In the last 4 weeks I have had the real gift of connecting and reconnecting with people who have touched my life in some way over the last 30 years.
From Jim Smith, who was one of only two people who spoke to me when I got my first job, to the retired Major Ken Hannah who opened a door for 10 years of work in the Magistrates’ Courts Service. From a walk down memory lane, to coffee, lunch and dinner from Edinburgh to Manchester and from 3 years to 30 years. It was a rejuvenating experience.
I have asked three of my reconnections if they would be willing to contribute their thoughts about why the quality of connectedness is important. What follows enriches my own thinking and gives you, the reader, some fresh perspectives.
Julie Hickton: Principal Nature’s Coaching
I met Julie in April 2012 when we were 2 of 4 participants in Nancy Kline’s Thinking Partner 3-day development event.
I knew as soon as I met Julie that we would click: she is open, fun and a fantastic coach. On many occasions over the last four years – when I have needed to be talked down off the ledge – it has been Julie’s independent thinking that has really helped me.
When we caught up in Manchester over fantastic Turkish food at Café Istanbul it was a tour de force of thinking. Here’s what she had to say about connectedness.
“There are times in our lives that we have a connection with someone that we weren’t anticipating and that over time, as we realise how special it is, we cherish. What makes it a connection rather than just an acquaintance and why are connections important for our well-being? For me, connection reflects a deeper level of understanding of each other, having spent time exploring the important things in life together, through great conversation, and with a person whom you share some common interest, values and beliefs about life.
More importantly than all those is that when you’ve made a powerful connection with someone, you know that whenever you need it there is someone that understands you and will listen to what’s going on for you in that moment, and offer support free from judgement.
Connections are possible in all sorts of relationships. Some we see often, others we may not see as often as we would like, however, the depth of the understanding enables conversations and relationships to flourish despite distance and time.
The quality of our relationships with others is crucial for our well-being, as having strong social support networks is a vital element to enhancing our resilience. Those individuals who have good support networks – where conversations can take place about challenges, fears, concerns and feelings – are the ones able to deal more effectively with life’s difficulties. Having that emotional and empathetic connection will help you when you are challenged by life.
Another aspect that is also important is to ask yourself: Who am I connected with who will nourish me, help me to grow and develop, learn new things, and feed my desire to grow and learn as a human? Having exploring and stimulating conversations with others will help your spiritual and mental growth, which is also important when looking at your well-being.
Meaningful connections don’t just happen. You need to be open to the opportunity that a chance meeting might develop into something special. Once you feel you have connected, appreciate it, invest in it and cherish it.”
Eryl Parry: Ex Director of Enterprise Liverpool Cathedral
I met Eryl sometime in the early 2000s. At that point, part of her role was to manage an amazing training centre for the Archdiocese of Liverpool.
We had shared values around standards and customer service. In the ensuing years, we had many great conversations about creating the right environment for learning and challenging learners to get to their ‘learning edge’.
Only Eryl could convince me that running Appraiser Training for the Archdiocese of Liverpool was a good idea! Every time I think about it I feel a Billy Connolly moment coming on. Eryl went on to put Liverpool Cathedral on the map and win a multitude of awards for tourism, customer experience and excellence.
I am grateful to Facebook for our re-connection in the next chapter of our lives. Here’s what she had to say about connectedness.
“I cannot begin to imagine how many people I have met in my life. It’s like imagining how many stones were used to build Conwy castle, which I now live right next to. It’s not surprising that the Bible talks about the number of hairs on your head being known only by God. There are some things I can’t get my hairy head around. I’ve loved being in jobs that serve the general public and that bring me into contact with lots of people.
Yet, the greatest buzz has come from networking and building partnerships with those outside my organisation. Those whose perspectives are different, and because of that bring complementary gifts to the task in hand, often finding much more creative solutions than I alone could have envisaged; creating a great deal more impact and much more laughter. Sometimes, connectedness with those working on a particular project only lasts for that time. Enjoyable and productive as our time together may have been, ultimately our connection was based on a time-limited common goal. We can remain in touch via social media; bump into one another at city events; recommend them to others.
Liverpool, where I’ve been based for most of my career, prides itself on collegiality (its connectedness). I have been blessed by so many who have come in and out of my working life that I find them difficult to number.
But there are very few where there’s no time frame. The values we share and the meeting of minds you have means that no matter how much time has passed from one meeting to the next, we find ourselves on the same page. It’s not just that we enjoy company together, which makes the telling of each other’s stories so easy, but also in almost every line there’s the ‘me too’ moment of mutual insight.
Extraordinarily, I find myself sharing the most intimate thoughts and experiences in complete trust that I will be believed, respected and (of course) accepted. It makes sharing the most difficult and personal things easy, and the unspoken agenda becomes what we can do for one another. That may be a thought or recommendation given in that moment or a connection made in the future. Because ultimately, being truly connected means we believe in a future that has each other as a common interest, source of wisdom, and laughter.”
Nicola Boyle: Delve Organisational Development
Nikki is the newest connection in this story and we met in different circumstances. She brings laughter and a heartfelt energy to the work that she does, and I really admire her decision to step out into the world of consultancy at a time when the economy and the future is uncertain.
My connection with Nikki will grow and change over time as the others have, and I hope to be saying “I met Nikki 25 years ago…” Here’s what she had to say about our connection.
“I connected with FMA while working for a large Community and Mental Health NHS Trust. As Head of Organisational Development, I worked in partnership with Fiona and her team to ensure all of our leaders participated in the Appreciative Leadership Programme. A programme that challenged current organisational thinking and helped us to think wider about possibilities in the way we lead.
FMA facilitated the programme with such energy and professionalism, adding a creative flair that grasped your attention. They understood the organisation and its challenges.
People developed real friendships with the FMA team during the programme, and Fiona became a mentor to me, helping me to challenge my own thinking and to realise my potential and ambition. Although I have moved on from where we first met, Fiona remains a friend and an important guide in my life.”
So, what’s the learning?
People. It’s all about people. They have the capacity to give so much, to share acceptance, appreciation and their learning, and to be with you across time and different experiences. Jim’s parting shot after we met for the first time in nearly 20 years was: “You are just the same, passionate and creative – maybe not quite as loud!”
Need to rectify that then!