Sunday, March 30, 2014

Self-projection

For years my college catalog carried a black and white photo of two people "traying" down a hill in the winter snow. (Do students still do this – slide down hills on serving trays?) In the picture, snow is flying and you can almost hear the students’ glee as they skid wildly down the slope.

Every time I saw that picture I felt envy and anger. How could those people be so happy and be having such a good time? My college years were not especially happy. And when did those students find time to get outside?  I went traying only once in college.  
 
It’s not that college was so awful; more like bittersweet. There were some good moments, but also a lot of anguish and self-realization. But mostly my college years were a lot of hard work and worry. Campus life was intense, and I did not adapt well to work hard, play hard living. Perhaps it was a lack of self-confidence and uncertainty that I could handle the academic and social challenges that came my way.

When I walked past the campus common and saw people playing Frisbee, or stared out the library window at a chaotic game of softball in the field below, I felt like an outsider. Why couldn’t I abandon the books and cut loose for a while? Why did I find it so hard to balance work and play, and how did these people do it so effortlessly? A PE teacher once told us the best thing to do when we felt like a nap was to take a walk. I knew she was right, but I couldn’t bring myself to waste an hour wandering around the campus arboretum.

By my senior year, pre-exam stress and tremendous self-doubt were taking their toll. I had no choice but to take the PE teacher’s advice. I started walking and swimming as regularly as I could, and in a fit of anxiety, decided to go for broke on my seniors' exam, i.e. show evidence of thought rather than regurgitate what I knew. I was scared, but the strategy worked. I got honors on the exam. By spring, when I knew I would graduate, I began to relax a little and even took courses that were out of character for me.  One of them became one of my favorite courses.

So despite my self-doubts, college did its job. I learned to respect emotional well-being, honor the balance between body and mind, and enjoy learning for learning’s sake.

As I look back, my biggest regret is that I’m such a slow learner. Several years after graduation while I was digging through some boxes, I ran across the college catalog and stared at that picture for the umpteenth time still puzzling over how those people knew what it took me so long to realize. Suddenly I noticed something. One of the jackets looked familiar…and I think I once had mittens like those.

The lead person on the tray was me.

© 2014 Kvick Thoughts. All rights reserved. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Nätverksbyggande med förhinder

Som introvert är jag inte bra på småprat. Jag skulle göra nästan vad som helst än att vara med på ett av alla dessa mingel- eller nätverksbyggarmöten. Men eftersom ”kontakter” är så viktiga för företagare fortsätter jag att delta. Men det kunde genom några få enkla åtgärder från arrangörerna bli mycket lättare för oss lite blyga:

Namnskyltar
Man kan hata eller älska dem, men de fyller sitt syfte. De är både en påminnelse om syftet med mötet och en enkel samtalsöppning för den som från början känner få av deltagarna. Dessutom gör de det lättare att komma ihåg namn. De fungerar. Använd dem.

Hjälp nykomlingar känna sig välkomna
Utse vid luncher eller middagar en ”bordsvärd”, som kan identifiera och välkomna nykomlingar till gruppen. Ge varje ny medlem en ”kompis” för att hjälpa till att introducera dem de 4-5 första gångerna. Eller fråga nykomlingar vid anmälan till en aktivitet om de vill någon äldre medlem som ”kompis”. Arrangörerna borde också planera någon form av strukturerad aktivitet där alla deltagare presenterar sig för varandra. Det kräver eftertanke och planering att få människor att känna sig välkomna. Lämna det inte till slumpen.

Stå eller sitta?
Visst är det besvärligt att skaka hand och samtidigt hålla en tallrik med små mat och en drink. Men syftet med nätverksmöten är att få nya bekanta, inte att smörja skrovet. Och det är lättare att mingla stående än sittande. En tumregel kan vara att inte ha stolar till alla. Det får deltagarna att byta platser och flytta runt under aktiviteten – det vill säja mingla. Vill du sitta ned och äta med dina vänner - gå till en restaurang.

