A month of one-to-ones: the human connections in our business lives that really matter.
On the one hand they couldn’t be more different. A Thursday morning walk through countryside. A Friday evening in a busy and buzzy hotel lobby.
But they were united by their substance. Meaningful conversations free of agendas or expectation or intention. Space for deep chat.
This month, I’ve had seven of these wonderful, high quality one-to-ones. On one occasion I caught up with someone I hadn’t seen for six years (so good to see you again, Espree). On another I met someone for the first time after having developed a relationship on social media (great to meet you, Mark). Some of them were unplanned, others had been scheduled. A number of them were on familiar territory where I was the host; others were in unfamiliar spaces where I went with the flow.
Each one of these encounters was professional - but every one touched on the personal. And I think that says a lot about the quality of the exchanges we had - talking personal meant we were being our true selves, with a level of openness and honesty that’s not always present in business relationships.
I enjoyed each and every one, when I:
caught up with my friend and collaborator David in his Clifton flat over wine and crisps while his seven-year-old son ate his tea in the next room;
walked 7km over two hours with Sharon and her dog. Our meanderings took us on the Ashton Court loop, over Clifton Suspension Bridge Check, through Ashton Court estate. We’d earned our coffee by the harbour at Underfall yard. I also had the added joy of treading new ground;
connected face-to-face with Mark for the first time. We drank coffee outside in the Amsterdam sun and shared stories of how we got to here (our career journey that is, rather than how we got to Amsterdam);
skipped day two of a conference to meet up with Karen for two hours. We browsed magazines at Athenaeum Nieuwscentrum and looked at books at the American Book Center before ending with coffee and art at Foam photography gallery;
enjoyed Friday evening drinks with Espree at the bar of the Hoxton Hotel in Amsterdam. She lives in LA. It was only because I saw a post on social media post that I realised we were both in the city at the same time;
supped coffee with Carmen at Borough Market before heading out on a Thames-side walk in the sunshine to my favourite quiet spot, the roof gardens of The Queen Elizabeth Hall;
ate lunch with Kelly in one of my favourite Soho restaurants. This was followed by a meander through the streets culminating with a stroll through Green Park in the sunshine.
These days I’m more careful than ever about where I put my attention, and these seven experiences were a reminder why I’m choosy. Because when you are with like-minded people who want to give conversations room to breathe, when you can walk and wander because there is no pressure of a next meeting you must dash off to, when there is no agenda other than finding out about someone - it’s then you can have the most illuminating, stimulating, authentically human experiences possible.
When I’m able to explore and unearth the things that really matter, I find they are usually the most valuable investment of my time. This is even though (or because) there is no particular intention to the meeting. As Karen said on stage in her presentation at The Next Web about the importance of live conversation, “when you’re meeting someone professionally, the conversation doesn’t have to be about work. Be personal and personable.” So, so true.
So thank you David, Sharon, Mark, Karen, Espree, Carmen and Kelly. For the chats and the banter, the deep discussions and the idea generation - and the reminder that it’s the human connections in our business lives that make all the difference.