Saturday, February 23, 2019

Social Capital

Social Capital

Social capital has been defined as the connections and relationships that develop around the community and the value these relationships hold for the members. It includes feelings of gratitude, reciprocity, respect, and friendship. It is an asset that resides in an individual’s relationships and consists of the goodwill flowing from friends, colleagues, and other general contacts.
(1) To what extent has social capital been vital in achieving your life goals (employment, independent living, etc.)?
(2) What have you done to increase your social capital? (Provide examples.)
(3) What have others done to improve your social capital? (Provide examples.)

Social capital is the ability to be liked. It is by far the most crucial asset anyone has in both professional and personal lives. All other assets and attributes can be acquired or compensated for if a person knows how to be liked, knows how to engage with people, knows how to appear to be alive, engaging, excited about life, etc.

I am a 63-year-old retired Wells Fargo Sr. Vice President. My wife and I have been married for 33 years. We have a 29-year-old son. I've always been very active in the Disability Movement. I have Cerebral Palsy. I use a powered wheelchair, I have a significant speech impairment, and I need 10 hours a day of personal assistant services to help me with my activities of daily living. I know first hand the importance of social capital.

At Wells Fargo, my area was a highly skilled technical area. We did information technology for the Bank. Often, when I attended meetings with people I didn't know, I observed their eyes grow wide, and their body grow tense as they looked at me not knowing what to make of this odd looking guy in a wheelchair. I always took on the responsibility of making them feel at ease. I'd crack a joke about my 'New York' accent, or engage them in chit chat. I knew that unless they felt comfortable with me, our work could not proceed.

When I interview candidates, for the Bank or to be attendants or whatever, I focus on their personality. Can we get along? Can my teamwork with them 8+ hours a day? Are they excited about being there? Are they excited about being alive? Are they engaged with the conversation? I know that all the technical stuff can be learned if social capital is there. Conversely, without social capital, technical skills are often useless.

Similarly, social capital is critically important in my home life. Working with attendants is always more comfortable and much more pleasant when social capital exists. Both parties are responsible for creating a good rapport with each other and to enjoy each other's company.

Here is an example of what I've done to increase my social capital. When I first worked at Wells Fargo, my team members always went to a bar Friday afternoons. I hate the taste of liquor. I quickly learned the importance of joining them at the bar – that was where many decisions were made. My drink – rum and coke without rum. I've often said that one of my most significant handicaps working for a Bank was my dislike for wine and sports. Many company dinners were preceded by hours of wine tasting. Many company meetings were held right before sports events. I attended every party, dinner, and function that I could, and I enjoyed them too!

An excellent example of how a colleague helped me increase my social capital happened several years after I started working at the Bank. I complained that at many of the Bank's functions, everyone stood and chatted with each other/ From my wheelchair, all I could see were butts and … No one could hear me above the din. My colleague suggested that before each function I contact people I wanted to meet and arrange times they could fit me in the hallway, sit down, and chat with me for a few minutes. It worked! I met many people that way, and it was fun!

There are always ways to increase one's social capital. It's fun, and it's well worth the investment!

Go! Go! Go!

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