Last weekend I had the privilege of attending a performance by Dr. Maya Angelou at the Bushnell Theater in Hartford, Connecticut.
The invitation came from a special friend in my network who also invited me to a VIP Reception of the St. Francis Hospital Foundation prior to the performance. There I met several interesting women and men whom I plan to follow up with. In addition to business opportunities, I enjoy networking for greater social good. And Maya Angelou’s key message certainty reflected that spirit.
“Be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.”
― Dr. Maya Angelou
This was her key message and she repeated it brilliantly throughout her performance. It was a quote from her book Letter to My Daughter. Maya told us that in our lives much rain will fall; a metaphor for strife and difficult times.
She said that God gave us rainbows as a symbol of hope that better times will come. She then explained that how clouds often hang low, blocking visibility. This keeps us feeling gloomy and uncertain. She suggested that by having the rainbow IN the cloud we would be able to see the hope and have the faith that better times are soon to come. She suggested that we could do that for each other. We could be the rainbow in other people’s lives.
As she shared stories from her life, including several examples of how her Uncle Willy despite being a poor, crippled man, was able to have profound impact on other people’s lives, including hers. She told us that we all had unique lives and that no one else could live our lives because they are that unique. The humor, grace, dignity and acceptance that she exhibited as she spoke made me feel as if I was in the presence of someone as profound and powerful as Mahatma Gandhi. Indeed she is. Dr. Maya Angelou is one of our national treasures.
Give people hope when you network
When you network you have an opportunity to be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud; to lift them up and to help them see new possibilities in themselves and in the world. And in doing this for others, you do it for yourself. You create your own rainbow in your own cloud.
I believe that networking is much more than just growing your business and landing new jobs. It is about making human connections and building bridges. Networking gives you a platform to bring out the best in others and in yourself. It is about extending yourself and being of service to others. It is about having the grace to accept help from people and allowing them the joy and fulfillment of knowing they helped you, even if just a little bit.
Seven things you can do to lift people up when you network
- Listen actively. The simple act of listening to someone else gives them the feeling of importance and validation. Try not to speak while they talk. Let them have the floor. If this is hard for you, close your mouth and breathe through your nose. Listen with your ears and your eyes. Need more help with this, read my past networking tip on listening – http://networkingahead.com/networking-how-to-listen/
- Be Fully Present. Turn off your technology when you network with other people. Give them (and you) your full undivided attention. Make them feel that they matter to you more than an incoming call.
- Give people a little of your time. When you get requests to network, accept them. Carve out some time in your busy week to network with people who need your help and inspiration. You will also get something out of this exchange – the joy of giving.
- Stay in touch. People in your network care about you and want to hear from you periodically. Let them know you are still alive and kicking by participating in social media and/or calling them every so often. Don’t allow yourself to go missing in action. Stay connected.
- Acknowledge the special events in their lives. Remembering birthdays and anniversaries, celebrating promotions and accomplishments is a wonderful way to build someone up. Recognition feels good and some people really thrive on it. Saying “good job” or “way to go” doesn’t cost you anything, but it has intrinsic value to other people. We all need a little boost to our self-confidence now and then.
- Connect them to people and resources. When people are struggling, they may not know where to turn or what resources are available to them. You don’t have to solve their problem for them, but you do them an incredible service by pointing them in the right direction. This can be as simple as sending them a link to a web site, giving them a telephone number to a hotline or telling them about an upcoming conference or event that they might benefit from attending. Of course, connecting them to other motivated people is the ultimate rainbow you can give them.
- Be a positive person. Every cloud has a silver lining. When you network with others who are struggling, you be the one to point out the possibilities. Don’t waste your networking time with negative talk or complaints. Instead invest your energy in creating positivity for yourself and others.
Your Networking Goal for the Week
Networking is a strategy for life and a vehicle for creating hope and inspiration for yourself and others. When you connect with others this week, visualize yourself as a rainbow in someone else’s cloud. Know that you have the power to lift someone up from the heaviness of today’s reality, if only for a moment. Try to employ one or more of the seven behaviors above when you network with others this week. Seek to refill their reservoir of inspiration and renew their faith in mankind. Make them feel important and honor them with your time, knowledge and wisdom. Feel good about yourself that you have this gift and are willing to share it with others.