We all had this happen to us: there is something we should be doing (or even want to be doing), but somehow it’s not going as well as we would like. 

We know we should work out, but it’s just not happening. (Past that one week in early January)

Other activities are important, we know it, but we find reasons to procrastinate – like professional networking.

Let me introduce a concept I’ve used to help my executive coaching clients shift how they think about their goals – and help them achieve them. It’s called triple loop learning.

Let’s start at the beginning.

To illustrate this example, I’ll use networking. It’s something I love to do, but many people find resistance to it. At the same time, many of us know how important it is to build our network. Not just build it but build it the right way.  

I’ve gone through this transformation myself, and my coaching mentor Robert Ellis showed me how I put it into words. 

Simple Loop Learning – Doing

We need neet to network, so we network. We go to events; we approach strangers. We tell them about ourselves and ask a few questions. Some encounters are fun, others less so. 

We may feel that things are not going as we expected, and promised benefits are not materializing.

We try to go to more events, try to speak to more people at each event. If we are not naturally comfortable in these environments we may slowly skip events we planned to attend until we barely go to any.

Double Loop Learning – Thinking

We may have already tried a few changes to try to improve the results, but now we stop and deliberately think about what we are doing and what could be ways to optimize the outcome.

We could think strategically. What are my goals? What kind of people do I need to connect with to achieve these goals? How can I connect with these people? May these people are not at networking events at all? 

We can also come up with ways to track the ROI of various types of events. We can see help by reading on this topic, watching videos, or hiring a coach or trainer. This topic comes up a lot in my coaching sessions, as well as my talks. 

These strategies will result in a marked improvement. Once you move beyond doing and start to think about what you do, your performance will jump by order of magnitude. Not just in output but how you feel about it. 

Triple Loop Learning – Being

The next level brings about another leap. 

Instead of thinking strategically and optimizing the various part of our networking process, we ask ourselves even more fundamental questions. 

What is my purpose? Who am I becoming? Who do I want to become? Here we can each come up with a unique answer. 

For me, It’s being the host. Sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively. 

In 2011, after suffering from a burn out at my last startup, I created an outlet to self-care. I created Accents are Sexy, a community of gregarious global mindset people. I started hosting events, but only later, I realized that I did more than that. I was being the host. My focus – my purpose – was not just on meeting people and having fun, but rather, creating a space where the other attendees would be comfortable and happy.   

I would proactively engage the participants who would come sit down at our dinner table; I’d build rapport with each in the unique ways that adapted to their personalities and bring them into the conversation. When someone would fall out of the group discussion, I’d gently bring them back. After about 30 minutes, everyone would be fully engaged, and I could feel the energy of the group rise along with the sounds of laughter if many accents. I would then lean back and just admire this group of strangers that was now feasting together as if it was one of those large greek or Italian extended family reunions we’ve all pictured. I was basking in this wonderful human energy.

I was being the host. 

Even since Robert shared this example, I realized that I was doing the same when I was at an event that was not my own. I would meet people, put them at ease, be curious about them. When someone else would walk but, especially if they seem a little shy and uncertain, I’d warmly invite them to our group and share with them what we were talking about, introduce the other people I had with me and ask for their thoughts on the topic. I’d often forget even to introduce myself. Even if it’s just a small triad, I was the host. I had a purpose, one that lay outside of me. It was not about me; it was about using my gift of interpersonal skills to help others get at ease and help them with connections that may serve them professionally or personally. 

Now being the host is my identity. And from this identity everything else flows effortlessly. Connecting people, meeting new people, networking, etc. Since being the Host is an identity, not a role, it’s location independent. 

A lot of people are not as comfortable as me with networking and meeting strangers. Getting my support, often a stranger initially, is much appreciated. As you may know, people remember not what you or do but how you make people feel. I make people feel safe and welcome. And they remember this. 

So not only I have a lot more enjoyment, but by serving others powerfully, I also build social capital. The countless time people came up to me after an event or reached out much later to thank me specifically for what I did and how I made them feel at a social event.

Many of these connections provide more than human warmth; in many cases, my introductions led to lucrative business deals. It’s great, but I’m not counting. This is not what this is about, but I also know that whenever I come from a place of generosity, the rewards come back in spades, as they have done so far. When? From where? It’s a delightful mystery. 

Your Turn

What is something that you’ve been trying to do better or more often? How can you shift your thinking? How can you shift who you are being?

Let me know; I’m here to help.