Connecting With Middle Schoolers

For the record: I Love Middle School aged people.

Truly.

Go ahead. Be jealous.

Go ahead. Call me crazy (if you do, you clearly don’t already know me!)

So go ahead, think what you will… I think – and know – that I love people of middle school age.

Why?

Because if you treat them openly with respect, they’ll do the same in return.

They’ve not (yet??) developed impermeable crusts or cynicism or doubt or mistrust. If they have those things, it’s because some stupid short sighted adult judged, mocked, belittled and otherwise communicated with that person that they weren’t worthy. BS.

Middle schoolers are amazing!! (It’s their parents that are hard to live with sometimes… another topic for another time, perhaps.)

They’re still open to trusting others, if the others show themselves to be trustworthy. They want to connect with the world around them. I love helping them do that, in a safe and respected setting.

When I taught middle school, years ago, I didn’t accept the job because it was middle school. I accepted it because I wanted to teach. And I had substitute taught literally everything in a small rural American school district (think: town of 1500, outlying areas a few thousand more…). I taught because there was nothing else in the world I wanted to do more.

The principal extended the offer to me and I accepted. Boom.

Connecting with this magic age was life changing for me.

Really, I’d not spent any time thinking I did or didn’t want to teach them; I simply wanted to teach. And I knew there were a few ages that weren’t my jam (let’s just say I’m glad other teachers like other ages).

Middle School age is tooooootallllly my jam.

I love them because I understand them.

Chocolate drawing made by a middle schooler

They’re nuts. Their bodies are changing, daily. Their thoughts are running crazy, in large part due to the still mercurial growth of their bodies. They’re fun and open and funny and challenging and affectionate and stubborn and….. Well, everything we all are, except way more open about a lot of it.

At heart, I’m likely a middle schooler. Open, silly, like to have fun, unsure, happy, willing, trusting.

I learned a lot those few years with my middle school classroom. The connections that were created and built sustain me and remind me, all these years later, of how it takes so little to make that first move. To start a conversation that can be meaningful with one other person at a time.

My connection to middle school people is one I relish and will forever enjoy.

So, go ahead and scoff if it makes you feel good. Laugh, shake your head. I’m giving you back what you’re dishing out!

They’re whip sharp, will engage in anything if they trust you and will make the world a better place, despite all of us non-middle school age, supposed “adults.” Being connected to middle schoolers makes my world better.

I dare you: connect with a middle schooler today. Tell me about it below.

How Do You Turn A Ship?

Here’s how –     And a hint: it involves prairie dogs….

Awareness Of Why

Every day’s a great day to connect.

Today I’m giving a special thank you and WOO HOO!! cantwaittogettogetherwithyouinperson to Adam French today. Adam’s a connector.

He’s very aware of his why. He’s very aware of what it means to be going through life purposefully.

I’m impressed and inspired by Adam and I’m really grateful for him.

He’s helping me remember what my why is today.

Sometimes you wake up and think, “Is this what I should be doing, is that what I want to be doing, is this where I’m of the most service?”

Those are all really big questions – they are why questions, they are vision & purpose questions. Connectors like to be clear on them.

When I’m not clear, I got to the awareness of my Why.

So, thank you Adam for helping me continue to be aware of my why – to continue to examine it – to fine tune it and to serve better.

Tell me below who you’re really glad to be connected with.

p.s. if you dig podcasts, Adam’s got one – Applying Awareness

Q: How Do You Stay Connected?

A: Intentionally.

This week – hell, this year and last – has been a shipturner for me. I’ve been making a change from my previous prior focus to my current and foreseeable future focus, Connectivity.

How does one turn a ship, you may ask?

Well, as an impatient person, not fast enough for my speed! All the same, the ship must be turned if you do want to go another direction. I grabbed the ships steering wheel, aka the helm, and leaned into it.

Not in the Sheryl Sandberg way. In my own way: with wide-eyed curiosity – “If it’s connectivity, what exactly is it? What do I have to say, how will I communicate it, who and how will I serve?” Along with a about a zillion other questions and uncertainties, I dove in.

The only way to turn a ship is to turn it.

In the turning, I know that one key element is communicating the turn to those who are supporters, interlopers and otherwise either interested in my success or at least curious.

So the question becomes, how do I share what I’m up to with those who I wish to know?

Here’s how I chose to do so:

This week I blocked time, got my Rolodex, business card binder, computer and paper + pencil and started emailing people in the aforementioned categories. I first drafted what I wanted to say in a separate word doc. As a writer I like to be really clear on what I want to say – practicing, massaging and editing it until it’s good enough (though not seeking perfection – that’s a wasted errand). I read the intended email outloud to myself to help ensure it also sounds like me as I’ve learned that the people who know you or at least have heard you speak want to read you like you speak.

