Introduction from Alana:
Last month, my friend, Ron Hill, invited me to join him for a “healthy lunch” and tour of his company’s headquarters. The company, Redemption Plus, is a provider of toys and prizes that kids love at family entertainment centers. To be sure, it is a very happy place! And, beyond the physical items it supplies, the company is laser focused on “enriching lives.” As such, I shouldn’t have been surprised to meet the bubbly and vibrant, recently minted University of Kansas (Go Jayhawks!) graduate, Tabatha Bender, whose focus at school earned her a Bachelor of Science in Journalism with an emphasis in strategic communications and a leadership studies minor.
She is certainly putting that degree to work! Tabatha joined Redemption Plus as the organization’s Connection Crusader! In this role, she pairs strategy with interpersonal skills to live out the company’s purpose of enriching lives through insights that empower. Her favorite job responsibility is overseeing the Redemption Plus Incredible Birthday Party Project whereby the company partners with family entertainment centers across the country to provide free birthday parties to children who have never had one.
With a title like “Connection Crusader,” I knew I had to get her to share a little insight with the CLC Community! Check it out…
Guest Post from Tabatha Bender, Connection Crusader, Redemption Plus
I didn’t tell people I wanted to be a Connection Crusader when I grew up. As I got older, I resorted to the unending answer of, “I’m not sure what I want to be.” This rut continued through college and even into my postgraduate life. I wasn’t sure how to put into specific words what I wanted to be. I just wanted to be, well… me.
How did I get here then and what exactly does it mean to be a professional Connection Crusader? Well, to me, it means tackling the tough challenge of creating robust relationships with people. In my line of work, this means connecting my company with individuals, from which mutually beneficial relationships will grow. However, this doesn’t always come naturally for me. Thankfully, I’ve found five practices to help me tackle that tough challenge.
- Putting two-and-two together: Recently I was volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House and a young resident came up to me and handed me his “happy” plate after he finished eating. Instead of ending this interaction with a simple “thank you” I instinctively made a connection with the boy. We happened to both be wearing gray shirts, so I replied to his gesture with, “all the cool kids must be wearing gray shirts today.” I found common ground with the boy that in turn made it easier for him to open up and talk with me. It has to be instinctive, though. Think on your toes. Is someone reading a book you recently read or ordering the very same special drink you always get at your local coffee shop? Leverage that.
- Be a detective: Invest in uncovering someone’s story. Everyone’s unique experiences can bring new prospective connections or relationships. Listen for secret cues you can react on. Remember that whole notion of putting two-and-two together? Come into every conversation with the goal of being relentlessly inquisitive.
- Don’t overthink it: Use your instincts. Think about what you would say to someone if you’ve known them forever. An easy way to do this? Have empathy and try to understand what they are feeling. This can also help you find a common ground and unveil parts of their story that you might have missed.
- Be genuine: I can easily tell when someone is excited to talk to me. It’s also easy to tell when they’re faking it. One way I try to be genuine is to talk about my passions. Doing this gets me genuinely excited and hopefully whoever I’m speaking with feeds off of that energy, which makes them comfortable to talk about their own passions, as well. This is another opportunity to find common ground. Ask yourself: Are there things that I’m passionate about that others are passionate about, too?
- Start where they are: For some, the energy build needs to be gradual, but that doesn’t mean they can’t warm up to you. Taking people out of their comfort zone is often times a must when trying to build robust connections, but it might take some coaxing. If they aren’t asking personal questions, it might be because they’re afraid you’ll ask them something they’re not willing to share. At the same time if they get personal rather quickly, challenge yourself to be vulnerable and cater to that.
In reality, we should all have the goal to be a Connection Crusader. It’s important, especially today where face-to-face communication is diminishing, to set out with the intention of creating a connections with people that ultimately makes them feel comfortable, important and included. Think about the impact you can make by quickly establishing a strong connection with someone.