The Loneliness of the Long Distance Worker

Can Networking be seen as genuine perk that boosts productivity?

Yes, today’s blog’s title is an homage to the film of almost the same name, “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner.” The 1962 ‘coming-of-age’ drama is a bleak movie with an equally bleak storyline, and a less than happy ending… or is it?

The protagonist, Colin Smith, is sent to borstal for robbery. His suffering is relieved by displaying a talent for long distance running that catches the governor’s eye and ignites the governor’s ambition to prove that his methods produce good citizens who can reclaim their place in productive society!

Colin’s athletic skills buy him favour with the governor, and all manner of privileges are accorded Colin in return for the point the governor intends to make through Colin.

In the end, however, Colin chooses to assert his autonomy in spite of what it comes to cost him. He is the rugged individualist, so popularised by the late 20th Century.

The message is a predictably powerful one:

“you can play it by rules… or you can play it by ear – WHAT COUNTS is that you play it right for you…”

I agree that we should play the game in a way that is right for us but I strongly disagree that the most productive and satisfying path is that of the lonely individual. The Productive Tribe will always outperform the willful pioneering individual. I would argue that with the right mentoring you can have your autonomy AND enjoy the benefits of the Tribe.

Loneliness and Work

Why do we work? The given answer is to make money to provide for our family… thus making a worthwhile contribution to Society!

Why do we (net)work? Again the given answer is a monetary one – to increase sales and to find trusted suppliers!

I know for a fact, however, that many people work and network primarily for social interaction. Of course, we need money, but after our basic needs are cared for, we need positive attention far more.

This is brought home to me on almost a daily basis when I engage with strangers. Particularly the older ones often light up when someone pays them attention and takes an interest in them.

Whilst I am a highly active user and raving fan of Social Media, I believe it is far from what it says on the tin. Social engagement is a multi-sensory experience where much of the message is conveyed outside the limits of text, or one-way video or selfie. Even the language shows the focus – ‘selfie’ – i.e. all about ‘me’. Effective social interaction is all about us. It’s two-way at least – often multi-channel.

People need people

Let me adjust that saying. “People need positive people.” People need positive people who are prepared to exchange energy. We need positive interpersonal transactions to continue to feel OK, to feel confident, to feel secure. It’s a kind of fuel for business!

Positive attention is the real Gold-Standard

Productivity is the focus of everything I deliver. Loneliness is not productive! I wondered this morning how powerful it would be to issue currency from the Bank of Positive Attention with the words,

“I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of five minutes positive attention!”

Higher denominations could include 15 minutes, half-an-hour, even an hour! Of course, it would have to be undivided attention or it would devalue the currency.

Pay Your Workers Attention

It would be a fascinating world indeed if part of the salary agreement was attention. Instead, I hear daily of ‘management’ ‘encouraging’ ‘team-members’ (I’m using apostrophes for all of these because I think all three examples have been devalued by most management practices) to stop talking to one another and to get on with their (real) work.

My argument is that social interaction is the glue that makes the (real) work happen! It makes business sustainable and leads to repeat business. It goes beyond being transactional to becoming transformational.

This is a surprise benefit of business networking. With so many of us working remotely, business networking can top up the emotional and motivational and inspirational bank accounts. Each of us can sharpen one another and it is often the casual conversation that allows the ‘spark’ from the unconscious mind to ignite.

We had a fascinating event a couple of weeks ago at Number 10, Castle Street. It was a high-ticket business luncheon at a highly prestigious venue. We did not orchestrate a keynote speaker nor did we have a deep round-table exploration of key business issues. Instead, we were business-based Human Beings – with the emphasis on the ‘being’.

As a result, I got to know one of the members far better than I had ever done before, and, I would argue, far better than I could in a more formalised networking structure. Sometimes doing lunch or playing golf or having a coffee together provides the supportive atmosphere into which new opportunities can emerge… when they are ready.

Four Predictors of Productivity: Technique; Team (Tribe); Time; Technology.

Remote working scores high on the time-freedom predictor of productivity but almost as low as one can go on the Tribe or Team predictor. Zoom is not as good as face-to-face, hand-to-hand encounters. Remote collaborative working is getting more and more powerful through the emergence of reliable and effective technologies, but will never replace the impact of genuine ‘presence’.

The good news is that we can have it all. Increasing numbers of us can now enjoy the benefits of remote working – with all the productivity perks of saving commuting time that can be better invested in projects. However, we can also enjoy tribal-working where the team members and even customers and suppliers can get together to collaborate synergistically.

Can Networking be seen as genuine perk that boosts productivity? Yes, it can, and not just for reasons of landing new business or trusted suppliers!

Calls to Action

  1. Reading our blog for the first time and not yet a member?  Here’s some good news.  If you’re in Wiltshire, Hampshire, or Dorset and haven’t yet experienced the benefits of attending a meeting of either The Boardroom Network or Elite Business Women Clubs, message me and I will ‘gift’ you your first visit if we agree it’s a good fit for you.
  2. Join our Productivity Tribe! Learn how to harness the best techniques to boost productivity, how to build your own team and tribe (then your customers can join in too), master your time management (and get more of your life back), and keep up to date with the latest apps, software, hardware, and ergonomic technologies that accelerate your business success. A simple personal message to me gets this ball rolling.  Here are all my links.
  3. Have a one-to-one, face-to-face genuinely human encounter with me. You’ll smile at my pricing for a two-hour accelerated business productivity session.
  4. Have a drumming workshop with my friend Somesh de Swardt! Nothing builds the team and tribe quite so dynamically as hitting some skin in harmony and in time with one another. Dance to the beat of the same drummer!

After I’d published this blog this morning, I received a link to this blog that echoes similar perspectives:

The Compelling Business Case for Belonging

I really liked Mark’s article and wondered what you thought about belongingness and the concept of a ‘tribe’ that embraces not just your team but your suppliers and your customers – and even key community groups.

You can share your ideas on our Facebook pages:

The Boardroom Network

Elite Business Women Clubs