Did this effort matter? Was my time ‘worth it’?

In short, YES. Unequivocally.

The responses I’ve been getting have been encouraging and fun, interesting and helpful. Encouraging because they reinforce that people do in fact care about other people. Fun because I’m learning what others are up to (at least those who are responding). Interesting because it helps me stay current with them and keep learning about our world and what’s important to others. And helpful because the previously “what’s important to others” then is top of my mind, helping me better serve others.

It matters because sometimes being in business for yourself and spending a LOT of time alone can feel isolating. When I feel itchy to see if what I do matters, then I know reaching out to others – caring and actively engaging in people connections – then the return I get feeds my mission, drive, energy and helps me keep going.

I’ll be continuing some of the conversations and letting others go, depending on how they answered. People will help you decide what they want and what they don’t want. Less is more for email, to me, so I want to keep it sweet and succinct, still acknowledging them and letting them know I’m here for them.

As a business person, I can only expect support when people clearly understand what I do and how I serve too. So giving them the heads up is helpful, all around.

tools for connectivity

For those whose emails bounced, I used our friend right here, LinkedIn.

Below is what I wrote.

Note: I personalized all of them with name and often a specific personal comment or question relevant to them only. I want them to know it’s an intentional communique.

 “Good [appropriate day] [first name] –

Hope you’re well and February is off to a great start. What’s ahead of you for 2019 I can help support? Any big trips planned? Be fearless in asking when my help would be useful – you know I’m standing by.

Wanted to also check in and give an update from the HQ!

With my specialty of Connectivity & Connecting, speaking = primary service offered. It’s been incredibly invigorating to be focused on this concept, to help people lead better lives and have more gratifying careers due to knowing the specifics of truly connecting with other people.

Who I’m seeking to serve:

People and organizations who what to know the why & how of connecting with people on purpose, with the intent to serve others; people seeking skills to learn how to actually create and develop relationships – which fosters so many other things. Like leadership, growth, change and personal and business development.

When you’re seeking, as well as when you know of others who are seeking, to hire proficient professional speakers, I’d be grateful if you kept me in mind and forwarded my name.

As well, if you’ve been to impactful conferences and events where they bring in speakers, I’d love to know about them so I can investigate.

Conferences, team & sales meetings (connectivity is killer for sales!), pro development, keynotes…. Helping people be confident and comfortable, connecting with other people.

If you’re keen for more information, I’m glad to share – i.e. specific talk titles, previous clients. Travel’s always been part of my work, domestically and cross borders. I’ve a particular fondness for education institutions, hardware, retail and firefighting. For now, I’m building, so all suggestions, ideas and introductions are tremendously appreciated.

A lot more = my website & newsletter, LinkedIn page and YouTube channel. Plus my books can be found here.

Any good reading and authors you’d recommend I check out?

Would love to get an update of what you’re up to. Happy to help as I best can. Thanks for letting me share too.

Be well, stay in touch. Glad to be connected. Keep helping people the way you do ~

g”

Tell me below what you do to stay connected to people you care about and who care about you. What do you do to personally foster your connections?

Thanks for reading and sharing. Remember, it’s a great day to connect.

g

this post was also published on LinkedIn 021519

Connect With The Decision Maker

When you’re connecting with people whom you want to serve, one biggie to find out is this: Who’s the decision maker?

Allow me to expound.

Recently I was going back and forth, via phone calls & emails, with someone who expressed interest in a crazy free talk offer I put forth. (crazy free talk offer is on me here…)

The person inquiring had lots of good questions in the first conversation. We then proceeded to play ping pong, back and forth via email. Most times, there were more new questions. Fine.

Then, after about the 4th or 5th exchange, I reached my FIM.

So why am I sharing this?

The person I was talking with wasn’t the CDM, the Chief Decision Maker.

Oof…. No wonder I was feeling frustrated. It was my own fault! I’d neglected to realize or ask for direct access to the CDM.

That’s who I needed to be talking with; not an intermediary.

I needed to connect with the person [queue the movie music here] Who Makes the Final Decisions.

HUGE Aha! moment.

When you have to go through additional channels, when other people are involved where they perhaps shouldn’t be, then it slows things down, balls things up and frankly dissipates enthusiasm and protracts progress. Plus, think of the poor intermediary – running the timeconsumingerrands for the CDM.

