtag #blog52.

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5 things I learned from the Culturevist ‘Org Culture in Charities’ meet-up

Thanks to a chance meeting at Emma Sexton‘s 2nd A Heard to Run With meet-up (also about organisational culture and new ways of working), I found out about a great network called Culturevist and having mentioned my trustee role, their founder suggested I come along to their event the following week on organisational culture specifically in charities.  It was an evening event hosted by Macmillan and I was really impressed by the range of charities represented there.  There were some really smart ideas shared and challenges discussed. Here were my main 5 takeaways:

  1. A lot of orgs experienced (and summarized better than I’d managed to before) the challenge where people have organic passion for a cause or charity, often because of personal links (i.e. someone volunteers for Macmillan because a relative suffered from cancer), but then it’s difficult to channel that passion to make most efficient use of it without risking a challenge to or compromise of that initial motivation.  No one had a straight solution for this unfortunately (though rough consensus was that it’s about constantly keeping a balance and tweaking that) but it was more just interesting that a lot of other orgs saw this challenge too.
  2. A common problem is that while there are fairly straight forward ways to foster a great culture in an immediate team in a single location, it becomes a lot harder to do when your team is more disparate. This is something charities have had to deal with for years with individual volunteers across the country and they have made great strides though still don’t have all the answers. I think we may see more businesses looking to charities for their learnings here, as more people start to work remotely.
  3. There are always smart people, you sometimes have to work a bit to find them. Every person in that room was so super smart, and more importantly they were motivated to come out of work hours to discuss ways of making businesses better.  I sometimes find it hard to find people on my level who are driven to do that, and it is more than a relief to find that there are people who care. I could completely relate to Culurevist founder Matthew Partovi when he said he started the network when he realised his friends were getting bored of him going on about business culture and he wanted to find people who did want to talk.
  4. Most of the attendees from what I could tell were paid staff of charities. I was one of the few people there in a board trustee capacity. And I realised (I think) that a lot of work needs to be done to improve the relationships between charity boards and staff members. I heard quite a few grumbles, eye rolls and knowing laughs about demanding boards. And while I know there will sometimes be disagreements, I think it’s such a shame that it can’t be a more symbiotic relationship. I just think this is something I will bear in mind as being an area that could be improved, as I delve more into organisational culture.
  5. The Macmillan offices, located in Vauxhall, have the most killer views I have seen in London. They have an incredible team to develop organisational culture who’ve done an impressive job, but I’m pretty sure the view out of the window helps… 😉
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26

To have no idea what you’re doing next, and to be absolutely sure that is the right decision.

26 was a deciding year. I’m not sure I wanted it to be, or even planned it to be, but I think in the end it simply had to be.  I will sound like a twat, but I wasn’t ‘present’ in my life. I used to write diaries and blogs to savor a moment – that was clearly my way of processing and enjoying it – but for the past few years I stopped even doing that. When I wrote the last 2 birthday posts, that probably the most excited I’ve been all year because I actually took time to think wow, I did all that.

I have been really really busy, and really really tired.

 

So the biggest thing to happen at 26? I quit my job and decided to move to another city. There are other things I can and will write about this. Lots of people keep telling me it’s such a brave decision, and I guess it is, but it didn’t feel that way when I made it. It was just obvious and not really a decision in the end… it was between being asleep for the rest of my life, or finding something worth being awake for even if I don’t know what that is yet.

What else though? Well. I spent 2 weeks in Japan. It was kinda stressful at the time actually but the further away I get from it the more incredible and unique the memories become.

I went skiing for the first time. And honestly, it woke me up.  I’ve experienced lots of new things throughout my life, but so often it feels like ticking boxes. Skiing felt like an absolute thrill. The satisfaction of getting my body to get down a hill burned through me like I imagine drugs must feel, and then to spend time with family in the evenings felt like the perfect mix of adventure and people that I have always craved.

I got promoted in my job again. And it was a great role, and I know I did the best job I could while I was there. Part of me is gutted to leave. But in a way still really wanting to leave even though I had a great role made it even clearer to me that leaving was just something I had to do. Right now I’ll be honest and say I feel jaded about publishing. But I can already see with a bit of time and perspective I don’t think I’ll feel that way in 6 months. I still believe communications, media and the stories we share are some of the most important things on this planet; I just need a bit of time to step back and rethink how I think they should work.  I also think teenagers and young people are such a phenomenal under-acknowledged power. I would have loved to continue to grow what’s available to them in the media, but luckily my work with Girlguiding and Girls Out Loud will be able to continue some of that.

