I have a confession to make. I’m an airplane talker. Unless I’m extremely tired, when I walk on the plane, I look for an aisle seat next to someone who looks like they’re willing to chat. My strategy is two-fold. One, I am a control freak who gets really nervous when I fly. So, talking to people helps ease the anxiety of not self-piloting the Boeing 737. Two, the reason why I’ve accomplished so much in my young life is a direct result of the networking that I’ve done. There’s so much truth to the phrase “It’s not what you know or who you know, it’s who knows you!”
During my last trip from Atlanta to Chicago for a class weekend, I met an amazing sales executive who works with chemicals—microbials, to be exact. For one-half hour, I sat anxiously like a kid in a candy store and learned everything I could about an industry that I previously knew nothing about. It was a great experience, and the information resonated so much that I used it as a conversation starter during training a few weeks later.
Since we met, this sales executive and I have chatted back and forth and connected on LinkedIn. He’s even e-introduced me to a few of his colleagues. Two days ago, I sent him a follow-up email with my recent feature in T+D Magazine and a link to my presentation description at the ASTD 2013 International Conference & Expo.
What followed was absolutely life changing.
He gave me a ring at the office to check up on me and to congratulate me on my recent accomplishments. Then, he shared a nugget of wisdom about developing people and making an impact on the lives of others. He said, “Nandi, every single one of us has a distinct telephone number. If you’re trying to call me, but dial one number off, you’re going to get somebody else, aren’t you? When you leave a voicemail, it won’t be received because it’s someone else’s number, right? In life, we have to figure out each person’s number, dial it correctly, and leave the right message.”
What a simple and powerful truth. So often, we make relationship building so difficult. We throw around buzz words like teamwork, collaboration, interpersonal skills…the list goes on. But, when we really get down to it, it’s all about meeting people where they “are” and delivering a message that they want to hear in a way that they can hear it.
As we count down to ASTD 2013—and I continue preparing my presentation, “The Curious Case of Workplace Millennials”—it becomes even more apparent to me that organizational impediments like generational and cultural differences, strategy misalignment, and managerial buy-in can all be solved by walking a mile in the other person’s shoes.
Today, I ask you: What number are you dialing?