July 19, 2021, was a summer day like any other in Baltimore; hot and pretty humid. From my office, I could hear all the kids at the community pool across the street. I love the sounds in our neighborhood and am especially drawn to and fond of the sounds of the kids playing and swimming at Springlake pool.
By the end of the day that day, I had a nine-week-old English Cream Golden Retriever in my lap. Impulsive? Not so much. We’ve always had dogs. It was time for another. And what better breed than a classic; a Golden Retriever, a companion dog who loves everyone and everything within range of her nose and eyes.
As I began socializing Gibbs, aka Gibbs McKee (named in homage to Jethro Gibbs and Tim McGee from NCIS, a family favorite), I realized I was resocializing myself.
I spend a lot of time writing, teaching, coaching, and training on the importance of building strategic professional networks. I’ve repeatedly done it over the years and have been a part of our clients’ creation of new businesses, strengthening their brands, and hiring great new talent. The concept of socializing is part of my DNA and is why Intero exists.
So why the surprise? I am not entirely sure. I have thought deeply about this simply because I experience it every time I walk outside.
Where am I going with this post? Hold on, you’ll see.
I was hesitant at first. Gibbs was tiny and the neighborhood big.
The first and pretty much all encounters following went something like this:
A neighbor approached and asked if our dogs could meet. Within a few days, I was doing the same, smiling, acknowledging, and asking if our dogs could say hello and meet.
The answer was usually, “Yes, of course.”
From there, small talk began.
“Is she a Lab?”
“She’s so cute and soft.”
“How old is she.”
“Oh, a Golden Retriever! She looks like a Lab.”
“My friend, parents, boss, grandmother, sister has/had a Golden. They are the best.”
I would answer and ask similar questions about their dog. Mention how I had seen them go by my house so many times.
Last week one evening, I met Bill walking his two Labs— a playful two-year-old Yellow Lab and a gentler, more mellow Chocolate Lab. We’ve probably passed each other 50 times this year and nodded a quick hello. This time though, he stopped, we chatted, the dogs all played. Before he left, I introduced myself, and he told me his name. That exchange struck me because we had a substantial chat in the 15 minutes he stood on my lawn, and it was so enjoyable.
We talked about dogs, training, the neighborhood, school starting up again. Another neighbor and I spoke about his son starting middle school, yet another, about her retirement and how she is trying to travel more.
A new neighbor moved in two doors down just under a month ago. I met her and her 11-month-old mini-Golden Doodle, and over each day watching our puppies tousle and romp, we’ve gotten to know one another. It’s amazing what you can learn by pausing, asking a question, and inquiring with no intention other than to get to know someone. It’s a lot to learn a new neighborhood. Every neighborhood has a vibe, a personality, and ours is no different.
Over the last 18 months working from home, I have watched my neighborhood come to life in a new way.
The common element; dogs. Yep. They are bridge and conversation builders.
Dogs take the awkwardness out of having a conversation. They are the conversation. They make us pause, and as they sniff, check one another out and raise their tail to play, they permit us to engage in a brief or extended play of our own, getting to know one another.
It’s so obvious; it’s almost silly to write about; however, it’s worth considering.
How have I resocialized?
I pause and acknowledge the person in front of me. I smile, say hello, and asked if I can approach. I see where the conversation goes and go from there. My expectations are reasonable as some people may be in a hurry or don’t want to engage because they are not dog people. It’s all okay. I can still smile, nod, say, “Have a great day.”
I can do that. It’s easy and requires little from me except the willingness to be civil and a good neighbor.
I am grateful for our neighborhood and those I’ve met and come to know. It’s possible because Gibbs and I have come to know Millie, Callie, Jackson, Alaya, Hannah, Ziggy, Quincey, Londa, Hollywood, Macy, Lucy, Bear, Rask, Tully, and Sarge. There are so many more to name!
I believe that taking this concept and applying it to how we do business makes excellent sense, especially in a world that feels a bit uncertain and tenuous. My number one recommendation is to pause and be willing to have a conversation, be it 5 or 50 minutes, and be interested in the person. Care enough to be present and focused and ask insightful yet straightforward questions.
Building a strategic network is more than numbers; it is the basis for knowing and being known.
If my four-month-old Golden puppy can figure that out, so can we. It’s just a matter of caring.
If you’re dog lovers like we are at Intero, you’ve probably seen our most recent post about how one of our own has been taken from us tragically. If you have a moment, please read the full story, and if you can, donate to help cover the cost of Chief’s medical bills.
Interested in working with Intero? Our profile development, coaching, and training services can easily allow your organization to change the way current employees and leadership are showing up and utilizing LinkedIn. Reach out to us for more information on how you can maximize your organization’s LinkedIn strategy for business development, branding, and recruiting initiatives.