You can quickly get lost in the miasma of unnecessary back and forth. And sometimes, like me, not even see it. It’s very disconnected. Not what anyone wants.

So, now that I recognize this valuable part of Connecting, I’ll still connect with all sorts of people, no matter what sway they hold, no matter their CDM status.

When it comes to qualifying who I can truly serve, however, I’ll really be honing in on who I should be talking with – who makes the decisions – versus who am I talking with already.

Connecting includes qualifying who has which conversations. Hope this helps you as much as it has helped me.

Resource: Here’s a helpful piece from Vistage on decision making

Who’s Paying Attention To You?

Do you think people are paying attention to what you post?

Guess, what – they are.

Whether you feel like you’re out in the weeds by yourself, or you’re wondering if anybody even cares, and you’re only trying to hear yourself speak by putting video up or writing something and posting it – guess what: somebody is gonna pay attention.

Case in point: yesterday I updated by LinkedIn profile… And put some material on there that I should have updated a while ago.

I opened up my LinkedIn today and there are several dozen people saying, “hey Congrats!” “Way to go”…

And I’m thinking, I just updated – that stuff isn’t brand new!?!

People are paying attention and people want to participate – that’s called connectivity, that’s called community building.

The next time you think and you wonder, “why am I doing this – does this matter to anybody?” Know that it does!

Keep it coming from who you are, what you are, how you serve. People are there and they’re eager to connect. That was one sign for me today.

Special props to my LinkedIn coaches: Amy Jones & Kate Paine & Misfit Group….

Magic Boots

I’ve got magic boots.

  • They’re not magic in the way they’re made.
  • They’re not magic in the fact I got them from a genie.

They’re magic because they’re connecting boots.

They’re the craziest boots I’ve ever bought. I love boots. They’re super comfortable and kind of a signature thing for me….

And I realized that when I got these boots, I got something I loved. What I didn’t realize is that I got a connecting tool.

They have more sparkles on them than are in the Milky Way. It was a surprise even to me that I got them(!).

Every single time I wear them somebody makes a comment.

And it’s a positive comment. “Wow, great boots,” or “those are terrific!”

Something that’s very complementary.

I’ve learned that they’re a remarkable connecting tactic.

So when I teach about connectivity and how to get comfortable and confident connecting, one thing I love to highlight is the boots.

Not that everyone has to have a pair of boots.

Know though that everybody has something that makes them attractive and interesting and makes somebody else want to engage with them.

So, what are your boots? What is it that helps you attract and welcome people to who you are simply by being you?

Tell me in the comments below.

Sixteen Books and Fifteen CD’s

Sixteen books and fifteen audio CD’s.

When I spread all of these on the floor of my in-law’s home following a book sale buy, I took another look:

What did I really have?

Had I actually read any of them before? Maybe they were attractive to me again as they were at first.

What was it about the books I bought that attracted me?

I  realized that I had in fact read at least one of them previously (got redonated).

I’m a pretty avid reader. My Fine Husband marvels at how much I read, specifically how many books I read. My appetite for reading and learning and pondering is ever-hungry.

As a connector, I find that reading provides many different advantages:

  • Always something to talk about, open a conversation with and meet new folks because of.
  • Keeps me current and informed. Along with books, a few online platforms of communities keep the choices flowing.
  • My vocabulary expands. Invariably I read words that are new, which I then learn and add to my own lexicon – or at least understand when I come across them again.
  • Enriches my life, my endeavors (“work” included) and therefore what I give outward in life.

One of my Grandmas was blind. She’d progressively gone blind as she aged. In fact, she never saw what I really looked like. I entered her life as an adult when her peripheral vision was what she had remaining.

I remember going to her house often (we lived in the same town) and hearing the books on tape turned up so she could hear them while she puttered in her home. She would get a great variety of books to listen to and we would talk about some of them. She wasn’t going without books, vision be damned.

The earliest memories of childhood I have include walking to the local library branch as a very small child, with my mom and sister. We’d check out as many books as we could carry – and did so, often. I’m grateful to have been indoctrinated into the incredible world of the libraries and reading so young.

Reading is so much more than text on pages or screens, or even via audio recordings. It’s a powerful way to engage with minds of every conceivable thinking, to explore the world from a comfy chair and it’s a way to learn in service to others.

I can’t imagine not being able to read. So those 16 books and 15 CD’s were but a symptom of my love of connecting with ideas in written and audio form.

What are you reading?

p.s. if you’re an author and would like to offer your books, in audio format, to hungry readers, contact Learning Ally. I recorded my first book with them. They provide a truly valuable service.

