My grandfather used to say, “It takes all kinds of people to make the world go around.” In his simple yet often profound, gentleman farmer’s wisdom, he understood the importance of diversity and the value of each individual as they bring forth their best. He taught me that every single person has something to contribute. And that when we look at one another as colleagues and potential co-creators, rather than as competitors (those are my words, not his!), we have a much better chance of forming supportive relationships and healthy societies.
The bottom line of his message: Relationships are the key to everything.
Fast forward fifty years and business leaders are starting to talk about “social capital.” In her most recent TED talk (see below), entrepreneur, CEO, and thought leader Margaret Heffernan defines social capital as “the reliance and interdependency that builds trust.” She goes on to say, “Social capital is what gives companies momentum. Social capital is what makes companies robust.” The same could be said for communities, organizations, societies, and governments. And social capital is built from people being connected to one another through healthy and supportive relationships.
One of the three fundamental principles upon which Transformational Presence work is based is that the universe is a matrix of relationships. Everything and everyone is in relationship to everything else. Transformational Presence is, in essence, all about creating the optimal conditions for transformation to happen. That includes building conscious and intentional relationship bridges – bridges between people as well as between people and ideas, perspectives, and beliefs. It includes calling out the best from one another and empowering people to bring all of their gifts to the table. Bringing out the best in others brings out the best in ourselves. Transformational Presence inspires and builds social capital.
In the beginning of her talk, Ms. Heffernan describes research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on what makes some groups more successful and productive than others. (Actually, she starts out by telling a story about superchickens, but you’ll have to watch the video to hear that!) MIT brought together hundreds of volunteers, put them into groups, and gave them very difficult problems to solve. As expected, some groups were much more successful than others. However, contrary to expectations, the highest achieving groups were not those made up of “superstars” or people with exceptionally high IQs. Instead, the research showed that the key to success was the social interconnectedness of the people within the group. Relationships are the glue that holds everything together. Relationships build social capital. And the teams that took the time and energy to build social capital had the greatest results.
Ms. Heffernan’s closing words: “We need to redefine leadership as an activity in which conditions are created where everyone can do their most courageous thinking together. We won’t solve our problems if we expect them to be solved by a few supermen or superwomen. Now we need everybody. Because it is only when we accept that everybody has value that we will liberate the energy and imagination and momentum we need to create the best beyond measure.”
Margaret Heffernan is an important voice for our time. She packs a huge message into these 15 minutes. Enjoy the video.
P.S. If you would like to build more social capital in your organization, business, or life, Transformational Presence can help you take your next steps. Join us in the Transformational Presence Leadership and Coach Training or a Transformation in Action workshop during the 2015 – 16 season. Give this gift to yourself and to those you serve.
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