BAPC: Building a Professional Community
In the halcyon images of “communities” as presented to us by network television, especially prior to the advent of online media, there is this folksy image of people sitting on the front porches of their homes, saying hello to passers by, keeping a mindful eye out for lost dogs, kittens stuck in trees, truant children, neighborhood bullies and big bad strangers. These days, most of us don’t have a front step, with a porch, and a swinging chair, or a neighborhood that would be receptive to “stoop sitting.” We hide out in our backyards (if we have one), fenced in, hunched over our bbq’s and flower beds, and may not even know our neighbors, let alone who is a stranger in our neighborhoods. Or we dash through the lobby, up to our compartment, and lock the door behind us.
There is application here to how available we are, or how insulated/isolated we are as we seek to build our professional communities. The majority of our professional lives, we are ‘at work, working” – who has time for stoop sitting? We go out and “network” to make connections to further our business, but how do we turn those connections of commercial potential into a viable professional community – putting the “net” (as in safety) back in “network.” Nobody wants to be known as, or become the shark in the community pool – for business relationships to be strong, there needs to be a sense of neighborly competitiveness – cause there is enough pie to go round, generally speaking – and you never know when you are going to be working for or working with someone with whom you have been in bloodthirsty bone-crushing competition in your industry segment.
So – make sure you sit on your stoop. Don’t you want to know what’s going on out there?
Industry oldtimers – keep yourselves available to give a word of advice to the younger folk. Share your insights on how the community has changed, but don’t get stuck in the past. Actively welcome new folk to the block party – you always remember people who make you feel welcome. Make sure your name tag or business card or social media profile says something more about you than name-title-company-contact if at all possible. Be findable. Introduce yourself – don’t expect people to know who you are. Not everyone has been around this block as long as you have, and your legendary exploits may not have reached their ears yet. But I bet someone will be willing to listen, if you give them a chance to get to know you.
Youngsters and newcomers, you get to listen a bit, talk some and learn a lot. Show some respect, and have good manners. Take a stroll down the aisle at the next After Business Mixer and see who’s out there that you can learn from (by building a relationship) not just who you can sell to. Give credit where due, and don’t trample the flowers. Get out there, on the street in the real world of client service delivery to see how it’s done in practice by the industry veterans who have survived the nitty gritty professional jungle, not just the ivory tower Pleasantville of theory, blogposts and podcasts. Introduce yourself, and don’t take it personally if you aren’t remembered the second time you pass by their stoop. That may mean you are less memorable than you think. You can improve that.
Sitting on your stoop allows you to observe the changing world around you - to see who’s moved in, moved out, moved on – share a cup of sugar with a neighbor in need, give directions to someone new. It helps keep you informed, involved, and engaged in your professional community. It keeps the neighborhood safe for everyone to explore, because people know that this community has vigilant residents who pay attention to what is going on around them.
And sometimes – just sitting back with a cold glass of lemonade and watching the world go by can be highly entertaining.
Next in the series – Plant flowers.
Enjoy the day,