If there is one constant throughout my life and career, it is my ability to be a connector of people. As far back as the age of eight, I can remember utilizing this skill, but it wasn’t until, at the age of thirteen, when I challenged our local radio DJ to a go-kart race to raise money to start a youth group in my community (I won, in case you were wondering), that I realized what I was doing was connecting to bring together a community. I realized at a young age this is what I want to do, and I never looked back.
Over the years since that fateful go-kart race, I’ve developed and nurtured my ability to connect people. I certainly know that I don’t have all the right answers in the world, but I do know some really smart people. So, if I don’t know the answer, I know I can connect you to someone who does. I love when an acquaintance is moving to a different region or they are changing jobs and while I may not know exactly what it is they need, I know someone who does. I find joy in being that nucleus, that connector of people all over the world.
Not only am I connecting people, I really enjoy helping organizations make connections to support a movement or mission. Years ago, I was the executive director of the Bed and Breakfast Association of Virginia when Airbnb showed up. I used my ability to connect with people to get to know the Airbnb side of the industry and every player in between. I already knew where my members stood – on different sides of the issue – but we came together to a consensus. As a small lodging industry and because of the connections and openness, I feel Virginia was able to be a national leader and example of how to not only welcome Airbnb properties, but also to educate the Airbnb property owners about the industry. Let’s face it, if someone has a bad stay, often times they will apply a blanket statement that all “BnBs” are bad.
For those people that are or want to be connectors, you have to learn to set aside any biases you may have, and learn to see all sides in any situation; see the big picture. As a connector, really think about what questions to ask a person so you can be a valuable resource. Earlier this year I assisted the Cayuga Lakes Chamber in Minnesota, who are gearing up to finally host some in-person Chamber After Hours events. One of the issues they brought up was that in the past, they felt members didn’t mix and mingle with each other. The board set a goal to find a way to facilitate these connections themselves, setting an intention to invite new members into conversations, introduce them to others in the room, and actively invite them to engage. Now they have a plan to make those connections on-site and bring higher value to their networking events.
As a connector, it really centers around looking at all the people sitting at the table, in the room, or as your Facebook friends. But, also those on the sidelines, the ones who are not quite ready to step into the light on their own. Sometimes reaching out to them and saying, “I’m here for you, let’s let you shine,” can go a long way. As a connector, I love seeing people and relationships flourish. Remember, you don’t know who you don’t know until you start asking around and creating those connections and relationships.