networking

networking for introverts?

The other day, Tim Mushey of Sell, Lead, Succeed fame raised a question about networking. It was a great question because it made me stop and think and I realized that even though my connections with others are really important to me, I spend almost zero time thinking about “networking” or “my network.”

I should be the world’s worst networker: I’m terrible at small talk, I can’t “work a room” to save my life, and if I’m at a party I’ll spend most of my time in the kitchen talking to one other person about books or bicycles. Life of the party I’m not.

Yet, somewhere along the way, something happened and and I find myself in the middle of a great network of really terrific people. Enough so that my wife insists I should write a book about networking for introverts. I don’t think I have that much to say about it, but I do have a few tips I could share – just observations from my own life. Your mileage may vary.

1. Forget all about “networking”. I’m not a big fan of the word because it makes it sound like a separate activity. Just live your life. You already have a network of people and relationships, now just start thinking how you can broaden and deepen it.

2. Focus on meeting interesting people. This is my biggest piece of advice. Don’t worry about meeting everyone, just seek and find people in your field who are up to interesting things and build the relationship from there. The really, really cool thing is that interesting people by their very nature know lots of other interesting people.

How do you meet them? Ask around. Seriously, just ask, “Who else is doing cool things that you’d suggest I meet?” You’ll get some great answers. The second is social media – it’s an amazing shortcut to fascinating people around the planet. Follow someone you admire in your field on Twitter (or whatever social media you prefer) and start looking at what blogs they read, who they’re connected to, etc. and begin following and connecting with those folks.

3. Think long term. It’s not a race. Let connections and relationships build naturally over time.

4. Social media is a great starting point, but it’s just a starting point. Build relationships in real life. This past year I made a point of reaching out and asking people I only knew through the internet to chat via Skype of phone. I got sidetracked and really need to focus on this again because I’ve been able to meet and learn from some truly phenomenal people.

5. Networking numbers are stupid. I’m baffled by the ads that claim to provide 10,000 Twitter followers for $29.95 (or whatever) because, who cares? Just because someone is following you or you are following them doesn’t mean there is any connection. Oh, you handed out 100 business cards at the last conference. So what? Numbers are irrelevant. It’s better to have a true connection with 20 people than to be largely ignored by thousands.

6. People and relationships matter. You don’t have to care about everyone on the planet (though it’s nice if you do), but it shows pretty quick if you’re not investing time and energy in the people in your life.

7. Realize people are willing to connect with and help you. Several years ago my job was eliminated. With a family to feed and an immediate need for work, I started calling up key members of my professional association and asking if I could meet with them to get their advice on job hunting in the city I was living in – who’s hiring, which companies have a great/terrible reputation, who else should I speak with, etc. No one turned me down. No one hesitated. People I’d never met before went out of their way to meet, talk, and help. On a smaller scale, people I’ve met only through social me have been surprisingly quick to respond to questions.

8. Focus on what you can do to help others. If it’s all about you or your approach is very transactional, you will have a weak, sucky network. If there is actual dialog and it’s clear that you authentically want to help others, you’ll have a strong, robust network.

To sum up, here’s everything I know about networking in two short sentences: Forget “networking”. Find interesting people and build great relationships.

 

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flashback friday: a book review of “Social Gravity”

I haven’t been posting much lately because I’m hard at work on a special project and trying to get ready for speaking at two conferences in April. All good stuff, but it hasn’t left much time for this blog. I’ll be back soon. 

 Today’s flashback was originally posted on October 22, 2012. Joe and Jason are good souls and do great work. Check ’em out.

Networking for the sake of networking comes off as crassly self-serving. It tends to feel vapid and hollow and more than a little creepy. Building relationships because it’s fun, useful, and mutually beneficial is a whole ‘nother story.

Business equals people equals business. Can’t get around it. Business gets done through, for, and by people. Period. We can deny it and struggle and wonder OR we can recognize and embrace it. Want to be better at business; want to get more done? Get better with people. Build stronger relationships.

