Gratefully we are emerging !!!
And like the recent “Extra Gum” commercial, we are both giddy with joy and awkwardly out of practice in being together. Over the last year, as we navigated socially distanced ways to stay connected and engaged, we made attempts to maintain best practices and opened ourselves to virtual strategies that helped us feel less alone. In the end though, we found little could replicate the subtleties and nuances we pick up when we share space with one another. From body language clues to what the Dutch called “skin hunger”, what we lacked inspired us to be more inventive to nurture our relationships.
While I might’ve felt I’d figured out the complexities of relationship dynamics in my more than 40 plus years in philanthropy, nearly 50 years of marriage, with children, grandchildren and friends around the world, I truly value the lessons learned through the creativity required to stay connected in recent months. Certainly, much of what we know about cultivating relationships has been reinforced and fresh insights revealed, all of which will guide our professional endeavors and personal relationships – gifts that will resonate well beyond this year.
One of the most significant sources of learning came from my Executive Chat ( EC) experience. Born as a vehicle to reach out to friends and leaders in the philanthropic community to gauge their wellness in the early stages of the pandemic, these one-one-one video conversations revealed a wealth of gems that will guide my interactions in the years to come. Allow me to share three of the most impactful.
- It’s true what they say about assumptions – Among the early participants in the series were friends, clients, and colleagues I had know for years. In preparation, I had hunches about how they would respond to my suggested topics for discussion People offered windows into their personal and professional histories, perspectives on our work together, and promise of the good that could and would result from this pause in our lives. Being open to the evolution of the conversations allowed my view to expand and as such my relationships deepened. How often do we go into an exchange, a meeting, an event with a sense that we know all there is? How exhilarating instead to open ourselves to the possibilities we can only imagine. Be prepared, much of what you know will be affirmed, but never lose the sense of wonder at the unanticipated.
- Curiosity fuels cultivation – Getting to know someone new or deepening the bonds of an enduring friendship was a result of these conversations. Focusing on the other, asking questions, reflecting on their responses, opening space for them to share are all essential to strengthening bonds. Yet, how often do we allow our own interests and agendas to drive our interactions? Are we listening with the same attentiveness and care or are we thinking about what we will say next. Are we posturing to position ourselves in the best light What I learned through the Executive Chats is that offering someone a platform and allowing them to shine is a gift. Being a student of others is the surest way to grow personally and professionally. I know my stories and while in advancement it’s important to get the message of our case across to our constituents, understanding what they value, what makes them tick allows us to align our message in a way that truly resonates with them.
- TIME…OUR GREATEST GIFT— Where did the past year plus go. I’m not sure but it’s gone forever but never forgotten. I’m confident we will never ever fail to speak with both reverence and disdain of COVID experience. Another lesson out of this craziness is that we need to really respect time and be judicious with it. I am grateful for the gift of time, friendship and wisdom that was an outgrowth and given to me through the EC. I also hope that the participants received something in return, possibly a chance to reflect on their reality both personal and professional and articulate what they felt about the imposed incarnation we all endured. As you will see if you have or will view the EC is that those who participated were remarkably positive and thoughtful which in retrospect was amazing.