My work involves a lot of travel and I fly regularly. Some weeks, I’m on a plane every day! I have a favourite driver who picks me up from the airport after my return flight. The driver’s name is Bruce. Bruce is a unique person and I like having him pick me up for a number of reasons, but particularly for the type of bloke he is.
Bruce is a semi-retired pilot. He lives on a boat and does a lot of charity work. In fact, he uses his own plane to help Angel Flight Australia, a not-for-profit organisation. Angel Flight provides non-emergency flights to people living remotely who need access to specialist medical treatment. It does not receive any government funding to provide this vital service, which is often used by families with children undergoing cancer treatment.
What I didn’t know was that the pilots who fly for Angel Flight do so out of their own pockets. They pay for the fuel and maintenance of their planes. One of the reasons why Bruce drives a taxi is so he can earn enough money to pay for his plane’s fuel so he can fly kids from properties in the middle of nowhere to Brisbane hospitals.
Bruce used to have a friendly Chihuahua called Harley. Harley used to fly with him everywhere. Whenever Bruce had to fly a child to hospital, he would dress Harley in a nurse’s uniform, complete with a little white nurse’s hat with a red cross on it, to brighten the child’s day. Harley helped keep the child’s mind off what was happening. She helped them enjoy the trip and, in some ways, the kids even looked forward to their flight.
In September 2015, Bruce told me about a little 10 year old girl he had picked up called Sarah. Sarah lived west of Longreach and was in the advanced stages of leukaemia. In the days before Bruce was due to fly Sarah to hospital for one of her treatments, Harley passed away. Bruce knew Sarah would be looking forward to seeing Harley and telling her that she had passed away would break her heart.
When Bruce arrived to pick her up, Sarah asked for Harley, and Bruce said: “I’m so sorry, darling. Harley’s passed away. She’s gone to heaven.” Sarah replied, “Well, that’s OK. I’m going to see her soon, then, aren’t I?”
Bruce told me that was a very hard day to get through.
I love working with Bruce. I love his energy and who he is and the contribution he makes to the world. I have a choice when I get off the plane: I could stand in the taxi rank; I could choose another drive. But I choose to be picked up by Bruce because I reckon he’s a good bloke. He’s doing something meaningful and the bit of extra money I give him is worth it if it helps him do what he does. I feel like I get to contribute in some way too.
Bruce humanises the taxi experience for me. I know that if I gave my money to Uber or Black & White Cabs or Yellow Cabs, I would become a commodity. I would not feel that same connection as I do with Bruce. To create a business that survives in this world, we must humanise the experience we give to our connections and customers. The more we humanise the experience for them, the stronger their emotional connection will be and the stronger the likelihood that they will want to work with us.
I think it is the same situation with LinkedIn. One of the problems with LinkedIn is that it has commoditised networking. All I have to do is click “connect” and suddenly I have connections. Suddenly I have networks. My LinkedIn profile tells me I have 500-plus connections, so the currency becomes the number. It’s easy to focus on the numbers rather than the people. In a digitised world, where we sit in front of a computer with no face-to-face interaction, it’s easy to hit “connect” without any emotion involved.
In a digitised world, the opportunity is there for you to stand out from the crowd. First and foremost, you need to maintain your ability to connect on a human level. As Victor Hugo, French writer from the Romantic movement, said: “To divinise is human, to humanise is divine.” I think he is absolutely right.
When you’re on LinkedIn, it’s important you ensure your interactions are humanised. Simply using the templates LinkedIn provides makes others feel as though they’re a commodity to you. As a result, you commoditise yourself, and when you’re commoditised, you end up competing on price, which is how Uber entered the taxi market. The industry shifts focus so that it’s not about the experience or the customer; it’s about price. When I work with clients to build their personal brand and grow their business, their job is to differentiate themselves from their competition. Their personal interaction is what makes their customer experience different.
My question to you is: what can you and your business do to humanise your connections on LinkedIn?
Be a Bruce.
You don’t have to fly planes, and you don’t have to have a nurse dog called Harley. But you do need to find a way of personalising and individualising the experience you give others.
Be present. If someone approaches you to connect, ask, “How are you? Thanks so much for offering to connect. Is there something I can help you with?”
Based on my experience working with clients, about 50% of people who offer to connect with you on LinkedIn want your help – if not immediately, then at some stage in the future. You need to set up a system so you don’t lose these connections. Once your LinkedIn system is in place, it doesn’t take long to keep on top of your connections – you can do it in less than seven minutes a day.
By humanising your connections, you will inspire your audience. Your connections will be engaged by what you have to say and will be more inclined to want to work with you. You’ll be helping the people you know and like, and making the difference in the world you were born to make.