That’s where Social Gravity by Joe Gerstandt (@joegerstandt) and Jason Lauritsen (@jasonlauritsen) comes in. Ultimately, Social Gravity is less about networks and more about “authentic, mutually beneficial relationships.” As the authors say in the introduction: “What you know helps you play the game, and who you know helps you change the game.”

We all know that who you know matters, but most of us spend our time resenting it rather than doing something about it. Section 1” …It’s Not What You Know…” focuses on reminding us of the importance of relationships, the difference they make in getting things done, the need for high quality relationships, and the distinction between using social media as a tool to enhance relationships vs confusing likes and follows with actual relationships. Relationships have power and how we harness and use that power makes a tremendous difference.

Us humans generally get in our own way by either overcomplicating things or trying to get long-term success through shortcuts. Section 2 “Discover the Laws of Social Gravity” delves in to the areas that most networking advice seems to miss completely. The authors expand on taking the long-term approach to building relationships, being open to connecting with others, being our real and authentic selves, and contributing our time and effort in meaningful ways. These are all important, obvious, common sense ways to meet great people and build mutually beneficial relationships. They are also generally ignored and dismissed by those in the throes of networking frenzy who prefer the whitebread, fast food, business-card-trading shortcuts. It’s shifting from style to substance, from activity to results, from superficial to meaningful, from networking to relationship building. And that’s a powerful shift.

Throughout the book, Joe and Jason share real life examples of how relationships have affected their lives. Most striking are the small things that lead to huge differences. From Joe finding a key person within his company by connecting with someone from outside the company to Jason’s connections not helping him move to (my favorite) Jason’s hairstylist meeting and eventually marrying Joe after two unrelated groups of friends met up one Saturday night. Relationships, big and small, change lives.

As I look back on my life, many of my most important relationships seem to have started almost by chance. Many of the most important events were due to my relationships with others. Great opportunities came from key people vouching for me or putting me in touch those who could help. Sometimes it was intentional, but often it wasn’t. For me, Social Gravity is a reminder and blueprint for helping me be more deliberate and effective in connecting with others. To do what I already know how to do, but do it more consistently and intentionally and do it better.

Relationships matter.

 

 

double your charisma in 0.5 seconds

Us humans spend a LOT of time, energy, and resources increasing our attractiveness. We worry about it a lot. It’s evident in the enormous percentage of marketing aimed directly at convincing us that we would be more attractive, likeable, and charismatic if only we used a certain product. It’s apparent in the discomfort we inflict on ourselves just to look nice. It’s underscored by entire industries developed just to increase charisma and attractiveness.

No judgement  We all want to look good and be liked, admired, and attractive to others. We want to be charismatic and draw people to us. We want to dazzle on the job interview, impress on the date, ace the sales call, and have people say about us, “I don’t know what it is about them, but I really like them.”

No matter what else you do, I’d like to offer up one easy thing that will make a huge difference. It’s so simple that I’m actually a little hesitant to mention it. Us humans like to seek out the new, the complex, and the flashy. I’m afraid this is timeworn, simple, and basic. Yet, without it, all the other efforts are really a bit of a waste. This one thing takes no time, yet makes you appear relaxed, confident, friendly, and open. Pathetically simple to do, yet so few do it that you automatically stand out.

Smile. That’s it. Not forced or infomercial intense. Just a relaxed, pleasant, and authentic smile.

Your thoughts?

relationships matter. a short book review of “Social Gravity”

Networking for the sake of networking comes off as crassly self-serving. It tends to feel vapid and hollow and more than a little creepy. Building relationships because it’s fun, useful, and mutually beneficial is a whole ‘nother story.

Business equals people equals business. Can’t get around it. Business gets done through, for, and by people. Period. We can deny it and struggle and wonder OR we can recognize and embrace it. Want to be better at business; want to get more done? Get better with people. Build stronger relationships.

That’s where Social Gravity by Joe Gerstandt and Jason Lauritsen comes in. Ultimately, Social Gravity is less about networks and more about “authentic, mutually beneficial relationships.” As the authors say in the introduction: “What you know helps you play the game, and who you know helps you change the game.”

