In the past week, I made two unexpected connections with two different women who deeply moved me. Both connections were with women who I was not particularly close with, and both occurred while I was cramming yet another errand into my seemingly busy schedule.
The first encounter was with a woman who I had met casually once or twice before. She waved to me in a parking lot while I was rushing into a store, and in all honesty, I didn’t even recognize her at first. My initial thought was to perform that superficial dance of cursory exchanges that we all do that basically consists of claiming how fine we are, asking about work or family, commenting on the weather and then rushing to close the conversation so we can scurry to check off the next item on our unending to-do list.
However, I have learned, through practice, to pause for a moment when the unexpected occurs, dig deep, and ask myself what truly matters right now. The answer that surfaced in this instance was to be very present, listen and connect with this woman. So, with complete sincerity, I asked her what was happening in her life. When I did, the sincere energy to connect resonated with her because what she proceeded to tell me was an amazing story of a phoenix in the process of rising from the ashes of a marriage that wasn’t working, a career that had been dormant for a decade, and a passionate voice that had been muted through years of selflessly caring for others at her own expense. I knew that moment of connection made a difference because she told me that telling her story felt affirming and gave her courage to continue her path. As for me, I left feeling completely inspired by this woman who was claiming her strength and power through brave choices.
The second encounter was with a woman in my neighborhood who I would call an acquaintance given the number of brief passing conversations that have accumulated over the ten years that I have lived in my home. Often times, I would see her tending her garden and drive by waving and smiling as is the polite social protocol of my suburban town. On this particular day, I was driving by on route to tackle some errand on my perennial to-do list when again I saw her planting flowers. My first reaction was to perform the well-ingrained wave-smile gesture and keep driving. However this time, thankfully, I took that moment of pause, dug deep and asked myself what truly matters in this moment. The answer again was to stop and connect. So I pulled over, rolled down my window and asked with sincerity what was going on in her life.
The story I heard was a spirited tale of total transformation at an age when most women are slowing down for retirement. She told her story of how she got a new job, lost significant weight, started gardening, reclaimed her gift of music and is attracting new love in her life. Her radiance was infectious and again she left the conversation feeling validated, and I left feeling inspired.
Some believe that this ability to connect quickly and deeply with others is a special gift that only a few possess. What I have come to learn is that it is actually a leadership choice that can be learned and cultivated through practice. The practice of pausing and accessing deeper answers is what we, at AWE, call accessing the Energies of Authenticity. Connection is one of these Energies of Authenticity.
So you may be asking “what connection has to do with leadership?”
“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”
― Dr. Brené Brown
Connection can be a powerful catalyst of change in our professional and personal lives, which in today’s world is more and more intertwined. I have found that connecting more deeply with others benefits leaders in three key ways:
Connection allows leaders to express their purpose and feel fulfilled
My purpose is to create openings for greater consciousness. When I connect with others and experience an exchange of inspiration and validation, it gives me resilience to stay on my course.
Connection opens up new possibilities for support and influence
Often connections have provided support for me from business advice to childcare. It has also provided access to resources and new opportunities. As I create more trusted connections, my ability to influence change also increases.
Connection is the key to creating greater inclusion
All people regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, age, ability, sexual preference, etc. have a desire to be seen without judgment. When we as leaders can create a safe space to connect, the results can transform a whole team, organization or culture.
With practice and guidance, cultivating the ability to create sincere connection is accessible to everyone. If this is something you have been thinking of doing, but don’t know where to start, we can help you through the process with our leadership workshops and programs. Please feel free to comment below or contact us directly if you have any questions.