Last week, the Make A Wish Foundation transformed a 5-year-old boy recovering from leukaemia into Batkid for a day. More than 10,000 San Franciscans turned up to help create a superhero.
Such magical opportunities to give another person “superpowers” might seem rare. It turns out, however, that in a less dramatic but powerful way at least one group of people — super-connectors — do this routinely with introductions.
But not in the way you think.
The meaning in the means, not the end
There are few more powerful ways to solve problems, spark opportunities, and bring joy to people who matter to you, than through a good introduction.
Yet, wary of making bad intros, many of us hold back. Understandably. If an intro goes well, terrific. You look good, and you help two people. But if it doesn’t work, you’ve wasted everyone’s time — and possibly annoyed at least two people. From this perspective, it’s a spectacularly efficient way to shoot yourself and others in the foot. The aikido of relationship jeopardy.
So we set out to learn from the generous super-connectors using Intros how they manage this risk — while making so many introductions, which people value so much, and respect them for so deeply.
We’d assumed the answer lay, first, in being really good at judging why two people could be helpful to each other, and, second, in making this ‘why’ very clear in the intro. (In addition to other polite practices such as the double opt in intro.)
Both do matter, but something else matters as much, if not more.
Great connectors see an intro in a very particular way. Not a risk to be managed, but an opportunity to be seized. Not a means to an end, but an end itself. If the outcome of the connection is wonderful, that’s gravy.
Through these zen-tinted super-connector glasses, the “intro opportunity” comes in two parts.
Part Love Letter
When we think of a good introduction, we think of the person making it being giving and the person receiving it being thankful. Great connectors bundle both, in ‘thanksgiving’ intros.
Giving specific warm examples, they explain what each person they are connecting has meant to them. What they’ve learned from them. How they’ve changed because of them. They say things like “He’s the only person I’ve ever met who’s made me…” or “I have her to thank for sparking my interest in …” or “I trust him enough to adjudicate disagreements with my spouse…”
Part Fan Letter
They also talk about why each person is uniquely wonderful / admirable / awesome. In other words — and to quote a delightful intro someone recently shared with us — they speak about each person’s “superpower”.
Which, of course, everyone has, and which doesn’t have to be relevant to be engaging. Knowing someone’s superpower(s) is always a good thing. If it happens to be synchronised swimming or karoke, at least you have something to talk about. I received an intro last week that included the lines “he makes wicked maple-bacon donuts the day after thanksgiving, in his spare time works for that little social network in the south bay”.
When you’re lucky enough to get one of these intros, by the time you’ve read to the end you’re feeling so good about yourself, and so pre-disposed to like the other person, that you, too, see a good outcome as gravy. When else do you get flattered and thanked by someone you care about, in front of someone you might care about?
Give a Thanksgiving Intro
I wrote this post in San Francisco, super-connector capital of the world. It’s the city where any intro is possible, where intros regularly lead to billion dollar companies, and where so many of those intros that don’t remain, regardless, a chance to thank two people profoundly and give each a BatKid (or Elon Musk / Steve Jobs / Bill Gates) moment.
The world needs more of San Francisco’s open, generous, connected philosophy. So wherever you are, why not help make this happen by giving a super-powered thanksgiving intro this week?
And if you’re curious about what happens when we harness the collective power of connectors, join the Pay it Forward Intros Experiment, launching 3rd December, on “Giving Tuesday”. To create this, we’ve teamed up with Professor Adam Grant, Author of Give and Take, giver of extraordinary introductions, and possessor of many superpowers. Here he explains why we think this is such an important experiment.