We all know that who you know matters, but most of us spend our time resenting it rather than doing something about it. Section 1” …It’s Not What You Know…” focuses on reminding us of the importance of relationships, the difference they make in getting things done, the need for high quality relationships, and the distinction between using social media as a tool to enhance relationships vs confusing likes and follows with actual relationships. Relationships have power and how we harness and use that power makes a tremendous difference.

Us humans generally get in our own way by either overcomplicating things or trying to get long-term success through shortcuts. Section 2 “Discover the Laws of Social Gravity” delves in to the areas that most networking advice seems to miss completely. The authors expand on taking the long-term approach to building relationships, being open to connecting with others, being our real and authentic selves, and contributing our time and effort in meaningful ways. These are all important, obvious, common sense ways to meet great people and build mutually beneficial relationships. They are also generally ignored and dismissed by those in the throes of networking frenzy who prefer the whitebread, fast food, business-card-trading shortcuts. It’s shifting from style to substance, from activity to results, from superficial to meaningful, from networking to relationship building. And that’s a powerful shift.

Throughout the book, Joe and Jason share real life examples of how relationships have affected their lives. Most striking are the small things that lead to huge differences. From Joe finding a key person within his company by connecting with someone from outside the company to Jason’s connections not helping him move to (my favorite) Jason’s hairstylist meeting and eventually marrying Joe after two unrelated groups of friends met up one Saturday night. Relationships, big and small, change lives.

As I look back on my own life, many of my most important relationships seem to have started almost by chance. Many of the most important events were due to my relationships with others. Great opportunities came from key people vouching for me or putting me in touch those who could help. Sometimes it was intentional, but often it wasn’t. For me, Social Gravity is a reminder and blueprint for helping me be more deliberate and effective in connecting with others. To do what I already know how to do, but do it more consistently and intentionally and do it better.

Relationships matter.

read any good books lately (updated)

Note: I originally published this back on May 5 and thought it was time to revisit it. Instead of rewriting it, I decided to just make a few updates (in bold). The rest of the information still holds true.

 

I love books. One of my great frustrations in life is the knowledge that I will never be able to read (and reread) all the books I want to. No matter how deep the stack of “must reads” gets, I’m always looking for more. So, I thought I’d share my list of current reads and maybe a few favorites. There’s lots more I could have included (how could I skip Jim Rohn?!? – next time), but this is a good start.  (The links will take you to Amazon. I get nothing out of it and only provide the links as a convenience.)

Currently reading:

Adaptability: the art of winning in an age of uncertainty by Max McKeown (twitter: @maxmckeown). I’m a HUGE fan of Max McKeown. It frustrates me to no end that he is still relatively unknown in the States (that will change). I feel he’s one of the best at taking complex ideas and making them simple, practical, relevant, and important. I got so tired waiting for Adaptability to come out on paperback that I borrowed my wife’s e-reader and purchased it electronically. Well worth it. JUNE 25 UPDATE: Just finished it today and a review will be coming soon. Loved it.

Social Gravity by Jason Lauritsen and Joe Gerstandt (@TalentAnarchy). I actually started this book several months ago and then got sidetracked by Alf Rehn and Max McKeown. For shame! Jason and Joe put out outstanding blogs, both as Talent Anarchy and individually, and it’s been killing me to have this book on hold. I’ll be giving it my full attention again starting tomorrow morning. Yes!

Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the Science of Success by Matthew Syed. In the vein ofTalent is Overrated and Outliers. A nice reminder that talent and interest get you in the game, but passion and hard, hard work keep you there.

Next Up:

Degrees of Strength: The Innovative Technique to Accelerate Greatness by Craig Ross and Steven Vannoy (@rossbestever). The latest from the boys who did Stomp the Elephant in the Office: Put an End to the Toxic Workplace, Get More Done – and Be Excited About Work Again. Full disclaimer: I used to work with Craig and Steve and consider them important mentors in my life. They are also two of the most passionate people you’ll meet when it comes to transforming leaders and workplaces.

Linchpin by Seth Godin. There are two blogs I seek out first thing in the morning and Seth’s is #1. I’m continually amazed by his ability to take some very big ideas and make them simple, clear, and brief. Daily. Can’t wait to read.

