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Taking the time away from disaster planning to resiliency planning will undoubtedly lead you to the importance of your organization’s connectivity.
Do you remember your first dance? Hands sweaty. Heart racing. I recently told my husband about my 7th grade dance at Wells Middle School. I had my eye on an 8th grader named Chris Butterfield. At age 13, Chris was only slightly taller than I was at 12 and had that classic swept-over bangs look with a bunch of business in the back. Towards the end of the evening, with my luck, the most romantic song of 1987 played in the school gym. Yes, Chris Butterfield asked me to dance to Lady in Red. In my memory leading up to that evening, Chris and I had hardly exchanged a word. But everything changed after Lady in Red.
Because he asked me to dance, we could speak openly, we were friends for many years, and the memory had such a lasting impact I find myself writing about it decades later.
There aren’t always opportunities like a middle school dance when lights are low and senses are high. In low-lit moments we take more risks, such as dancing in public, and meeting eyes with near strangers across a room. It might be hard to understand how a global disaster can be compared to an awkward middle school memory, but as part of an effort to help reframe this hard period of time, if you stick with me, I will take you there.
Resilience is demonstrated by many elements, an important one is building relationships which foster lasting connection. Leaders are often bogged down by internal crisis management, rarely allowing themselves to pivot outward. Taking the time away from disaster planning to resiliency planning will undoubtedly lead to the importance of an organization’s connectivity. Instead of meeting with teams now to discuss what to do when this is over, pivot the conversation to what can be done now to make a lasting impact on client relationships. To ensure connections endure, we can nurture relationships with those we expect to remain with us through the long haul, and importantly, we can be an active part of fostering new ones.
Demonstrating resiliency for our clients is inviting them to explain what they need most from the relationship during this critical time.
Over the last few weeks I’ve noticed an interesting trend in my conversations with clients. We are less formal and more personal. Almost all conversations begin with an expressed concern for each other’s safety or health. There are discussions about personal surroundings and family. It takes a while to get to the work part. Whether we realize it or not, these are invitations to dance. It is as if we are expressing to each other, “Come into my world;” or even “You are important enough that the work part now comes second and you come first.” The awkward formalities so often exchanged in client conversations fall away. Now, we are on the dance floor.
Once we are on the dance floor with our clients we can deepen our relationships in personal and professional ways. Aside from getting to know them better as a human, we can personalize our organization’s service to theirs. We can ask the kind of questions we normally wouldn’t dare ask, such as the relevancy of our business to theirs going forward in an honest way that will get everyone thinking beyond COVID-19. We can ask about a company’s pain points with empathy that has little to do with selling services and products and everything to do with understanding that if our business can help a client through this time, the relationship will more likely be a lasting one.
In other words, demonstrating resiliency for our clients is inviting them to explain what they need most from the relationship during this critical time. Being a resilient leader is recognizing your ability and skill in brokering and nurturing these relationships in your own way, especially during hard moments like these. If you didn’t have those interpersonal weaving skills, you wouldn’t be in the position you are in, so use them.
We all want to be part of a success story, even if it isn’t our own.
But how to foster new connections in light of a quarantine which asks us to stay distant? Let’s reflect again on the middle school dance. If we think back to how we made new connections early on in our lives, we will remember how brave we were back then. Have you had your eye on a company for years, but never taken the opportunity to ask them to meet? Are there ways you can communicate across a metaphorical dance floor, such as asking a shared acquaintance for an introduction, giving a shout out to someone you want to meet on your social media platforms, or even sending an old-fashioned hand-written letter? Only you know how you can humanize your communication with a stranger in your own personal style at this point of your life, but I can tell you for certain, if there is ever a time when value is placed on a personal “touch,” it is now.
Now is the time to ask someone to dance.
It is the ideal time to focus on new and lasting connections, not only because memories formed during this time will make a lasting impression, but also because this is a time when everyone wants everyone else to win. No one wants to see another organization fail. We are all tired of those stories. We all want to be part of a success story, even if it isn’t our own.
Connectivity has never been more important than now, so go on—I urge you—step away from isolation and turn on some music you love. Forget about the urge to keep your slippers on. No matter that you can’t meet with someone in person. You’ll figure that part out, but not before you put on your fancy pants and ask someone to join you.
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Marina Hadjioannou Waters is the President and co-owner of LUNA Language Services an Indianapolis based company providing the community with language access.