Being a 'Connector'

02/14/2012 04:31 pm ET Updated Apr 15, 2012

I rarely check my LinkedIn profile, but when I occasionally duck in, sometimes I find article titles that catch my eye.

Here's one that did: "Forget Networking. How to be a Connector." An introvert at heart, I'm only marginally successful at "networking"; I tend to stick to who I know at parties and get bashful about going on about my own accomplishments.

But this "connector" business seemed less intimidating, somehow, so I clicked away. Imagine my surprise when what I found there featured a person with whom I'm actually connected!

The article includes a brief interview Josh Bycel, the founder of One Kid One World -- a non-profit with whom Cura Orphanage has been working on plans to construct the village's first-ever secondary school.

I've never met Josh, but he and I share a friend, Amy, who is the best connector I know. Amy is unforgettable, and folks who meet her want to stay in touch. And she fits the definition the LinkedIn article provides:

"They're always able to help -- or if they can't, they know someone who can. You meet them for the first time and in 15 minutes, you're talking with them like you're childhood friends. They're successful, smart and funny, with a likable touch of self-deprecation. And they're interested in everything."

Clearly, Josh fits this description, too... and I'm looking forward to having our real-life paths cross instead of only our virtual ones!

In the meantime, I, too, am working on honing my connecting skills, assured that what isn't innate in me, I can learn. Consider this Wikipedia definition:

"Connectors are said by author Malcolm Gladwell to be people in a community who know large numbers of people and who are in the habit of making introductions. A connector is essentially the social equivalent of a computer network hub. Connectors usually know people across an array of social, cultural, professional, and economic circles, and make a habit of introducing people who work or live in different circles."

Indeed, making introductions among those who work and live across the globe comprises a great deal of what I do in my development work. This week, my communications include connecting international guests for a destination wedding in Kenya to the teachers and housemothers in Cura, connecting pen pals from Australia and Norway and Canada and the U.S. to Cura children, and even connecting an LA film-maker and a Seattle-based construction non-profit organization to, yes, One Kid One World.

Clearly, for me, stretching to be a connector -- against my natural impulses to simply work independently behind my computer -- is inspired by and focused on benefitting the community of Cura, and the warmth with which they have adopted me is my reward for stepping outside my comfort zone.