People often ask me how I can maintain such a large number of connections over time.
Connections make the web and social media work -- connections take place in conversations. As well, connections continue to contribute to the good health of businesses and people.
In marketing, connections live right alongside the brands that resonate with us. While when you hear someone say they are "connected", they may mean that they are in the inner circle of people and issues, to them personally that may also mean they feel included. Today, connected customers are bringing about new, creative ways to do business.
I've been thinking about a metaphor that represents the interconnected way in which I see the world -- mind, body and spirit -- that can also serve as an overall brand for tips on making connections with ideas, people, and self. I came up with the Kata.
I practiced long distance Karate-dō for three years. That means I was training by myself by conditioning body through exercise of Kata and mind through appreciation of form, while taking classes and exams in a gym in Italy whenever I was traveling back. Since the Wikipedia entry linked above seems to need fact checking, I thought I'd share the definition by Masatoshi Nakayama in the series Best Karate:
Deciding who is the winner and who is the loser is not the ultimate objective. Karate-dō is a martial art for the development of character through training, so that the karateka can surmount any obstacle, tangible or intangible.
Karate-dō means of the empty-hand and is the art of self-defense. To become a victor, one must first overcome his own self. The problem, if there is one, is the way we are inside, which robs us of our own enlightenment.
The important parts to achieve good form are using the hips as a source of power (as anchored to the core), developing good stance (foundation), having good dynamics when moving and changing direction (flexibility and change), and coordination (symphony and meaning). They are all key elements of the Kata or form, the detailed choreographed patterns of movements practiced either solo or in pairs.
"Regardless of how many kata a person may know, if his training in them is insufficient, they will be useless." [Mabuni Kenwa - 1989-1952 A principle founder of modern karate and originator of the Shito School of Karatedo.]
This is the basis for my using the term Kata to address making connections. Because there is also the part of kumite as a strategy and although you may have experienced connections in opponent situations, the goal here is to practice tips that will make you a more effective communicator and connector.
Let's start with the bow, which is the first step in communications and connection. That is the sign of respect for the space, as well as the acknowledgment of the other. I had an extensive conversation by email with Jens Hilgenstock, a fascinating thinker and writer, about his post Encounters at 5,000 Feet and the concept of "alike" -- how large a role intuition and empathy play in it.
You feel and establish the connection in the first moment, he said in his post; part of the feel to me is permission, explicit or implied. As with all the posts that will come after this one in the series, we begin always with the bow or acknowledgment -- I bow to you who are reading this as you reciprocate by taking the time to read.
In fact, the first moment of connection in any situation is this one.
First time readers of this blog who leave a comment receive an email welcome note from me. I craft the message to acknowledge their contribution to the conversation and them personally -- taking the time to visit someone's blog or site and learning about their topic and space is important to me. Sometimes that step develops into true email threads on a topic of interest.
I do the same in live encounters at professional associations and networking events. When approached or approaching a conversation, the exchange and introductions revolve around getting to know the other person -- preferences in communication style, language and terminology, business environments, and work.
At that point, we both have the opportunity to learn more about the other. What we do with it is up to us -- and becomes an expression of our brand. It's also a dance where both participants take turns to guide.
Let's take a moment to consider what this may mean in a business context. When a customer first signs on the dotted line -- by explicit or implied contract -- they are essentially giving you the opportunity to acknowledge them and begin a conversation. What you do with that may well mean the difference between a loyal customer and a transactional one. If it is a dance, then there needs to be a give and take in the conversation for there to be true connection.
How would you practice "the bow" to begin your interactions? What would that look like? If you have a specific question about how to connect, I'll be happy to integrate that into a post of the series.