Dangerous Ideas: When Provocative Thinking Becomes Your Most Valuable Asset by Alf Rehn (@alfrehn). I haven’t read any of his books yet, but love the concept of the book and ideas he puts out on twitter. Can’t wait to read it. JUNE 25 UPDATE: Ok, I skipped ahead and read this one before some of the others. Once I got started, I couldn’t stop. I finished this one a while ago and thought it was great. Alf likes to push the reader beyond their comfort zones and shake things up a bit (as you might expect).  I did a review on it here.

 The Supermanager by Greg Blencoe (@gregblencoe). Greg’s been following this blog for a little while and I always appreciate his comments on leadership. I’m looking forward to reading his book and finding out more about his ideas behind the Supermanager. 

Recently Read:

The Strategy Book by Max McKeown. I recently did a short review of this book here.

The Truth About Innovation by Max McKeown. From the back cover: “Innovation rocks. It rolls. It makes the world go round. In a definitive set of ‘home-truths,’ you’ll discover how to harness its power to increase creativity, collaboration and profit. Are you ready to change the world?” Yes, Max, I am. Thanks for helping.

Unshrink Yourself, Other People, Business, the World by (you guessed it!) Max McKeown. No, I don’t know Max personally, have no stake in him selling more books, and do actually read books by other authors. However, I was so impressed by The Strategy Book that I immediately sought out other books by him and with each new book my enthusiasm only grows. He writes the books I wish I could write. Good, good stuff. This one is about destroying the myths that keep us small and prevent growing ourselves, those around us, business, and (yep) the world.

Long-Time Favorites:

Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill and How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Combine the ideas in these two books from the 1930’s and very, very little new has been written since then. Most personal development and success books since can trace their roots back to these two books.

The Greatness Guide: 101 Lessons for Making What’s Good at Work and In Life Even Better by Robin Sharma (@_robin_sharma). I’ve read this book at least four times in as many years. Although he’s better known for The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, I feel this collection of short lessons (none of them more than about a page and a half long) is a far superior, more practical, and more motivating book.

It’s Called Work for a Reason: Your Success is Your Own Damn Fault! by Larry Winget (@larrywinget). He’s fun, down to earth, and doesn’t suffer victims or fools.

How about you? What are some books you’d recommend adding to my must read list?

no problem too big? (repost)

We all have more personal and professional resources at our fingertips than we can imagine. I am not naturally good at networking, but I suspect the advantage that great networkers have is that they are simply better able to see and tap into these resources.

I recently attended a training program that really underscored this idea for me. There were six table groups with about five people at each table. For one of the activities, each table was given a large, hypothetical, community issue to solve. As an example, one group was told that they were trying to offer low cost health screenings at a community health fair; another group was trying to create transportation solutions for a low income area. There were six different groups all trying to solve overwhelmingly huge problems.

Everyone then mingled throughout the room asking people from other groups what they could do to help. Amazingly, EVERY SINGLE PERSON had a skill, access to resources, or knew someone who could help. Although the situations were hypothetical, the resources and solutions weren’t.

The point of the exercise was to demonstrate the sheer volume of resources available in a community and I was blown away by it. Normally, if you went around and asked a bunch of relative strangers what they could do to help, you’d get little response and few ideas. So what made this activity different?

First, the focus was on gathering all ideas, big and small, and no ideas were dismissed. Also, we weren’t looking for a solution, only asking what the others could contribute (and a lot of times their contribution was to offer to connect them with someone else). Finally, no one said, “I can’t help.” The expectation was to think of some way, no matter how small or unorthodox, to help. This generated a ton of good ideas that would not have been otherwise considered.

If that magic can happen with a group of strangers, how powerful would it be with people you know? We’ve all done this to some extent, but I wonder what would happen if we really leveraged it? What if you took a problem you were working on and directly asked everyone you know what they could offer to help? (Posting it on Facebook or Twitter is not directly asking. Emailing is not directly asking. I mean to have a one-on-one in-person or over the phone conversation where they have to give you an answer right then.)

This is really leveraging the six degrees of separation. We don’t have to go too far out in our network to find someone who would be a great resource whether we are trying to find a job, buy a car, hire a personal trainer, find great day care, locate investment property, etc.

