Shared Energy and Connection – The Art of Networking for Leaders

In Converation with the Safety Collaborators Podcast

Episode 049

Oct 18, 2023

Networking at a Conference

[Listen at approximately 00:12]

After being at a conference, I shared all the exciting things and new ways of working with the executive team.

I was so excited about new ways of working, learning from normal work and seeing the employee as the solution, not the problem.

The blank faces and lack of enthusiasm left me deflated... what now? What next? How could I have shared my enthusiasm to make it contagious?

Recently, we [Karin and Nuala] attended the IADC HSE and Sustainability Conference 2023 in Amsterdam, where we exhibited; it was a significant event for us because it was our second networking and exhibiting conference in the same month (September).

It was genuinely enjoyable to attend this conference, reconnect with familiar faces from the past that we hadn't seen for many years, and meet many new ones. It also got us thinking about how we find inspiration.

How do we become enthusiastic?

How do we, as leaders of our business or a business unit or organisation, discover more than what we encounter in our daily routines?

The previous Safety Expo we were at was more generic and revolved more around safety and its concepts.

This IADC Conference (The International Association for Drilling Contractors) was firmly focused on health, safety, environment, and sustainability and what implications these have for drilling contractors in this industry.

So, it wasn't just an exhibition to find service providers; it was a deep dive into what we can learn within the industry.

'What can we Learn from Networking as Leaders?'

We often say leadership is an inside job, and because of that, it can also be a very solitary place. So, networking and stepping out of our everyday comfort zones and routines is helpful.

The importance lies in connecting with others, typically of like-mindedness. We don't usually attend conferences for unrelated professions, so we find kindred spirits will be there.

So, what can we glean from that as leaders? How should we present ourselves at these events? And what are some key points to enjoying them?

Approach with an open mindset

When you enter with an open mindset, you're freely sharing your knowledge and wisdom, but you're also open to receiving wisdom and knowledge.

We had some remarkable conversations with people who, technically, could be considered competitors, and yet many of those conversations revolved around growth and sharing.

It was about giving our best to help the industry become safer and to advance, embracing a spirit of abundance.

As we become inspired,

we must remember that those who didn't attend the conference may not share our enthusiasm.

  • How do we have that conversation with them?
  • How do we share what we've learned?

Karin found that being at the event was personally enlightening, as it helped her break out of her everyday bubble.

We often hear the same things, even if it's our own voice, so we go and engage in those conversations and are receptive to whatever is being said [even if we don't agree with everything we hear].

What stood out was how long some individuals had been advocating for the change they were trying to bring about. These events help them articulate their ideas, receive fresh concepts, or meet people who can assist them in taking the next step.

Finding confirmation that 'I'm not alone in this'.

We cherished some of the conversations we had with industry leaders who, through presentations or small group discussions, were grappling with similar challenges.

Whether it was altering organisational culture, shifting the executive team's perspective, or combining bottom-up and top-down approaches, these are not burdens you should have to shoulder alone.

You can continue the dialogue even after the event if you're open to connecting in these environments, and it could be valuable to share the challenges raised, especially in this safety and safety culture environment we're involved in.

The Workforce is Continually Evolving

You have new people coming and going, so how do you onboard them?

One of the challenges for many people is onboarding individuals and convincing them that this could be a fantastic place to work, but also implementing a new way of operating as an organisation. By the way, we're discussing some of the more prominent industry players; we're not talking about newcomers to this field.

There are also those who hold onto the attitude of 'this is the way I've always done it, so why should we change? Why should we entertain new ideas?'

Desperation - I've tried being nice.

I've heard about this concept of learning from normal work and that we are all human and make mistakes. I've tried being kind and embracing this notion of psychological safety, but we still aren't achieving what we need to get done.

It would be easier to revert to using the 'big stick' approach again.
It's truly frustrating.

The frustration can be genuine, and when we look at these types of discussions, it's not about saying you're wrong but understanding, 'Okay, what have you tried?' And incorporating it into what all this new discourse looks and sounds like.

In one of the presentations, during the Q&A session, there was a discussion about human factors and learning from normal work, and one of the speakers asked, 'Can we pause and find out from the room if everyone knows what normal work actually means?'

Only about 40% of the room raised their hands - that was a defining moment of the event.

There's so much talk about it; we often assume we understand what it means, but when you think about it, maybe we don't.

Sometimes, we hear about these things and try to implement them, but we implement them based on our assumptions of what we think they are, and then they don't work. And when things get challenging, we tend to revert to what feels more comfortable, which is often how we've done things in the past because it yielded results.

That's human nature. When things get a bit tough, we gravitate back to what's familiar, so sometimes, leading or implementing change is far more challenging than people realise, and it comes down to conversations.

Networking with Others

Looking beyond your usual sphere, finding enthusiasm, or at the very least, hope that change is possible, and being willing to say, 'I didn't know better, but I'm open to trying something new, something different.'

It was wonderful to hear these types of conversations because it suggests that people are open to improving what we do daily and positively impacting the people we encounter daily. That's heartening news for us, as it means we'll be engaged in meaningful work for a long time.

One of the internal consultants within one of the major companies remarked that people still don't fully grasp this whole concept of human factors. It means we have a lot of education and assistance to offer people on their journey and to ignite their enthusiasm.

So, for those who don't attend such conferences and may not have the opportunity but still have burning questions,

  • What should they do?
  • Where else can they find answers or inspiration?

