I can't tell you how many times I am sharing a story, and the person I am talking to has an astonished reaction. That is usually followed by, "Did you make that up?!"
I couldn't begin to make up the incredible experiences I have had by simply talking with people that cross my path. I have found that being an Executive Coach is not really a job. It is much more a lifestyle, and when you live your life in a way that allows what you are passionate about to shine through, amazing things happen.
The most crucial part of networking with people is to know your own story. Equally important is to be genuine when you share your journey with people. That often leads the discussion to areas of commonality, and many times to new clients, projects, and friendships. Being open, putting away your technology and connecting with people on a real level, eye to eye, is so powerful.
I've learned so much from simply talking with people. I was literally on the examination table in my new doctor's office and we struck up a conversation. She asked what I did, and I told her that one of my favorite roles in my company is working as an Executive Coach. She literally froze, and I grew a bit alarmed and asked if something was wrong. Then she shared, "My husband and I were just talking about this over breakfast. He has an employee that would benefit from having a coach! He's been searching, but hasn't been happy with anyone he has talked with so far. Do you have a card?"
Now I must admit that was a first for me. I normally am not in an examination gown when I make a professional connection! But that underscores my point very well. You always have to be prepared for opportunities that come to you when the universe is in alignment.
Recently I was hanging out at my favorite club, enjoying the music of my favorite local band. I struck up a conversation with the mother of the lead singer, and she shared with me some stories about her children and their professional journeys. That conversation led to an invitation to a delightful brunch with their entire family. We enjoyed rich conversation about how to successfully navigate the workplace. I shared my views, and learned from their experiences. I left feeling like I had made new friends that will be long lasting.
And as much as I completely believe what I am writing, I must confess that an encounter I had in June, while riding in a cab in Washington, DC, is still somewhat rocking my world. I had a somewhat lengthy ride, and began chatting with the cab driver. He is from Mauritania, Africa, and was very pleasant. He asked where I was from, and I told him I am living in Cincinnati. He replied that Cincinnati is one of his favorite areas in the United States. He then went on to say he attended a college in that area and graduated in 2010. He said, "I found a school where the faculty cared about me and knew my name." Our eyes locked in the mirror, as I realized he was quoting the often used tagline that President Jim Votruba said about Northern Kentucky University. NKU is my undergraduate Alma Mater, and I had the privilege of working at NKU at the President's Executive Assistant from 2004-2010. I asked, "Are you quoting Jim Votruba?" He replied, "Yes, do you know Jim Votruba? I walked across the stage and he handed me my diploma in May, 2010." I replied, "Not only do I know Jim Votruba, I was sitting on the stage behind him at commencement in May, 2010!"
I then asked Yacoub the question on my mind. "If you love Cincinnati, and have graduated from NKU, how has your journey led you to driving a cab in DC?"
He pulled the visor down and said to look at his license. That it was, in fact, only three days old. He was there helping his parents relocate to retire in DC, and was just picking up extra money before he returned to Mauritania. He has dual citizenship and spends time in the US, but works in Mauritania, and has a big passion for elevating the healthcare system there. He said, "We are looking for help to open a new hospital in the capital city of Nouakchott. Do you know anyone who would be willing to travel there to assist us?"
I have actually never felt such a powerful feeling of being placed right in the pathway of a wonderful opportunity. I am a healthcare professional with thirty years of experience, and one thing my company does is assist hospitals and healthcare facilities with issues such as quality assurance, compliance, and best practices in Human Resources. This cab ride ended with an exchange of contact information, and an invitation to me from the Minister of Health's office to visit Mauritania and meet with the leaders in healthcare there three short weeks later. The visit was truly transformational and I now find myself working on several critical issues, including elevating the care for women and launching a burn unit for their country.
My point is simply this: Each human interaction is ripe with boundless opportunities to connect and network to wonderful new adventures. In this age of getting pulled into a cell phone screen while you are walking, or riding in a cab, or even sitting at restaurant...resist falling into that behavior. It is a true oxymoron that the connectivity that technology offers also leads to true isolation and missed opportunities to connect with the person standing right in front of you. Be aware, and listen to the universe. It is amazing what happens when you do.