How to experience stronger connections in your Air National Guard career, your civilian job, and your personal life.
Commentary by Master Sgt. Matt McCoy, 184th Public Affairs
But first, a word from our sponsors
Connectedness is a main topic of discussion at the 184th Wing. That’s why we’re dedicating most of October’s messaging to building stronger connections.
We just want to present ideas that may help you have the best experience during your time in the Air National Guard.
We’re also leading up to Wingman Day during the November drill.
Maj. Charles Ross, director of inspections, 184th Wing, has done an incredible job coordinating the activities for the morning of Nov. 3.
He lined up five guest speakers that have powerful stories to share. The theme for the day is “Resiliency through Connectedness.”
For more information about Wingman Day, look for the flyer in your inbox or on the 184th Wing app under Bulletins.
We’ll see you there!
Now back to the show
We all have at least one person in our lives who seems to really get us on an individual level. It’s not just you, it seems like this person can establish genuine friendships with just about anyone.
We describe people like this with words like charismatic, authentic, caring, influential, charming and even magnetic.
They attract people of all kinds, not because of their physical appearance, their job title, rank or financial status. There’s just something about these people that makes others want to be around them.
For this article, we’ll call these people Connectors.
Here are a few of their traits that you can adopt to improve your interpersonal connections.
Connectors make the people around them stronger
I remember back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, one of the buzzwords of that era was “networking.” (I know that makes me sound like an old guy, but that’s alright. I wear that badge with honor.)
Back then, you had to build your network. “It’s not what you know. It’s who you know.” That old cliché.
As I watched my mentors, and other people more seasoned than I was, I noticed a difference between those who were really successful at networking and those who worked really hard at it.
The people who were really successful were actually building networks. The people who struggled were building empires.
What’s the difference?
The people building networks were doing it in a way that benefited everyone involved. They understood that they weren’t the main component, they were a member that made the entire network stronger.
They connected with people to make other people stronger. They genuinely cared about helping others, and, in return, their network was strong for many years.
In contrast, the people who built empires connected with people to make themselves stronger. This normally worked for a short-term fix, but it hardly ever lasted.
People eventually saw through the empire builders and quickly disengaged from them. Both types of leaders climbed the ranks, but I have a feeling the empire builders were lonely at the top.
The network builders gained more influence over time by focusing on making other people stronger.
Connectors find common ground
This item seems pretty easy on the surface. Most of our relationships are built on common interests, goals, values and experiences. It’s a natural behavior to surround yourself with people who are like you.
But, what if you’re surrounded by an extremely diverse potluck of people? Conservatives and liberals, married with kids and single people, Chiefs and Raiders fans, Baby Boomers, Gen-Xers, Millennials and Gen-Zs.
Connectors look for common ground in people, no matter what. To do this:
- Make yourself available to others – spend time with them and be approachable
- Listen to learn more about their lives, experiences, struggles and achievements
- Ask questions even if you already know the answers – this generates conversation
- Be proportionately open – let people get to know you, but don’t offer too much too soon
- Be humble and adaptive – be willing to integrate with other cultural characteristics
- Focus on things that unite people; minimize things that divide or categorize
When you find common ground with others, they’re more open to establishing a connection with you. If you’re looking for them to conform to you, you’re going to have a difficult time making connections.
Connectors look at things from the perspective of others
This trait can be difficult for some people to master, but it’s a vital instrument in the Connector’s toolbox.
It’s difficult because, for a Connector to see things from another perspective, they have to move away from their own position, even if it’s just temporary.
They essentially have to abandon their post!
This is counter to how we learn to get what we want. But keep in mind, this isn’t an article about how to win arguments. It’s about how to build connections.
To illustrate this point, I’ll summon the words of team builder, leadership coach and author, John C. Maxwell. He said:
“The willingness to see things from others’ points of view is really the secret to finding common ground, and finding common ground is really the secret of connecting. If you were to do only this and nothing else, your communication would improve immensely in every area of your life.”
To see things from other peoples’ perspectives, ask yourself these questions:
- Have I listened to, and heard, the other person’s side of the story?
- Do I know what the other person wants? Where they want to go? How they want to get there?
- Have I asked what the other person knows about …?
- Do I know how the other person feels about …?
- Do I know the other person’s vision of success?
Do you see a common thread? Seeing things from another perspective isn’t about the Connector, it’s about the other person.
Connectors put the other person first
Put the other person first…it’s so simple it just might work! Hopefully you’ll adopt these traits and apply them in your daily interactions.
If you do, you’ll likely experience stronger connections in your Air National Guard career, your civilian career, and even your personal life.
You may find that people describe you with words like charismatic, authentic, caring, influential, charming and even magnetic.
The views expressed herein are those of the author; they do not necessarily reflect the views of the 184th Wing, Kansas National Guard or the United States Air Force.
Matt McCoy has been building, managing and leading teams since 1995. He’s led teams for military organizations, volunteer organizations, youth sports and private companies. Teams ranged from 5 to 50+ people. He joined the 184th Wing in 1997 and currently serves as the superintendent of the 184th Public Affairs office