There are plenty of opportunities, and not everyone can afford or has the time to attend conferences in person - if possible, we highly recommend it; alternatively, you can network locally, and we even encourage people to consider stepping outside their usual business mindset.

Karin humorously mentioned that we wouldn't attend a finance conference or one for dentists, but participating in a community of people leading others could be immensely beneficial. In-person events are excellent, but there's also a thriving online community.

It would be best to explore a bit to find one that suits you. These communities have diverse thoughts, ideas, and business types that can help generate new ideas.

Be open to challenges in these forums - LinkedIn, for instance, has some great forums.

We do a lot of networking there, and interestingly, at the IADC, on the first morning, Nuala struck up a conversation with someone who looked at our group and said, 'We met on LinkedIn; this is the power of LinkedIn – now we're meeting in person.'

They exchanged valuable knowledge and information, having never met in person.
That's a fantastic way to learn and find answers to your questions.

Don't underestimate the power of research.

What books are out there, and who's writing them? Especially those directly relevant to your industry or parallel industries, or even something completely unrelated that inspires you.
There are so many outstanding authors out there.

Nuala was listening to an audiobook on the flight home. Although it had nothing to do with work, it got her thinking about mindset, which then circled back to addressing how we can influence mindset in the workplace.

We won't delve into it today; we'll leave it as a teaser for another potential podcast.

The Importance of Networking for Leaders

[Listen at approximately 12:34]

Leverage AI to your advantage.

If you have a burning question, inquire with the AI tool you use; dozens are being released weekly. We use ChatGPT - it functions well, and we certainly employ it when encountering a challenging question or needing fresh ideas. So, make use of it; it's valuable.

Be receptive to courses

Seek out opportunities where you can acquire new knowledge. Learning is an ongoing process. Bring in the Ikigai theory – what am I doing, and how can I do it better next time? Sometimes, this involves acquiring new knowledge and information.

Stay current

Stay up to date with the latest discussions related to the topics you're involved in. We've already mentioned this, but it's fantastic if you can join a community of like-minded individuals who are open, curious, and willing to share ideas.

Karin

Nuala and I are part of different communities, and I recently came across something in the conversational intelligence community I belong to.

Some intriguing ideas are emerging there currently. I don't know what it is, but I intend to inquire because it pertains to facilitation.

I'm thinking about its potential relevance to our community and our work, as well as assisting others.

The Safety Leaders Hub

So, on that note, and this is a bit of a future teaser, we are contemplating creating what we call the Safety Leaders Hub (whether that becomes the actual name remains to be confirmed), but this Leaders Hub will be a community.

So, for those of you listening who are interested, we'll be facilitating it, offering group coaching and some bite-sized learning.

There will ideally be others of like-mindedness within that community, which could be beneficial and immensely valuable, especially considering that many leaders often work in semi-isolation.

They might collaborate with other leaders, whether on an onshore site or a rig, but when they have pressing questions, they may feel hesitant to admit their uncertainty as leaders in this environment.

That's a significant motivation behind what we want to create, which is:

A safe space for learning, sharing, growth, and safety, where you can comfortably ask those questions that might make you uneasy.

Summary of Key Points

1. Significance of Attending Events and Learning Communities:
Involvement in industry events and learning communities facilitates networking, knowledge exchange, and personal development, offering fresh insights and perspectives.

2. Leadership Loneliness Paradox:
Leadership often brings isolation due to the responsibilities and expectations placed on leaders, making it challenging to discuss concerns openly with colleagues.

3. Effectively Conveying Enthusiasm:
Skillfully communicating enthusiasm requires a balanced approach, combining excitement with storytelling and persuasive communication.

4. Balancing Enthusiasm with Practicality:
Enthusiasm should align with addressing organisational challenges, conveyed in a way that resonates with the audience and is actionable.

5. Sustaining Enthusiasm Through Challenges:
Maintaining enthusiasm is vital, even in the face of setbacks or resistance, as it motivates leaders to inspire their teams and drive progress.

6. Value of Networking and Support:
Networking with peers provides a support system where leaders share experiences, learn, and gain inspiration, helping them stay motivated and grow professionally.

7. Reflecting on Personal Motivation:
Self-reflection aids in identifying what excites leaders, how they can solve organisational problems, and how to effectively convey their vision to inspire others.

Final Thoughts

We hope you found our thoughts on networking for leaders somewhat useful.
It's a handy tool in your leadership toolbox, and you might want to try it.

And for those who cringe at the idea of networking, consider it as a helpful tool.

Networking doesn't always mean mingling at events; it could be chatting with your team, asking questions, and being curious about what needs to change.

It's all about connecting and learning.

Resources

Podcasts

E048 - Harnessing the Magic of Storytelling for Persuasion and Safety Leadership

Other

IADC - International Association of Drilling Contractors

About the Show

Our purpose in sharing this podcast is to have a chinwag (conversation) to help people change how they think and behave about safety. 

We do this by engaging in dialogue and testing the levels of trust and psychological safety, which are core to organisational culture. Making safety part of your DNA so that your people speak up, show up, do right, and become safer every day for yourself, your team, and your business.

We will explore topics related to organisational and safety culture, leadership, the language of risk, emotional literacy, psychological safety, conversational agility, intercultural intelligence, and whatever else pops up during our conversations—sharing our experiences and learnings. 

We intend to share nuggets of wisdom that will challenge your perspectives, potentially solve a nagging problem, share actions you can implement, and give you at least one aha moment.

And, if you enjoyed the show and gained value, please share with just one other person to help spread the word.

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