Welcome to my July newsletter where I explore the theme of friendship! The importance of friendships in how they contribute to our wellbeing and enhance our lives for the better should not be underestimated.
Friends bring joy, laughter, support, and memories as well as deep happiness and fulfilment. Friends who are genuine and true provide a safe space to share thoughts and feelings without judgement. They celebrate our wins, console us in challenging times and stand by us thick and thin!
Friendships are sometimes founded in the most unexpected experiences or places. Thinking about the friends I’ve been so fortunate to make throughout my life from different workplaces, countries, and backgrounds, I have a plethora of amazing people to treasure!
This excerpt from an article written by Maria Popova so beautifully articulates my feeling towards true friends:
I reflected on a few of the most famous friendships in history and wanted to share them to inspire you think about the amazing people in your life!
- Buzz Lightyear and Woody who are at their best when they are supporting each other and risking themselves to save the other!
- Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin who are hilarious and wonderfully talented, meeting on the filmset of 9 to 5 leading to a friendship spanning 5 decades!
- Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell who had a peculiar friendship of loyalty and service… sadly ending in tragedy!
- Elton John and Bernie Taupin who have produced amazing music we all know and love, collaborating on more than 30 albums together!
- C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien who inspired each other by meeting informally every Monday to critique each other’s work!
- Churchill and Roosevelt who developed a positive working relationship and real friendship, despite political and military tensions of the war, they were both able to work together to eventually triumph against their shared enemies.
- Christopher Robins and Winnie the Pooh who are the best of friends, supporting each other in a caring, kind and grateful way.
Ted Lasso’s example of Rebecca and Keeley’s intergenerational friendship I think is so poignant. As stated in a recent post by The Female Quotient:
“Intergenerational friendships empower us to break free from age barriers, preconceived notions, and societal expectations — in life and at work. They provide a platform for wisdom to be shared, stories to be exchanged, and perspectives to be broadened. When different generations come together, magic happens!”
In this Marginalian article a quote by the trailblazing astronomer Maria Mitchell states “Whatever our degree of friends may be, we come more under their influence than we are aware.” Through my mutual mentoring over the years I have seen a co-creation and evolution of my mentees pathways, as well as my own. I agree with her point that we recreate ourselves in unique and wonderful friendships!
These relationships where a foundation of trust and a safe space to learn from each other have been totally value adding and taught me more than I ever imagined in my personal and professional outlook.
“A friend is someone who understands your past, believes in your future, and accepts you just the way you are” – Bernard Meltzer.
I have always believed in the importance of having friends at work, and being aware of the impact it has on employees’ productivity and creativity. I have myself forged many meaningful and enduring friendships throughout my career.
This TED-Ed article refers to one’s best work friend as a co-pilot which I found fascinating! “Your best work friend. The copilot is the colleague who can talk you through projects, advise you in navigating the personalities at your company, and listen to you. This kind of mentoring relationship is best when it’s close to equally reciprocal. Peers committed to supporting each other, collaborating with each other, and holding each other accountable.” My best work friend during my time at IBM was John Kelly III, an extraordinary simplifier who helped me understand so much from a technical perspective. I wrote about this in a previous post.
I also love what Prof. Jonathan A.J. Wilson PhD DLitt Clifton says in his article. As he explains, we so often claim that “people are our greatest asset”. Yet, so many executives I’ve met expect employees to leave their personal lives at the door when they come to work. Whether a workplace is fully in person, fully remote, or hybrid, a culture that prioritises and encourages work friendships is ultimately good for employees!
Here are some top actions that I fully endorse from Jon to take right now!
1. Establish a buddy system: Everyone needs a buddy, especially when they’re new to a company. Teaming up new hires with veteran employees can expedite onboarding and productivity. Workplace buddies not only give new hires tips, but they help them make connections with other people in the company. The key to an effective buddy system is the frequency of the interactions. Work buddies need to meet up often to bond and be more productive!
