Sometimes, the best thing I can do for myself, and those in attendance is to step back and allow the magic to happen.
I used to think that I did not like networking - but really it was the exercise of going into a room full of strangers, talking about what I do and handing out my card that I hated. This is not networking, or it is what networking looks like to someone who does not know how to do it well. It comes easily and naturally to some people and not to others. Often, exactly what is meant by networking is not communicated well. The end result returning from a conference with a pocket full of business cards of people they may or may not remember talking to and then those people may or may not get added to a bulk email list. There might be some follow up emails and calls, but really - the whole experience of getting your card was awkward to start with, so this formal email follow ups feels even more uncomfortable.
It felt like an epiphany when I realized that (for me) networking is not about being able to tell corporate how many business cards I gave away and how many leads I got from a given activity. Networking is about relationships, real relationships. It is about building relationships with people where the connection is genuine and the relationship is mutually beneficial. The best connections in your network are the people whose success is linked to your own. This is exactly why we feed the neighbor’s cat when we are out of town.
Sure, I like the neighbor’s cat, and it is great if they want to feed my cat when I am out of town -- but it goes deeper than that. We are both also invested in the safety of our neighborhood and we know that by feeding each other’s cat we are both keeping an eye on a house that may be vacant for a few days. We are coming and going, maybe turning a light on off here and there. Sometimes we even send each other silly pictures of the cats while they are away. We are in relationship with each other. We are supporting each other, we are supporting our community and we are supporting those rascal cats that might tear up the curtains while we are away if they don’t get some entertainment.
I love meeting new people and hearing their stories. I love learning about life experiences that are different from mine. When I talk to new people with fresh perspectives and different ideas - this is when I feel most alive. Spending time with people and having the opportunity to really visit with them - it provides me with fresh perspective, and sparks the creative part of my brain. I have had these moments at campfires with friends, in hotel lobbies and restaurants when working on a team, and on long car drives. If someone had told me that this is networking, maybe I would have become a fan a long time ago.
When networking moves beyond the self-interest of “what is in it for me” and towards the goal of doing something for the community, there is something transformational that can happen. We have seen this at charity fundraisers where the experience of being in it together brings people closer together.
I am driven to not just support other women in our field but to build the kind of real community where this can happen. When I help a friend tackle the question of EHR integration that they have been struggling with and they help me with the PR effort for my new organization we are moving beyond a simple mutually beneficial relationship. We are building community, we are sharing our knowledge and resources in a way that is also strengthening both of our positions in the industry. In fact, the more we amplify each other and reflect back the dedication, hard work, achievements, creativity, and resourcefulness of our network, the more light shines on our work. We set examples for the women around us about confidence, goal setting and building a network that is about something that is bigger than ourselves. We might even send each other fun & silly snaps along the way as we move towards our goals.
This is what Doyenne Connections is all about. Yes, it will be beneficial for you as a member, it will be beneficial to your business as a sponsor - but more than that, it is going to be beneficial for the community of women in Health IT. We are engaging in a deeper kind of networking. This deeper networking far beyond who you can buy and sell things with. It is about authentically supporting the people that make up our community. It is about having the kind of reciprocal relationships that not only mutually beneficial, but beneficial to the community as a whole.
"What is The Big Deal?" Those honest and frustrated words were what my daughter said to me one day when she came home from Girl Scouts having learned about some of the historical facts of women in history. None of it made any sense to her. Why would you treat anyone differently – ever? It was my first experience of my then 8 year-old daughter learning about our collective history. There is something about this exchange that changed me. I look at the world a little differently now.
It is easy to look at this history of women and work, or even the current state of things and get angry. Depending on the report you read, between 70-80% of healthcare workers are women, and yet they make up only a small percentage of executive teams. A recent HIMSS compensation study showed a widening gap between women and men in Healthcare IT, with women earning 78 cents to every dollar. The problem with anger, is that it only gets you so far. While it is important to acknowledge the facts and our history – it is even more important to overcome it.
“Looking at the past must only be a means of understanding more clearly what and who they are so that they can more wisely build the future.”
Sometimes even a conversation about disparities becomes a virtual minefield – people get passionate and personal when talking about issues that hit so close to home. This does not mean that it is not important, but it needs to be thoughtful and intentional. Our lived experiences shape our opinions, approaches and attitudes in life and in the workplace.
When 12 women in various stages of their lives and careers came together just outside Atlanta – there were many things that happened when a collaborative & comfortable space was created. We shared stories and learnings from our lives and experiences. Relationships moved from casual connections to friendships. People who used to connect occasionally on Twitter, now text and call each other.
There is something very real and very different about creating collaborative relationships that are mutually beneficial as opposed to formal, contrived or forced mentoring relationships.
There is a social ecosystem in business, and building social capital is pivitol to hitting the next rung on the ladder. This is a step that is not going to come from a corporate mentor or from a book club discussion - but it will come from building relationships with each other and supporting each other as we move forward.
Doyenne Connections is built and designed specifically for that purpose. To foster a new kind of social network that will change the face of leadership at the corner of healthcare and technology.
I don’t always consider myself daring or outgoing, but somehow I invited a bunch of strangers that I met on the internet to dinner.