One word. Balance. It's a big world out there. Many of us live in a small corner of our world and seldom move outside to stir up a little dust and fresh air. Why not? Are we so focused on the world we know? Are we uncertain who lies just over the horizon? Introducing new people and new ideas into our professional world is a way of bringing balance and relevance into the equation.
"But there is another element that is often overlooked and it can be the flame that tempers the steel of our professional experience."
As an Architect and young professional the greatest influences on my professional life have been a Grocer, a Teacher, a Banker, a Steel Importer and Developer. An unlikely group to seek out for support but each of them touched my life at a time critical to my professional development and when they did, they left a deep impression. Of course Architects and Designers made their impact on me as one might expect being in the field. However it was this diverse group enlightened me to the outside world.
Now fast forward to my 40's and 50's during the time most of us understand to be the sweet spot professionally. We now have the education, experience, and patience that forms a basis for our professional wisdom and we are operating "in the zone". I've written often about bringing focus to our professional lives. Focus in process, design, in marketing and in business development. But there is another element that is often overlooked and it can be the flame that tempers the steel of our professional experience.
These influencer's bring breadth of experience to our world. They are much like the intent of our higher education when we studied history, physics, psychology, math or geography that taught us the how and why of life and the intertwining nature of knowledge. When we encourage these new relationships and open our minds to other professionals we amplify our earlier education.
"This is more like tossing a handful of pebbles into the lake and watching the circles intersect. "
I have created a "virtual" board of directors in my professional life. Some are friends and acquaintances, some are professionals from other disciplines, some do not know me at all but are known to me only by their writings. What I enjoy is the discourse and the discovery that it brings. Listening to their professional experiences with an open mind has exponentially improved my vision of the world of business. It allows me to live in a much bigger box and see the world not just through my eyes but through the eyes and experiences of others. One source of new influencer's are my clients. Each of them is a person like me that has achieved some level of professional success in their industry and while they are looking to me to provide a creative solution to their business needs, I need to know as much as I can of the road they have traveled that caused our paths to cross. I view them as a repository of knowledge of accounting, banking, oil & gas, insurance, real estate or technology and by exploring their experiences I am able to add to my personal experience in the same way. I have often felt that it was my empathy for their position and experience that allowed us to connect quickly and to feel comfortable about doing business together. It's not a bad habit to develop.
Another source can be networking groups, properly developed and managed. Bringing together diverse professionals in a way that isn't just a "you hire me and I'll hire you" arrangement can be equally rewarding. When these groups promote education, sharing, charity or any of many other social elements, the entire group benefits. As we've been told the first step in successful networking is asking, "is there anything I can do for you?"
For those of you that read my posts often, this blog probably steers your thoughts in a different direction than I typically present. I'd encourage you to examine your lives and see who might be in your circle that would be good to get to know better. Consider expanding your circle or creating new circles of connections. We're familiar with the analogy of tossing a pebble in a lake to see the concentric circles form. This is more like tossing a handful of pebbles into the lake and watching the circles intersect. Remember that it is a two way street for knowledge sharing, so be prepared to be forthcoming with your own story and experience. The effort can be substantially rewarding.
William M. Burwell is a retired Architect and Interior Designer whose career focused on corporate interior architecture in sole proprietorships, and partnerships from 9 to 120 staff. Bill retired in 2014 and began Burwell Consulting a Firm Marketing and Management Consulting firm, to share the wisdom and experience of those 45 years with the A/E/C community. Bill writes articles sharing his experience in keystone practice areas: Entrepreneurship, Marketing, and Practice Management. He graduated from the University of Houston College of Architecture in 1971 and now serves the College on the Dean's Committee on Excellence. Check him out at www.burwell-consulting.com