Aside

What Surrounds Us, Affects Us.

We are all connected. We mostly know that.

Do we also realize that who we hang with affects our moods, what we think about as valid, it shows up in our decisions, and it affects what we create? Maybe.

This week, I worked with an editor to create my first post for the HBR (Harvard Business Review) forum, called Are You a Rebel or a Leader?

It’s a good read for the business/management crowd. Really. Check it out. But it wasn’t to begin with.

You see, Sarah Green first proposed joining the HBR community, before the holidays and by the time I started to write, I had lost the full idea thread. Then, I started to think this is for Haaaarvard and HBR, the epitome of management publications. Which led me, quite predictably, to freeze up. And then I started to write muddier and muddier content. It was pure gunk (that’s a scientific term, by my book) by the time Sarah checked in. And rather than b.s. her (which, I admit, I did consider …albeit briefly), I was authentic, and she stepped into the mess with me. Her feedback note started with: “Good News! You’re Having Twins!” which was her way of saying I had two big ideas that needed their own space.

You_surrounded

She made me and my ideas better. She didn’t spend her energy judging me or making me feel small so she affected my mood which of course made it easier to persevere. And she didn’t try and change what I wanted to create but to reflect back clearly, asking questions to hone my own thinking. She brought the best of her talented self, so I could bring out the best of my talented self. She (perhaps you) would probably say, “that’s what great editors do”, but that would deny another truth within this story. It is also what great collaborators do. It is what a great “network” does.

Is there a lesson here for all of us?

Could we all be more intentional in creating the network that supports us? Support for you would likely look different than what support looks like for me. But let me share my ideas in case it spurs your own: I want to be surrounded by those “earthy practitioners” who are working being and doing their best, authentically. I want those who feed my soul with good ideas, and a positive approach. I want people to remind me to be faithful. I really want to be with fit people. I definitely want people who can help me see things differently, who challenge my thinking but also create solutions (example: that idea is weak, read this, and then let me introduce you this guy I know who is an expert…). I seek those who challenge me to be more of who I am (not who they want me to be). I want to be around people who know how to build on “and, rather than no”… ideas. I want to work with people who let me help them cross a finish line & create great outcomes. I admit I want to be appreciated & recognized for when I help others with my gifts. I want to be with people who, like me, advance the agendas of people we think are worthy of note, say by tweeting their ideas, recommending them as speakers, or buying their book.

Now this is in stark contrast to what I accepted (or, should I say, allowed) 2 years ago, and I’ve changed. No more one-way relationships. No working with editors who have perfected how to berate but lack the ability to build on ideas. No more hanging our with people who spin,spin,spin everything all the time, forgetting I remember the last version of the story; it’s taxing to be with someone that I can’t trust what they say. No relationships that require drama cause I really shouldn’t have to remind you to treat me right.

What we allow to surround us … affects us. This connectedness affects the mental framework, the physical being, the process of work, and ultimately what we are able to create. So I’m choosing differently. I may not have the mix right, but I am paying attention to it.

A good resource for this topic of connectedness is this brilliant book, or watch the TED video (ignore the graphics, which are just plain funky) or check out the rules that inform good social constructs.

What would your world look like if you had a network that supported you? Do you already? Awesome! I’m sure that’s why you are kicking-ass. (Thank you, Sarah, and to my many collaborators — you know who you are and hopefully how much I appreciate you!)

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7 Responses:

  1. PamFR. January 26, 2011 at 6:05 pm  |  

    I’m feeling it, Nilofer, thanks.Upgrading the quality of collaborators is my strongest advice to anyone – exec or consultant – who feels stagnant. I am gratefully inspired, informed, supported, challenged, and sometimes nudged by you and others. So thanks right back.

    Reply
  2. Credoquest. January 26, 2011 at 10:14 pm  |  

    This is a timely reminder for me. I had a friend check in with me hours ago. When I inquired, he reminded me that I asked him to keep me on track with a solo project I’m on. Even though it was something I had to do alone, I set up a virtual team for support.Reading your post enforces the need to set up support and collaboration opportunities.

    Reply
  3. Nilofer Merchant. January 26, 2011 at 10:18 pm  |  

    Don’t you love the collaborators who know when you need a kick in the arse? I am meeting with someone like that for me on Friday morning at 10:00 am. He initiated the meeting and it reminds me, I gotta get that thing we talked about, done!

    Reply
  4. glubbert. January 26, 2011 at 10:46 pm  |  

    Really powerful post on the potential of our networks to help lift everyone around us. I feel like improving the quality of collaborators, while not a strategic decision, has been a natural part of my life the last several years (including collaborating with you!). It’s not easy to let go of some draining relationships, and it is a constant struggle internally with being a good person. That’s one of the biggest challenges I face. It’s hard to say no.

    Reply
  5. Nilofer Merchant. January 26, 2011 at 11:13 pm  |  

    @glubbert let me propose an answer to your dilemma by asking you a ?. If you can’t choose YOU and your priorities, who can?

    Reply
  6. Swarna Podila. January 27, 2011 at 5:16 am  |  

    “Earthy practitioners” – I love the word! And I am so glad to be surrounded by quite a few of you “earthy practitioners” :) You not only inspire people like me, but also help us achieve our dreams by laying out an achievable path!

    Reply

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