Det personliga är lättare att minnas
Kom ihåg att det är ett maraton, inte ett sprinterlopp. Målet är inte ha få så många visitkort som möjligt, utan att få så bra kontakt med 2-3 personer att ni kommer ihåg varandra nästa gång ni träffas. Det är vetenskapligt bevisat att vuxna lär sig genom att associering, inte genom inlärning. Nästa gång du träffar någon i affärslivet, utbyt affärselementa, men också lite personlig information som hjälper er att minnas varandra. Förresten, när någon ställer frågar om dig, glöm inte att fråga tillbaka. Det handlar om god ton.

Nytta eller nöje
En avslappnad stämning är bra för framgångsrikt kontaktskapande. Men jag var nyligen på ett arrangemang där höga bakgrundsmusiken gjorde det nästan omöjligt att samtala. Det är populärt i Sverige att blanda arbete och nöje. Men resultatet är blandat. Kontaktskapande möten skall vara strukturerade, meningsfulla och ganska korta. Ett party är – tja, ett party. Låt kontaktskapande vara kontaktskapande och fester vara fester (med respektive eller vänner). Blanda inte ihop dem.

Framgångsrikt nätverksbyggande uppstår inte av sig självt. Det kräver planering av alla arrangemangets delar. Och paradoxalt nog känns aktiviteten mer spontan och avslappnande ju bättre planerad den är.

Publicerades av VLT (Västmanlands Läns Tidning), 15 augusti 2008. För att läsa artikeln på engelska, klicka här.

Networking 101

As an introvert, I’m not big on small talk. In fact, I’d rather go to Hell and back – actually, I’ve been there; it’s a small town in Norway just east of Trondheim – than attend a business mingle or networking event. But in the business world, “contacts” are everything; so I endure. Yet organizers of networking events can do a few simple things to make them a little less painful for us shy types.

Name tags
Love ’em or hate ’em, they serve a purpose. They are both a visual reminder to everyone about the purpose of the gathering and an instant conversation starter for the odd-person-out who’s trying to break into a cozy two- or threesome to introduce her or himself. (Not to mention they help people remember each other’s names.) They work. Use them.

Help newcomers feel welcome
Designate a host for each table (if it’s a luncheon or dinner event) to identify and welcome newcomers to the group. Or assign new members a “buddy” to facilitate introductions for the first 4 or 5 events the newcomer attends. Or ask newcomers if they would like a buddy when they sign up for the event. In addition, event organizers should plan some kind of structured activity that forces attendees to introduce themselves to each other. Helping people feel welcome takes forethought and planning. Don’t leave it to chance.

Sit or stand?
Sure it’s hard to shake hands while juggling a plateful of snacks and a drink. But the purpose of networking is to meet new people, not chow down. And it’s easier to mingle while standing than sitting. One rule of thumb I’ve heard is provide seating for only part of the group. This forces people to switch places and move around during the event, i.e. mingle. If you want to sit down and eat with your friends, go to a restaurant.

Something personal is something memorable
Remember – it’s a marathon, not a sprint. The goal is not to collect as many business cards as possible, but to genuinely connect with two or three people on a personal level so that you remember each other the next time you meet. It’s a scientific fact that adults learn through association, not memorization. The next time you meet someone at a business function, exchange your business vitals and a little personal information to help you remember each other. By the way, when someone asks you about yourself, but sure you ask about them in return. That’s just good manners.

Business or pleasure?
A relaxed atmosphere can be conducive to successful networking. But I recently attended a networking event where the rumble of the boat engine and loud background music made conversation almost impossible. It’s popular in Sweden to mix business with pleasure. But this leads to mixed success. Networking events should be structured, purposeful, and relatively short. And a party is – well, a party! Let networking be networking and a party a party (with spouses, partners, or friends, please). Don’t mix the two.

Successful networking events do not happen magically. Every aspect of the event requires serious planning. But the paradox is, the better the planning, the more spontaneous and effortless the event will be for all participants.

© 2013 Kvick Thoughts. All rights reserved. This article was also published in the Swedish newspaper VLT on August 15, 2008. To read the article in Swedish, click here.