I had some brilliant trips with truly dear friends to Berlin, Paris and Gibraltar, and had a brilliant baptism into the Balkans and all its history in a week long sojourn to Belgrade, Serbia in my trustee role.

I watched the London Marathon for the first time, which really blew me away.  I also hit an all time low with my health which it seems was necessary to bounce back from and really start taking my body seriously. Thus a mix of fear and inspiration is firing me to make little steps to get my diet back on track, and start running again. I have loads of time now, so no excuse 😉

And this is probably the understated but really most exciting one… I started studying for my foundation accounting qualification.  I’ve always been fascinated by everything and I am hugely indecisive. When it came to university applications my plan was to apply for both arts and economics and decide depending on the offers; until I realised you could only write one personal statement. I went for arts (probably because of too much Gilmore Girls / Dawsons – role models matter..).  I’m grateful for the open-mindedness and debating skills it has give me, but I always kept my toe in the numbers side, and the more I got to work on budgets and accounting in my publishing roles, the more I craved it. So initially the plan is to just beef up that interest with a basic formal qualification, but who knows.. I’ve done almost 10 years of creativity (which will never leave me), maybe the next decade is for numbers and logic? Or a magical mix of it all.

 

So now what? Now I’m on sabbatical. Or something.  I am trying to take it easy. To give me space to think, to learn, to have new ideas.  My intention had always been to take 6 months off after my masters to explore various bits and pieces, but unfortunately / fortunately I got my dream job in London straight away and had to get on with life quicker than anticipated. So now is my time to explore, and luckily working your butt off for years affords me that freedom for a few months. On the menu is finishing my accounting qualification, reading lots, spending time learning from all the amazing people I know and hopefully will know, taking care of my long forsaken health, exploring London, exploring Manchester, doing some strategy and comms work for a few businesses, and hopefully by September be doing some really great and exciting new work.

In the middle of the ride :)

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25

I dreaded being 25. To me 24 had seemed fresh and young but with a little bit of experience. 26 looking sophisticated.. older but sussed at it. 25 just seemed a naff inbetween with none of the benefits of being old or young. And yet here I am 2 days to go and I’ve never wanted to leave an age less.
A lot has happened to 25 year old me.
My company put a big lump of faith in me and gave me a big promotion to Associate Publisher.
I applied and was accepted onto the Board of Trustees for Girlguiding, the UK’s leading charity for girls and young women.
I moved to a real home (with a boy no less) in London that I would be quite happy not leaving for the foreseeable future.
And mainly thanks to the above I’m feel far more settled than I have in a long while. I have singing lessons, I go to Toastmasters, I spend my Friday nights with teenage Girl Guides, I have a zoo membership and it’s just 10 minutes walk from my house, I have lavender plants on my front porch, my walk to and from walk is part green fields and part stunning metropolis, I watch Netflix and lots of American TV, my family all seem stable and happy for the time being, some friends are happier while some are transitioning but all are brave and get more so every day, I have girlie trips to Berlin and Paris planned, I have adventures with the boy in the pipeline to Iceland and Japan and Austrian Skiing and a mega tour of the US, and I finally have the budget to buy something from Reiss… 😉

There is still a lot of shit too, and a lot that pulls me down every single day. It’s taking far longer than I ever imagined it would to become the person I want to be. But now and then I’ll have a moment, usually insignificant, where I stop and think ‘woah, when did I get here?’. Here is an increasingly good place.

I want to be happy, and I want to make the world a better place.

I’m getting there :)

24

24

This week saw the 25th anniversary of my birth and the 1st anniversary of moving to London and starting my dream job. Because I’m super crap and haven’t written in forever, you’re now going to get a summary post of all the things I’ve wanted to write about while being 24 and living in London, but.. well.. haven’t.

24 has been the longest year of my life. Which is entirely a blessing when life since about age 13 has gone distressingly fast. Here’s what happened…

 

I went to Qatar in the Middle East.  I’ve never been anywhere too exciting in my life (aside from a week in New York which was just the best) so venturing to Qatar was super satisfying as one of the most random places on earth I could possible go.  I went to visit my friend Katy who edits an English magazine out there called FACT.  I spent a week just exploring and eating and breathing the super sweet air of this Aladdin country. It was fascinating to see it from Katy’s expat point of view rather than just as a tourist because it made me realise I really could live anywhere and feel comfortable anywhere if I wanted.  Which is a relief for the future!

