“When Opportunity Knocks, Don’t Answer the Door in Your Bathrobe”  

                                                                                                Laurel Weber Snyder

I am currently coaching a bright and thoroughly charming young man in his 20s who is already recognized as a star performer.  Rising through the ranks in a telecommunications giant having nearly 200,000 employees and ranked in the top 20 companies globally, he is about to be rewarded for his stellar performance by being included in a select group.  He is being given the opportunity to go on a luxury, dream trip with the top brass of the company – C-suite executives and top managers along with a few peers who are likewise being honored. 

The benefits of having this access to “face-time with the higher-ups” in a variety of vacation-like settings over several days cannot be overestimated.  Clearly they are grooming him for management.  But at the same time, they are going to be watching closely to learn more about his character, his drive and his personality.  What will they observe about his manners, behavior and communication skills?  His ability to engage in conversation? His relationship with his peers?  His wife?  Will he dress appropriately, even elegantly for formal, informal and business casual events? Will he drink in moderation? Will he take advantage of an invitation to a non-mandatory business “conversation” with the CEO and area presidents?  And if he does, will he be prepared to discuss his hopes for his professional future?  To ask and answer questions? 

Although most readers will not have experienced this type of trip, I know you often experience a variety of situations and opportunities where making a personal connection can have a big payoff.  Picture this: you attend a meeting of your peers and bosses where your participation is not specifically required, but you would benefit by expressing your thoughts and ideas; or you attend a fund-raiser and find yourself in line for drinks behind your boss’s boss.  Are you comfortable expressing your ideas or engaging in casual conversation? 

Recognizing opportunity

Opportunities to create meaningful personal connections abound in casual and formal business situations, social or sports events…any time you have the opportunity to engage with peers, managers, customers, and friends!  Examples include business meetings, networking events, spectator or team sports events, theatre, music or other performances, parties, social or business dinners.  The list is virtually endless.

How to Create Connections

There are also unexpected opportunities for making connections. And guess what?  You need to be prepared for those, too.  People who are successful, “natural” communicators do this instinctively.  But anyone can learn how to converse and through practice, begin to experience greater satisfaction while reaping the simple pleasures as well as the professional rewards of creating real and lasting connections to others.  Read on for ways to achieve this.

5 Powerful Methods for Becoming a Great Communicator

You can prepare by becoming:

·         Curious

o   Develop an authentic curiosity in other people; this will enable you to ask meaningful questions.

·         Better informed

o   Become knowledgeable about a wide variety of topics by reading and learning.  (*hint:  try exploring topics and having experiences that you previously avoided – you may develop new interests!)

o   Have at least 3 topics or comments ready to go that will make you stand apart and create memorable moments

·         A great listener

o   Practice “staying in the moment” as someone speaks to you.  Don’t plan your future comments or allow your mind to wander.  This will naturally lead you to ask questions and offer relevant comments.

·         Empathetic

o   By making a commitment to listen nonjudgementally, you will become more empathetic.

·         Well spoken

o   Practice speaking about your current and new interests by telling great stories and citing interesting facts.  But limit the amount of time you spend speaking.  Your main focus should be on the other person.

My client will soon be travelling and I have worked with him to embody these 5 methods in addition to goals specific to his situation and professional objectives.  This is going to be a stressful, exciting and hopefully gratifying adventure.  Clearly, his high-level reward comes with responsibilities.  Accepting the invitation for the trip means committing to being put under the microscope. But, he is determined to succeed and…I feel sure he’s ready.