August 30, 2022
by Stephen T. Messenger
“The British are coming!” shouted Paul Revere as he traversed the countryside surrounding Boston. We all know it well from elementary school that this storied rider warned local militias of the impending British invasion and generated significant resistance against the invaders the following day in Lexington. Then at Concord, farmers and locals were well prepared to beat back the world’s greatest army and thus began the Revolutionary War.
However, Paul Revere was not the only rider that night. William Dawes had the same mission to ride through other towns and announce the dreaded arrival of the British. He left at the same time and carried the same message.
However, Dawes was not nearly as successful as Paul Revere. Many of the people he warned did not grab their rifles and confront the invaders. If so, we would be talking about the rides of Revere and Dawes—not just Revere.
It’s Not the Message; It’s the Messenger
Malcolm Gladwell, in his book The Tipping Point, cites his theory for this. He believes that the two men had different relationships with the townsfolk. It wasn’t the message that mattered; it was the messenger.
Paul Revere was an outgoing, extroverted man. Gladwell described him as “a fisherman and a hunter, a cardplayer and a theater-lover, a frequenter of pubs and a successful businessman. He was active in the Messianic Lodge and was a member of several select social clubs.” He knew the locals and had relationships with the important people.
Gladwell called him a connector. When he started his ride, he knew exactly who to talk to and where they would be. He connected the right people with the right information and his message went viral.
Dawes, on the other hand, did not have extensive connections, and he wasn’t as outgoing. He most likely didn’t know who to tell as he rode through each town. He told some people—probably a lot of people—but not the ones who would then spread it. His message didn’t resonate.
Know Your Network
It’s easy to be comfortable in our inner circle at work. There are probably a select few we really need to know and interact with often. But in a crisis, our network expands rapidly. It’s important to know that network before the emergency begins.
I’m not perfect, but I make it a point to know who works with and around me. I attempt to sit down with all those people to learn about their career, family, and interests. We talk about their future, challenges, and initiatives. We just hang out and get to know each other.
This develops a relationship of mutual trust and understanding. It’s the workplace equivalent of fishing, hunting, playing cards, or being in a social club. A connector builds relationships and knows who to talk to and how to spread information. They understand who the key players are and how to leverage their expertise.
Be a Connector
Paul Revere built his social network before the British invasion. He then used those connections to ride into town, announce the impending invasion, and ride out, letting those on the ground handle the next tasks. He was a connector, able to spread the message because he knew the right people.
It’s incumbent upon us to make crucial connections with our bosses, peers, and subordinates. If we wait until the crisis happens, it’s too late. Instead, talk with people, build a network, and lead well!
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