I hate networking…
No, that’s not strictly true. Networking makes me feel uncomfortable and to be honest until recently I never understood why. On every instrument, test or diagnostic I have ever completed I come out as an extravert (and if you’ve met me this is unlikely to surprise you) but it wasn’t until I went on the qualifying course for the MBTI Stage 2 that all became clear. Most of you will be familiar with MBTI Stage 1 – self perception, compare with your reported scores, come up with a 4 letter personality type (mine is ENTP). What Stage 2 does is break each of the preferences down into 5 facets and this is where, for me, it got really interesting, as when it came to extraversion I scored as an extravert except the facet “initiating/receiving” where I scored as an introvert. The mists cleared, the fog lifted and all became clear – I don’t like initiating conversation/interaction with people I don’t know (or as @Thinkingfox has put it “Jonesy, you can close but you can’t open” – the context of the remark I’ll allow you to decide for yourself)
About a year ago I decided, for various reasons, that I needed to get over myself and start networking more proactively and it was through a blog (My hell is other people) and Twitter discussions about music that I started to network with an informal group called ConnectingHR. A year ago they held their first “Unconference” and yesterday was the second. I had watched the first from the Twitter sidelines but yesterday I moxied up, paid my dues and attended.
If you don’t know what an unconference is, Google it. But the fag packet answer is like a conference but with content driven by the attendees, not structured “push” but more owner operated “pull”. So at 9.30am we started and (through some great facilitation from @dougshaw1) we finished with a grid of topics for discussion. I don’t intend to try and summarise any of them here (I will post a follow up which will summarise one of the topics I was part of….but that’s for another time). If you are interested in the content search the #chru hashtag on Twitter and there are several great blogs already out there. If you can’t do that – sign up to Twitter STAT….
I was asked by several people on several different occasions what I thought of it….and my response on every occasion was the same “interesting”. Which can be, and was, taken in different ways. The caveat I added was that I needed time to reflect and digest.
I have reflected and digested and will offer another caveat – what follows is positive if at times constructive BUT completely subjective – this is from MY point of view and isn’t intended as commentary on how it was for others.
An aside before proceeding. Being an extravert is a double edged sword. You are by type more comfortable to take part in a “live fire” environment, to process in the moment, to be able to respond and challenge. The double edged sword is with the energy of all those people and all that discussion how far do you go? I, by nature, cope with feeling uncomfortable by extroverting, I talk, ask questions, discuss etc and have noticed on several occasions recently that it is assumed by others as hogging, grand standing, over two-pennething. In contrast it appears that introverts cope with the same situation by watching, listening and digesting and the response is very different, no one appears to feel threatened by their response and in fact usually are very supportive in making them feel comfortable to contribute. All that by way of saying if at any point I trampled your point, hogged or appeared to grandstand it was largely (with a few exceptions) me coping with my own discomfort…
So, 24 hours later what has “interesting” become?
- What a fabulous group of people, whose intention is to learn, help, support, contribute, challenge and share
- As much as at times I adore chaos, the lack of structure in the unconference format was uncomfortable and left me wanting
- That said I think the unconference format has real legs and have come away excited about how it could be further applied in a corporate environment
- Visual minutes are awesome (check out creativeconnection.co.uk, Tim and his team do something incredible by turning the dialogue and emerging themes into artwork)
- Facilitation is good. With the aforementioned struggle between the extraverts and the introverts, having someone to ensure contribution from all and that the conversation doesn’t spiral off into freeform oblivion is good.
- There are lots of questions and with so many interested parties; the answers can be elusive especially without structure
- I would have liked a little (not a lot) bit of input, to hear what others are doing, not big scary case studies and by the numbers presentations, but someone saying “we do this and it works/doesn’t work”
- Live tweeting during an event is great especially if it’s viewable from “the floor” although it did take me a while to get used to people whopping their phones out and tapping away
- There was a lot of “stuff” out there yesterday and I felt like a missed loads.
- It is incredible what a group of people with common intent can achieve without permission, accreditation, incentive or financing
- However much you caveat it, an elephant in the room is still an elephant in the room
- Unconferencing is tiring but rewarding
If you work with people (and not just those with an HR job title or as I put it yesterday, in the HR cost centre) you should check out connectinghr.org or on Twitter check out the hashtags #chru & #connectinghr, whether you have a similar fear of networking to me or are a seasoned pro, it’s a really good group and will only get better.
I don’t feel this needs wrapping up as the points all stand on their own but there would be too many to thank for yesterday (both organisers and participants) but if one person should be singled out it’s Gareth Jones (@garelaos) (www.garethjones.me) who’s networking activity keeps Starbucks going, has for me been the driving force to me engaging and remaining engaged with ConnectingHR and took the incessant piss taking yesterday with good grace and very few rebuttals!