You Cannot Fake Connection


Steven_spielberg_et_go_home Connection happens at the individual level.

You can ignore all the people in a crowd easily. And now, as a marketer, the crowd ignores you. So, the arrow is pointing in the direction of 1:1.

Yet personal connection doesn't mean exactly personalization — you know, that trick where the email or the letter has your name (spelled correctly, please) at the top of a mail merge job.

I was impressed this year by the SxSW panel and solo submission process. Yes, it is more rigorous and less community-driven than in past years:

  • 30% Community Voting (that’s YOU); 30% SXSW Staff Picks; 40% SXSW Advisory Board Picks
  • Voting runs from August 9 to 27, 2010
  • First 200 sessions are announced September 20, with more following on November 8

However, the first email I received from a member of the committee spoke specifically about my topic for conversation — Everyone’s Wrong about Influence. Except your Customers (register so you can go on a voting spree — ideas that get done are far more satisfying, and I saw several worthy talks and panels).

It takes so little to show you care. The principle of speaking to the one person in front of you is very applicable to community.

I've been building communities for such a long time… and people look
at the members relationship with me for answers on influence, instead of realizing that it is the
relationships individuals built with each other
— thanks to the platform(s) I
provided — that matter.

This is also what organizations keep confusing as they enter social media. They fail to see that the opportunity to create value is in the eyes and experience of the person taking advantage of it. You get the honor of building that space, creating that context, attracting that attention — and empowering the people who use it to do great things with it.

Yes, you can do that even in short spaces, like Twitter, or as you cross paths with a customer — remember when that was more common? Tom Peters has an excellent list of short expressions that pack a punch at the intention (and action) level. I cherry-picked a couple of my favorites:

4 most important words: "What do you think?" (Dave Wheeler @ tompeters.com: "Most important 4 words in organization.")

4 most important words: "How are we doing?" (To customers, regularly)

4 most important words: "How can I help?" (Boss as CHRO/Chief Hurdle Removal Officer)

2 most important words: "I'm sorry." (Power of unconditional apology = Stunning! Marshall Goldsmith: #1 exec issue)

Notice how these are all connective expressions and words. Goldsmith's comment is the reason why I specifically like that last one. I had the pleasure of meeting Marshall Goldsmith several years ago at a Wharton Leadership Forum in Philadelphia.

After his session was over, at the end of the day, he asked all men to leave the room so that he could have a short pow-how with us women. We all moved to the two front rows — yes, that's when I realized how fewer women there were in the audience.

Then he said something to this effect: "you are all carrying plenty of other people on your shoulders — children, husbands, parents, friends, etc. — put them down and think only about yourself for a few moments." There were some gasps in the room — it was a powerful moment.

Although I forgot exactly how he said it, I will always remember how it made me feel. And I felt a sense of belonging among those women. That is connection. Connection is built upon shared passion, purpose, values, and stories.

Are you still asking the wrong question?


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0 responses to “You Cannot Fake Connection”

  1. Questions are such important things! Even the wrong question asked with an attitude of full engagement can lead to deepening the relationship. The connection becomes possible when you stop and listen to the answer. Listening is acknowledgement of the dignity of the other person. Listening makes the questions powerful!

  2. Wow. Very powerful post, Valeria (spelled correctly!). I’m all about connections. I think they are what makes this crazy world work.
    Amazing story about how Marshall Goldsmith talked WITH the women exclusively. Wow.
    Long time reader, infrequent commenter.
    DJ Waldow
    Director of Community, Blue Sky Factory
    @djwaldow

  3. Very insightful indeed – yet simple and logical, how unfortunate business and business people tend to steer around caring about the most importnat people to them.
    Seems easier to attempt to show care and personal touch for some than actually do it. Mail merge is an example the other comes from network meetings, when receiving generic emails after the events usually from the people you never met face to face.
    Social media gives everyone a fantastic opportunity to network and connect and then to physically MEET.

  4. @Elli – the spirit of inquiry does help in business and in life.
    @DJ – great to see you here and you’re always welcome.
    @Mark – if I wished anything for us, it would be the ability to slow down long enough to become thoughtful and deliberate about building relationships. The reality of piling numbers easily in social networks is distorting the real reality (if I may write so) of being interested and open to connections. Alas, often attempts are made starting with “what’s in it for me” vs. let’s see where this goes.

  5. I have had the privilege to meet Marshall in person as well, and it is amazing the feelings of warmth and genuineness he was able to convey towards me in that 2 minute exchange. His information is packed with actionable steps, which I loved. (I ran out and bought his book the next day.) Social connections are enhanced by the in-person experience, and I am much more likely to pay attention to the person I feel I have a connection with.

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