 

I got back involved with Girlguiding.  From aged 7, I was a Brownie, and then a Young Leader helping at said Brownies unit until I went to uni.  I think after that I was literally brainwashed of the whole thing because it was only around October 2012 amid a desperate search to find something London based to replace the work I was doing with Girls Out Loud, did I see some press coverage of Girlguiding, and have the brainwave of ‘Oh yeah, I used to utterly love doing that?!’ No clue how I hadn’t thought of it sooner.

So now I’m helping at a guide unit (ages 10-13 so more of a challenge then Brownies, but a good challenge), helping now and then at Great Ormond Street Hospital’s Guide & Scout unit, I’m the Marketing & Communications Adviser for London North West County and have been trained as a 4 peer educator (to give sessions on the standard bullying / health etc but also skills like self-confidence, communcation). It feels good to be doing it in London for a while, because I feel closer to where the bigger policies and plans are happening, and that seems a good place to be right now as the organisation is changing a lot and trying to freshen up its image away from all the tradition.  I do miss nature walks though and just generally being able to take the girls outside…

Ooo and also I’m taking my Queen’s Guide Award! I have to complete it before I’m 26 (argh!) but most of it was stuff I was doing already.  It’s the highest award you can get in Guiding and includes things like service to guiding, improving a skill, research into an issue affecting the community, and taking your Guiding holiday license to be able to take the girls on holidays and camps.

 

The job is great.  I’m enjoying it and learning a lot.  I’ve realised that one of the reasons it’s hard for our generation to share stories on the workplace that could mutually help us all, is because we’re so used to sharing online as much as face to face.. and I just can’t publish most of what I would want to say about my work.. not because its bad, but just because it’s sensitive and wouldn’t be appropriate. Which pisses me off. So do ask me about it in person. But I’ve learnt a lot about the media industry, about negotiating or at least being clear about what you want, about work being a two way street where both employer and employee have to give and take, and that you have to be smart and play to your circumstances. Anyone who thinks they will be handed things on a plate once and because they ‘deserve ‘ it, is unfortunately not someone likely to get far, and not someone I would chose to employ anyway. (Generalising, obvs, but it’s an important thing to at least be aware of).

 

Keeping up the singing. I was really lucky to have found a singing teacher in London before I even moved (through people at Preston Opera). We really started having regular lessons in the past few months and focusing on my Grade 8. God I love it.  My teacher has suggested I learn quite a few options for the Grade, and then do a little recital of them all (which naturally terrifies me, but a good challenge!).  I’ve also been involved with an office choir we have at work where we rehearse every Wednesday evening. It’s been a great way to keep singing and we have a really great teacher while the music is a bit more poppy and laid back which is fun. Oh and also I’m going on a music camp at the end of June?! No idea what to expect but apparently we just spend a whole weekend learning a big piece of opera.. why not?!

 

Women of the World Festival.  I went to my first of these festivals just for a day in 2012, but this year I went the whole hog of 3 days and it was just a dream from beginning to end.  I couldn’t have spent a happier weekend.. just learning and having my mind blown by amazing women, and just feeling all this potential in the world.  And I took my live tweeting skills to a whole new level 😉 They videoed a lot more of it this year so you can still see lots even if you weren’t there. A woman at the end of the weekend made a comment like ‘I feel we come to WOW each year, say we’re going to keep it going and change things and then nothing ever happens’.. and I so disagree, because if any of the people in that room leave feeling the way I do, they’re going to spend the next year making changes in their own little patches and collectively things will get better.

 

I graduated from my MA! Crikey this feels ages ago now. But I managed the craziness of doing a masters project for 3 months while working. I was so proud of the final result. My magazine is a work in progress but it is everything I wanted it to be. And however stressful it was for that year, it was very much worth it.. I learnt so much and I know it’s propelled me more in my career.

 

I’m slowly getting back into running.  I still haven’t quite found my rhythm. I desperately want to run lots but can’t quite work out if I prefer it alone or with someone, morning or evening, whether I need extra exercise to compliment it.  But I’m just going to keep trying until something clicks 😉

 

Counting down to London.  I spent a long, long time waiting to get to London. I think I had a 24 month countdown at one point.  To be fair, things got better at home and I forgot about that countdown for a while, but for whatever reason, I have always wanted to be here.  Be it childhood visits, or too many movies, I never wanted to miss out on this cosmopolitan glittery magic.  And it is wonderful .  I’m so lucky to live so central. I cannot believe that now for the rest of my life I will always get to say I lived in Fitzrovia for a year (or more!). I prefer it to Paris, but I think that’s more the luck of a great job and just being more used to a culture I love.  I’m not going to live here forever. Who knows if I will even work here forever. I miss the countryside desperately and all the time, but right now my pulls country / city are still 50/50.  We’ll see. But I know how much I wanted this, and I’m so so grateful I got it.

