By Brian F. Hofland, Ph.D., Vice President of Strategic Collaboration
My 26 year old son is a strong introvert; I am a card-carrying extrovert. When he was a little boy, I remember him being very puzzled as we took walks together in the Chicago neighborhood around our house and I would stop to introduce myself to people working in their gardens or sitting on their front porches.
He asked in bafflement, “Daddy, why are you stopping and talking to people that you don’t even know?!”
My answer was, “Because I am making acquaintances and some of them may become my friends.”
This same principle has carried over into my professional life. One never knows where a professional connection and relationship will lead; it may result in a strong professional partnership and collaboration. Reaching out and engaging with other organizations, listening to their goals and dreams, learning of their strengths and weaknesses, and being alert for partnership opportunities may seem aimless and idle, but it could turn out to be an excellent long-term investment.
A case in point is the connective-tissue relationship that I have had with The Patterson Foundation. Debra Jacobs, the CEO of The Patterson Foundation, and I served together on a nonprofit board 10 years ago. She was at the Selby Foundation, and I was at The Atlantic Philanthropies. I followed her professional move to TPF and she followed mine to AARP Foundation and NCOA. We kept in touch. While relatively new to NCOA, Debra and I decided to meet at a recent conference. I shared a strategic overview of NCOA with her, and she did the same with TPF.
When I quickly summarized NCOA’s new collective impact collaborative, the Self-Management Alliance, Debra’s ears suddenly perked up.
“Could you share more information with me about that?” she asked. “I am fascinated by the concept of federal agencies, private foundations, and corporations working together to make self management an integral part of healthcare by 2020. It relates to our interests in arthritis, aging with dignity and independence, and caregivers.”
I did follow up and TPF became one of the founding partners of the SMA. Both Debra and Michael Corley, TPF’s senior consultant, have been invaluable and true partners on multiple fronts:
- Contributing ideas about how NCOA can be a more effective “backbone organization” for the SMA and SMA’s connective tissue can be enhanced.
- Serving as the co-convener of the SMA Workgroup focused on “Increasing awareness and activating individuals with multiple chronic conditions”; which may result in a National Awareness Campaign.
- Identifying and connecting with other foundations and corporations who they think are strategically aligned with the SMA and should be invited as partners.
In addition, Debra recommended me as a speaker (“Economic Realities of Aging” “The AgeWave and Your Community”) for the EngAGEment Luncheon and a plenary session at the Southeast Council of Foundations Annual Conference in Florida in November. I was happy to attend and the process of connecting with other potential partners began anew.
Making professional acquaintances who may then turn into friends while walking through life—a recipe for multi-faceted and mutually fruitful professional partnerships.
Now if I can only get my son to understand this lesson…