by Kristi Faulkner
I got my first job in advertising about a decade before the Internet, and for those ten sweet years I saw my career path as a clear line that proceeded directly from junior copywriter to someday boarding the corporate G3 for the agency suite at the Super Bowl. Advertising had not changed since the invention of TV and none of us had any reason to expect the disruption heading our way. Fast forward to 2016, and the media business has fragmented so much now it’s pulling apart at the gutter fold. From Netflix to SnapChat to Blab, change happens faster every day. It seems like only a matter of time before “agencies” go the way of typesetters, film splicers, the 15% commission and the three-martini lunch.
Opportunity is Constant
I reached out to Kare Anderson in a bold-faced effort to siphon her wisdom for creating new opportunities in a quick-change world. Kare is an expert in connective behavior and she exudes a preternatural warmth and cheerfulness that fosters an instant connection with anyone who meets her.
She kicked off the conversation with a bang: “More than money, smarts or attractiveness, your key to being an opportunity-maker is your capacity to cultivate strong relationships with diverse, complementary and often unexpected individuals.”
Kare believes that to stay relevant in a changing world, you must widen your circle, deepen your connections and draw on commonalities, or what Kare calls “sweet spots.” She shared some powerful ideas that I’m calling:
Six Traits of Opportunity-Makers That Don’t Change Even When Everything Else Does
- A specific purpose. You are better than anybody else at something. Know what that is and use concrete terms to describe your priorities -- what you want or are advocating. When you are clear are about your purpose, you are more grounded and less reactive. Clarity creates opportunities for serendipity.
- An effective communication style. The secret to communicating well is to use fewer, well-chosen words. Say less, better. You’ll be more memorable (and quotable) if you express yourself in simple words and repeat them often.
- A talent for listening. Be a great listener. When you first meet and re-meet people, be present and allow the person to feel heard. Resist jumping in. Speak a bit slower and in a lower voice. Move slower, too. The other person is more likely to stay engaged longer if they feel welcome, safe and comfortable.
- An ability to recognize and synthesize. Look for patterns among individual interests to find the groove of the group. Point out the commonality. “When you suggested this, it seems like we’re all seeing this… am I tracking… does this make sense?” Being the synthesizer of the group keeps you at the center. Opportunity-makers are the glue that holds a group together.
- A master of triangle talk: You+Us+Me. Create a sweet spot of mutuality by speaking to the other person’s interest first (you), followed by how the topic is a shared interest (us), and then get around to how it relates to your own interests (me).
- An optimizer of collective performance. Everyone wants to be able to use their best talents. Know your key talent and look for ways to leverage more value and visibility by combining it with the talents of others. Cultivate unexpected allies with complementary talents and draw those people together around sweet spots.
What I learned from Kare is that more than anything, opportunity-makers are pattern-seekers who deftly build connections around mutual interests. They solve problems and seize opportunities faster and better because they learn to attract smarter support sooner. They move in many circles.
“Hone these skills,” says Kare. “Because no matter how much the world changes, if we use our best talents together more often, we’ll accomplish greater things than we could alone.”
There are a lot more ideas about becoming an opportunity-maker in Kare’s book, Mutuality Matters.