Strong Relationships & Making Connections

“Strong relationships are one of the core values of owner and founder, Carole Spicer.” This statement appears on my website, and every proposal I write. Why?

The value of strong relationships

At the very basic level, healthy relationships add to our overall wellbeing. Research has shown they contribute to a long, healthy, happy life. I am extremely grateful and fortunate for my upbringing. My parents instilled the value of family. They were faced with a difficult decision at the ages of 18 and 20 to leave Newfoundland to find work. Despite the distance between us and my relatives, I was given the chance to make strong connections. Once telephone calls and visits were within the family budget, they became a regular occurrence.

I believe I have brought that value into my own family. Connections today may take the form of text messages, or video chats. The important thing is that connections occur. When my grandmother was alive, if you did not call her regularly, she would often say, “Oh my, it has been so long since I last heard your voice” once you finally did. It was a subtle reminder to pick up the phone more often! It is very easy to let the busyness of life get in the way of connections.

In my circle of friends, I work at keeping those relationships strong as well. If I haven’t heard from someone in awhile, I will send a “checking in” message or pick up the phone and call. As most know, I love going for coffee, even though I do not drink coffee and I am always up for a lunch connection.

I am blessed with a great memory

I am the kind of person that remembers a ton of what is seemingly useless information. One of my aunts and I are the family historians. We know everyone’s birthday. I used to know everyone’s phone numbers when that was the only way to connect.

When I am with a client, chances are I am unconsciously storing some information about that individual. Fortunately, this comes rather easily to me. I am able to recall tidbits of knowledge at a future meeting.

When I worked in the provincial government, my clients were other government employees. They would travel to Corner Brook for training and other events, or I would travel to other regions to meet them. I still remember two ladies who came in from Port aux Basques regularly. One woman’s mother’s maiden name is Spicer, and the other woman’s sister-in-law shared my maiden name Wagg. Whenever they came to class, I would greet them by name, and ask about their family or comment on something they said the last time we met. It may have been months or a year since we last saw each other! As a matter of fact, one woman, whose name I remember is Georgina, said in her introductions one day, “Be careful what you say! Carole remembers everything!” That made me laugh.

One of my tips is to use everyone’s name regularly and naturally. If folks are in a breakout group, I may say, “Now someone in ‘Bobbie Jo’s group’ let us know about your discussion.” The next time I call on that group I will use someone else’s name. Because I spell my name differently than the default, I work hard to ensure that I have everyone’s name correct. That includes spelling and pronunciation. On a virtual call, where I often do not see participants, I write down gender identification, pronouns, and phonetically how to pronounce the name.

In one workshop with 32 participants, I remember greeting an attendee on day 2 at the door by name. She stopped and looked at me and said, “Either you have a great memory or I talked a lot yesterday! You just called me by name and I am not sitting in front of my name tag.” For in-person sessions that are longer than one day, I will go over the seating plan in my head overnight until I am able to recall everyone’s name and what table they are seated at. In the virtual space, depending on the system, I often find myself recognizing voices and connecting them to the names listed on the screen.

Making connections

In my role, I often walk into a room full of relative strangers. I may have had a phone call, or exchanged emails prior to a facilitated session; yet, I really do not know the people in the room. This applies to both in-person and virtual facilitation. One of my goals is to make as many connections to others as I can. I truly believe that if people feel a connection with me, it helps to create the safe space we need to work in.

As I am listening to the flow of conversation, I find myself listening for opportunities to relate to each other. I remember a particular assignment I had with a previous employer in Ontario. At the last moment, my boss swapped gigs between myself and a male colleague. When I arrived onsite, I was greeted by 30 male engineers. You could instantly read on their faces this thought of, “What do we do with her?” It happened to be getting close to the playoffs in hockey and I learned that two of the attendees were from Buffalo. Those of you who know me, know that I am a diehard Toronto Maple Leafs fan. Immediately I started hockey bashing with them because seriously? what Leafs fan likes the Sabres? The gentlemen immediately relaxed and we had a great week together.

In another example, I was coaching a client on how to be more approachable with his employees. He had a strict view of hierarchy in an organization and struggled with connection with his staff. I told him that I knew lots of tidbits about him that I bet his employees had no idea of. When he looked at me in disbelief (thinking he was a very private and reserved person), I proceeded to tell him his dog’s name, how many brothers he has, his love of sweets but not chocolate, his amazing sense of humour (very dry!), and a few other things I knew. He was shocked. I encouraged him to let his guard down just a little and get to know others in his office the way I knew him.

Strong relationships lead to repeat business

My clients are incredible! They put their faith and trust in me to achieve a desired outcome. If I am fortunate enough to create the right connection, they come back to me. I have several clients that I have travelled across this province with in the past year. I could easily stay in a rigid “consultant” role and distant myself from the group outside of our working hours together. Instead, I am often invited to join my client for meals, drinks, and a bunch of laughs.

Nicole Parrell, myself and Kalysha Snow (NL Federation of Agriculture)

The Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Agriculture was my first client at Spicer Facilitation & Learning four years ago. Next month I am travelling once again to be with them on our 25+ event.

Another client who I travelled with in the fall, recently told me “you are one of us now”. This month I am travelling to an employee retreat with them to deliver a workshop.

Yes. Strong relationships are one of my core values. I work hard to connect with everyone that I meet in both my personal and professional lives. In a time when the world is in such turmoil, those connections help fill my heart with hope, faith, and love. ~ Carole