Tuesday, October 23, 2012

At the Bottom of it All

Sometimes we help them stand,
Sometimes they help us stand.
It's not the techniques.

Techniques make you comfortable, efficient, and effective, but won't guarantee networking success.

It's not the events.

Events make it possible for you to meet new people, but meeting new people isn't enough.

It's not the one-to-one's.

One-to-one's give you the opportunity to deepen the relationship, but the relationships aren't enough.

It's not the phone calls, emails, or even the handwritten notes.

They all give you the means to maintain the relationships, but that still isn't enough.

It's not even the referrals you give.

Though, we're getting closer to the mark.

In truth, at the bottom of it all, all of these things are simply tools -- tools that can be used for good or ill. The good networker and the high-pressure sales guy can both use all of these mechanisms. One of them is simply using the tools to build a resource, the other to manipulate a prospect.

No, if we truly get back to basics, the one factor that will make the difference between success and failure in your networking practice is...

You have to care.

You must understand that, while you are networking, it's more important for you to be looking out for the other person's benefit than looking out for your own. Networking only works when you give first and don't worry about whether it will return to you.

The path you build to their success is the one you will walk to reach your own.

Photo by Ned Horton

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Focus to the Front

I think I'll just check my messages.

OK, let's be honest. You've heard the siren song call of your smart phone on more than one occasion. How wonderful to be able to check your email inbox, voice mail, or maybe even read a few posts on the social media site of your choice. When you've got a few free moments, why not take care of those little things, right?

To tell you the truth, I have no problem with that myself. Just remember that one of those "free moments" is not when you are sitting at a networking event listening to a speaker. There is only one thing you should be doing at that point -- paying attention.

Why? I mean you're their to connect with other people, right? It's not like you can do that while that person is in the front of the room going on and on about whatever it is. Why couldn't you just sneak a quick peek now and again?

Here are a few ideas that will hopefully keep you on task.
  1. Information. OK, this one should be obvious, but conceivably the organizers didn't just pick this person at random. In fact they probably believe that the presenter has some sort of valuable information to convey. You might have something to learn here.
  2. Discussion. Paying attention will give you something to talk about with the other attendees and also with those you might meet later who didn't get to attend the presentation.
  3. Connection. As a professional speaker myself, I can tell you if you come up to me after I speak and tell me about some specific piece of my presentation that either really spoke to you or that you will use to make your life better, I will pretty much love you forever. Despite appearances, speakers are a bundle of insecurities just like everyone else. They like to know that their efforts haven't been wasted.
  4. Reputation. As an audience member, when I see someone near me checking the results of their fantasy football league during a presentation, that person goes down a notch in my eyes. Their inattention tells me that they don't value improving themselves through learning and that they don't have the ability to focus on a situation for longer than a few minutes. Probably not someone I want to refer if I can avoid it.
  5. Concentration. Not just for you, but for those around you, you checking your phone can be a distraction.
  6. Good manners. (Sorry, I couldn't come up with another "-tion" word.) When it comes down to it, checking your electronic tether is just plain inconsiderate. It disrespects the speaker who has put no small effort into the information she's presenting. It disrespects the event organizer who went to the trouble of arranging the speaker. It disrespects your fellow attendees by creating a disruption, no matter how small.
Of course there will be times when you really do need to be in immediate contact with your home or office. These instances are few and far between. You have to ask yourself the question whether the message that might be waiting is really worth alienating the people you are with right now. Most of the time, unless it is truly a matter of life and death, it isn't.

Whatever it is, it can wait for twenty minutes.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Process not Product

Didn't I just clean this yesterday?
Just cleaning the desk isn't enough.

I have a number of friends who are professional organizers. They help people who have challenges dealing with the clutter of modern life. The mistake that most of their new clients make is just wanting help to get things organized. That's part of what happens, but it's not the most important one.

The real trick is coming up with systems and processes so that the newly organized client stays organized.

There's not much point in cleaning up someone's messy desk if they keep the same disorganized attitudes which made things a mess in the first place.

Networking is the same way.

Usually what happens to most people is they run into some difficulty in their life or business. They lose their job or they need a new client or their child needs a connection to get into a good school. When that obstacle crops up, they get busy networking. They spend a lot of time and effort connecting and reconnecting to build a network sufficient to meet their need. Then, when they no longer have that need, they return to their old ways and let that network start to evaporate.

Until the next time they need help.

A better way to approach this is to stop thinking so much about the end product -- getting the client or getting the job, or getting the child into the school -- and think of it more as a process. What behaviors do we have to maintain in order to have a powerful resource that we can call upon when we are in need?

If we focus on sharpening the ax, then we're ready when we have a tree that needs felling.

My Karate instructor, Grand Master Keith Hafner tells us that it's easier to clean something that's already clean rather than wait until it gets dirty. Maintenance is cheaper than repair.

Maintaining your relationships is a lot easier than building new ones every time you need them.