2. Increase face time: Before the pandemic, work was a place where colleagues could get coffee, have lunch, and run into each other in the hallway for impromptu conversations. For people who started working remotely full time in 2020, one of the biggest changes was the decrease in hours they spent engaging socially with work friends. Building friendships requires talking to, seeing, and being with people. The best way to connect is to see each other — even if it’s on Zoom or FaceTime. Business leaders need to set an example: Communicate in person more and email less! Further, leaders can encourage in-person interactions by revising expectations, establishing new cultural norms, and even updating workplace configurations.
3. Jam constantly: When people share a common goal and achieve great things together, they form a connection. The joy is in working together to produce magic. Using the Beatles as an example of a high-performing team, The Economist states: “The Beatles love what they do for a living. When they are not playing music, they are talking about it or thinking about it. They do take after take of their own songs, and jam constantly.”
Note: From my past post on the power of work friends.
This Big Think article states that “Friendships come from all corners: your manager, your colleagues, your team, even your boss’s boss.” Identifying leaders and colleagues you admire within your company or even at other companies and asking them to coffee or a lunch to get to know each other allows you to test ideas and seek advice in difficult situations. I firmly believe that finding a group of people who challenge and inspire you will ultimately change your life!
Digital duos and companion bots!
In today’s contemporary age, we’ve found new ways to make and maintain friendship through gaming, social media, email and even companion bots! One of my favourite, more quirky examples is that told in the novel, Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro.
In the story, Klara is an AI friend who lives in a store and on very special days gets to spend time in the store window where she can see and be seen, as well as soak up the solar energy on which she runs. Klara also registers details that most people miss and interprets them with extraordinary accuracy for what in essence is a piece of consumer electronics. Klara remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her, but when the possibility emerges that her circumstances may change forever, Klara is warned not to invest too much in the promises of humans.
I think this story is deeply powerful, highlighting the unusual bond between young Josie (the child who chooses her) and Klara who becomes a parent figure and friend. If you’re interested in learning more, check out my book review on what I think is an amazing read!
When the going gets tough!
We all go through challenges in life and true friends are ones who are there to comfort and listen to us! Throughout my most difficult times, friends have encouraged and supported me through. As The Beatles song goes, “I get by with a little help from my friends!”
In any friendship, I try to be 5 key things:
👂 a listening ear: I aim to listen thoughtfully and without judgement to my friends to understand what is going on and best help them navigate through!
☀️ a warm ray of positivity: When my friends are down I try really hard to be the sunshine they need in their lives!
🔋 a fun source of energy: I have lots of energy and I see it my mission in life to try my best to share this with others to motivate them!
🎁 a giver not just a taker: Friends are a precious gift and I think it’s essential to be a giver with your advice, support and love. Not just a taker!
🌸 a kind companion: Kindness is essential to filling the friendship cup. Being respectful of boundaries as well as kind are essential to a long-lasting friendship!
I think all of the points above are essential ingredients to building a strong team of tried-and-true connections in both your personal and working lives.
In addition, I love the below graphic sent to me at a time when I needed the deep power of friendship, accompanied by the note: “Friendship: when the rainstorms, hold on to your umbrella.”
Note: Note: From my past post on friendship umbrella.
Friends living through fearful times
The memoir recently written and shared by Hannah Pick-Goslay, Anne Frank’s best friend, recounts the joys of their childhood friendship whilst living through fearful and terrifying times under the Nazi regime. The book beautifully depicts Hannah and Anne’s special friendship and also describes the close knit bond both of their families shared with each other.
What is most moving is how the girls reconnected at the fence that separated them whilst at the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp. The fence that separated the two friends was stuffed heavily with straw making it impossible to see through it but they were able to hear each other’s voices and speak a little about what they each had gone through. Hannah was so happy to have found Anne again and prayed that she would survive so they could see each other after the war was over.
The courage and bravery these young girls had to stay hopeful and positive when their lives were in the gravest of dangers is something I often turn to! “Talking about her story, our story, would later become a thread that bound me to her and kept our friendship alive long after she was gone.”
I wanted to end this newsletter with a few final reminders:
1. 30th July is International Friendship Day so reach out to the amazing people who make a difference in your life each day!
2. Anyone in my network who is facing a challenge, my door is always open.
3. Remember your greatest achievement in life is being a good friend!