Sunflower Jungle

This is my front yard. My HQ window is far left (though I’m not sure how well you can see it!).

Sunflower Jungle promotes neighborhood connections

The sunflower jungle has come about like this:

  1. Year one: a few volunteer sunflowers grew, close to the HQ, looked great and made a lot of birds happy.
  2. Year two: we shook the dried heads (winter time) around the yard, moved the stiff dried stalks around the yard for the birds as well for a variety of gathering spots. We also saw more sunflowers sprout and flourish from year one dropped & spread seeds. I transplanted some around the yard when they were still quite small, with great success. Read: amplify the effect of spread seeds.
  3. Year three: well, here we are so far! from my HQ office, I see and hear people walk, run, bike and stroll by – my office window is open much of the time, at least a crack, to keep refreshing fresh air moving. It’s not officially graduated from a few to a garden to a jungle!

The comments people make are smile-inducing:

  • “Wow! That looks so cool – it’ll be great when they bloom.”
  • “whoa – that’s a lot of plants – what are those, sunflowers?”

…among the comments.

For full disclosure: we’re the crazy change-everything-house/HQ in my neighborhood. When we moved in, we almost immediately cut down a sick full-grown tree, bagged insidious splinter-giving Doug fir mulch (to the tune of 100 bags!), gave away on the sidewalk timbers that had bordered the mulch, removed shoddy trim, sanded the entire house (!) and painted it this gorgeous deep red, made and installed new funky trim, painted the rest of the house features bright colors, removed a worn out shingle roof, replaced it with metal roofing, installed a solar system….and so forth.

The sunflower jungle is an extension of the fact that we love our homestead & HQ, want to improve it and find it rewarding to be the ‘what will they do next’ house.

Connectivity works like all of this. Year one: ______ Year two: _______ Year three: _______ If you’re trying to plant or start relationships, you’ve got to do so intentionally. Then you review, discuss, think and keep going. If it takes off, well, then you’ve got a whole new ball of wax to melt! A happy one at that. Success begets success.

My Fine Husband has suggested we put up a sign in the front of the jungle encouraging people to “Pick Your Own” once they’re blooming. I love this idea! It’s a way to share the bounty, to connect more in a safe and fun manner.

Figuring out how connectivity blossoms can start as simply and easily as planting flowers. They’ll help you take it from there.

Wonder what Year Four will look like….

Manage Your Expectations

“Ginger, learn how to manage your expectations.” – RK

These words of true wisdom from experience have echoed many times in my brain since the day I heard them. They came to the surface again yesterday.

I was invited by a valued colleague and trusted friend to substitute for her at a business meeting she regularly attends. Happily, I accepted. Glad to represent her and her trust in me to do so. Also for the opportunity rich environ that I know these meetings can offer for connecting.

Seeing several people I already knew plus meeting more ‘new’ folk was a great start as I headed into the area of the event.

It didn’t go as I anticipated.

Why?

Because at a pivotal moment in the meeting, when I expected to be able to do one thing that I very much wanted to do – and assumed was going to be able to do, I wasn’t allowed to do it.

Wait….what??

I questioned it in the moment, with the entire group listening, and then let it drop. “Hmmm,” I thought to myself. “Well, this isn’t what I expected and it doesn’t sit right with me…so, how can I now shift my agenda to make this worthwhile?”

Time to manage my expectations.

What are your expectations?

A brief internal debate ensured, including the consideration of finding a moment to duck out. Having run that scenario with my friend in mind, I decided to stay. What I did was to consciously shift my expectations from the anticipated unfulfilled opportunity to how to make the best of the rest of the meeting. That’s exactly what ensued.

My attention then was no longer fully on the meeting: it was on meeting, aka Connecting. How could I optimize my time there while respectfully representing my friend? Simple: manage my expectations.

As the meeting ended and the usual milling about as people leave was underway, I was stopped by a few people who suggested getting together. Setting up connections with others was certainly part of my initial plan; and once the plan unexpectedly shifted to what I thought wasn’t in my favor, setting up connections was my primary goal.

Success.

Connectivity happens all the time, whether we have it as a primary, secondary or hundredth goal. Opportunities abound. Shifting my expectations from the connectivity being second into first place reminded me why I do what I do.

It isn’t to represent my friends (though always honored & flattered to be asked).

It’s to bring my full self to the game, to get out and move about. It’s to know my Why and check in with my mindset as to what I’m doing. It’s to connect on purpose and with purpose.

Big thanks to my quoted friend and mentor, brilliant and tenacious and gracious business person, Rhonda Kallman.