 

Who knows what 25 will bring. I’m moving in with a boy so that’s a biggie. My career could go anywhere and good God I miss writing. I’m also just desperate to keep learning and discovering. But more generally, I feel like the last few years have been the super hard work, then 24 was the setting up, and now at 25, I’d really like time to just, well ENJOY it all for a bit. I’m not sure I’m capable of sitting back and just taking it all in.. but I know how content it makes me, so I’m really going to try :)

‘What is this life if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.’

 

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Role Models

There seems to be a lot of talk at the moment about how to ensure a moral upbringing for the current generation of children, and a growing number of commentators are starting to notice how parents seem to be left out of this discussion.

Among all the discussion over internet censorship, Charles Arthur was one of the first to pen an utterly compelling argument as to why giving ISPs the power to switch off ‘adult’ content would be both pointless and would be placing the responsibility on the wrong person, essentially making the point that it is parents who should be responsible for what their children see online.

Granted, it is not always that simple but it is surprising that so many initiatives for children seem to assume parents have no and can have no responsibility. Maybe it’s chicken and egg.  Did parents get lazy so the government had to step in, or did the government step in which led parents to get lazy. (I shall not expand that to its wider political implications!).

A recent study from Girl Guiding UK called Girls Attitudes Explored… Role Models found that 55 per cent of girls felt there aren’t enough female role models.  What I found sad however was that they said this despite also saying that mums were their top role model. I just wonder at what point we stopped finding our mothers (and aunties, and sisters etc) adequate role models.

Some girls just don’t have those people in the first place. Rachel Ward Lilley who runs Girls Out Loud, a social enterprise for raising the aspirations of teenage girls, says “All girls need role models. Some of us are lucky enough to get these informally with support from family and friends but many don’t.”

But even for those who do, sometimes it is just a case of wanting to know what else is out there, says Rachel.

“We often find when we are with the girls that they have very little knowledge about careers and certainly not in detail – sterotypes are frequently the norm – for example lawyers are all like the ones on TV, predominantly male, old and wear gowns.  When we had some young cool and trendy lawyers involved in a Discovery Day programme in Leeds last year the girls initially found it difficult to believe they were what they said, but once they did they all decided they wanted to be like them – we had a room full of would be lawyers.”

There are certain types of role models such as actors, journalists and writers who are more naturally in the spotlight for girls to look up to.  But there seems to be a desperate need to expose these girls to a far wider range of life and career choices that aren’t so obviously visible.  As Rachel points out “I believe in the saying that ‘it is difficult to be what you can’t see’.”

 

Thumbnail image: Nandadevieast on Flickr

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Relight the flame in business relationships

Life Hacks have published a great article entitled Let’s End Networking, Please, bemoaning the now cringe-worthy excess of networking events.

It’s a great antidote to the growing number of networking events in every industry even down to university, and argues that these events are now too cold and “explicitly manipulative”, where people only connect to get something they want, rather than building relationships.

Allen Gannet who writes the article says we cut ourselves short by only taking what we need from networking and that  ‘we create a false barrier that prevents connecting with them personally’.

While he doesn’t draw the link explicitly I’d say Twitter and other open social media may be both the cause and potential antidote to this situation.

On the one hand it has never been easier to ‘make a connection’.  With LinkedIn you could give someone only a one line reason to connect and bingo you’re in. Talk about not building a relationship.

On the other hand, there is a lot of talk about separating your personal and professional life on Twitter.  I’ve always felt uneasy about this, and maybe this article explains why.  If we maintain one universal persona on social networks we might achieve what Gannet is calling for, by communicated and networking with people with your own genuine voice.

Interestingly,when I try and explain social networking to anyone who wants to use it professionally, I always encourage them to maintain one account but to think of it like networking, in the sense that of course you’re going to be professional, and of course much of what you talk about will be related to your given industry. But also that, in the sense of the type of networking Gannet is calling for, you will also be friends with that person, you will ask how their family is, you’ll joke about the state of TV at the moment, you’ll admire their dress.  In really good, and let’s admit it, really effective networking all this happens. So why not on Twitter?

And to bring it full circle, many people DO already recognise this and do this on Twitter, so maybe its time we brought it back to face to face networking too.

This reminded me of one of the 10 commandments in the classic business book What they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School which says “You can never have too many friends in business.”  Maybe it’s time to bring back that warmth.

And ultimately, as Gannet says, “If someone is not good enough to be friends with, then why do business with them?”

 

Thumbnail image: Greentechmedia on Flickr