I attended a meeting tonight with lots of discussion on what people want to talk about. There is a perception that senior businesspeople only want to talk business, finance etc.
Then I reflected on other environments where I meet such people - eg weekend sports, social get togethers. I also have fresh in my mind a lunch I attended Sunday.
What stood out to me about the assumption and the reality is that senior business people want to talk about more than just business. In fact it was refreshing for a change not to get into the 'what you do for a living' conversation until 3 hours later in the lunch!
From personal to business
As a result on Sunday I got to know more about people from a personal level before I learned about them in the business world. I enjoyed this perspective. When I then found out about their work I had an entirely different perspective. I did not see their introduction of work as a role, or a position but as an expression of who they are in their life journey right now.
So I return to this evenings conversation and my reflection on the contrast. Some points I note that I would like to put out there for you to consider.
Context drives content
It depends on context. When we meet someone the context, environment, reason and mode of meeting affect how we connect with the other person. For example, if introduced to someone at a networking event I get the role description, explanation of work and sometimes even a bit of a pitch if I am a potential client. If however the event is more social, eg a farewell or someone's birthday, the context is that we have permission to talk personal.
Impersonal is the easy option not the best
What bother's me is that we continue to believe that being impersonal in the business world is the way to go. One of my favourite movies of all time is You've Got Mail (yes I am a self confessed girlie movie lover). The classic scene occurs when the character Joe Fox, played by Tom Hanks, apologises to Meg Ryan's character, Kathleen Kelly, for causing her small independent book store business to go under. His excuse, it's just business, it's not personal. Her response says it all. She argues the case of it being personal. It may not be personal to Joe Fox but it is to Kathleen Kelly.
In essence the entire experience involves people, but for the sake of business this fact is a conveniently discarded fact in the offices of the large book store Fox Books.
The case for the personal
I still agree that there is a place for the business perspective. I claim also that there is a need to ADD the personal to business, to make working with people, doing deals, making decisions more real.
The cost of continuing to not have whole conversations with people at work is we risk not really getting to know them. It is when we really know a person that we develop real connections and want to work to help them out.
So my request is to see how you can go about inviting people to be more open and personal about the way they interact with you and others. Whilst being mindful of the context and readiness of others, you can still make the effort and set the example. What do you have to lose? Well the opportunity to develop more meaningful connections with people.
Let's go there...