I’m becoming convinced that there are few problems bigger than the people we already know. The only thing we need to do is ask.

it’s a small world, after all

I’ve got networking on the brain lately. I’ve been coming across some great postings on networking at the same time I had a very “small world” experience.

There is a lot of misunderstanding about networking. People often think of it as schmoozing or being insincere. Or they approach it as a one-time event rather than an ongoing process or developing relationships. Or they get in a bind and figure they better go network.

It’s hard to quickly network as a last-ditch effort to get a job, expand your business, recruit new applicants, or find more clients. By then it’s generally too late. At that point, you’re not networking, you’re selling. Nothing wrong with that but it’s a different activity with a different goal and different tactics. As Harvey MacKay says, “Dig your well before you’re thirsty.”

Tim Mushey inspired this post with a post he did last week engaging the conversation and interacting with people wherever you are. Us humans are really good at overcomplicating things and making things far more difficult than they need to be. Networking can truly be as simple as saying “hello”, giving a friendly smile, or introducing yourself. Being inclusive and making others feel welcome isn’t hard to do, but so few do it that it is an easy way to set ourselves apart.

The thing about networking and building relationships is that you never know where it is going to lead. Sometimes they go nowhere, sometimes they become crucial, and sometimes they lead to other relationships and unexpected outcomes.

If we are all truly separated from each other by six relationships or less then it really is a very small, interconnected world. No matter how far removed you think you are, you really aren’t. I was reminded of this over the weekend.

I live in a smaller city about two hours from a major metropolis. Most weekends I mountain bike on a local set of trails in the middle of town. It’s a great trail system, but is a labyrinth through the woods and can be very confusing if you don’t know the way. I always like to say hi to the other cyclists as I go by. If I see them looking at a map or talking about directions, I’ll stop and chat. If they are from out of town or new to the trails, I’ll generally recommend directions or invite them to follow along.

Two weekends ago, I came across a fellow named Colin who had come into town the night before from the big city to attend a wedding and brought his bike along to get a ride in. (More small world: I believe both he and my boss attended the same wedding, though they don’t know each other.) He asked where a specific trail was and I offered to show him the way. We ended  up riding together and at the end of the ride I gave him my card and told him to call if he was every back this way looking to go for another ride.

Last weekend, I ended up riding with a couple of guys from the big city. Call them Tom and Doug. Similar story. They were in town with their families and had brought their bikes along. They asked about directions when we came across each other on the trail and they ended up tagging along. They offered to return the favor by showing me some of the trails up in the city the next time I was that way.

As luck would have it, the next day my aunt and uncle who live several states away texted to let me know that they were going to be in the big city over the weekend for a trade show. I decided to take Tom and Doug up on their offer and get in a bike ride while in town to visit with them my relatives.

So, I’m waiting at the trailhead for Doug and notice a guy pulling into the parking with a familiar looking bike strapped to his car. When he gets out, I recognize him as Colin, the guy I rode with two weeks prior! Keep in mind this early Saturday morning, two hours from my house, in an area of well over five million people. The odds of bumping into each other ever again are low enough, but the odds of showing up at the same trailhead for a ride at the same time?! Apparently much better than I would have ever guessed.

It would have been so easy (and perfectly acceptable) if I had passed  them by and not said anything. Instead I had several great rides, got to see new trails, and potentially have a few more friends. It’s a fun small-world story, but it’s also a reminder to be polite, friendly, inclusive. It costs almost nothing yet you never know when you’ll see the person again or where that connection will lead. It is so easy to cocoon ourselves from other people these days and so important to make sure we don’t.

it’s not what you know…

Funny how people often lament that, “It’s not what you know, [say it with me everyone] it’s who you know.” People rarely ever says this when they benefit from a relationship, it’s always said to justify setbacks, as though knowledge/skill and relationships are mutually exclusive.

Why is it that this maxim is never taken to the logical next step? I’ve never, ever heard anyone say, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know so I better start getting out and meeting more people and really developing new relationships and strengthening my current ones.”

What if the what and who go together? Who you know will absolutely get your foot in the door and create opportunities, but those opportunities will start evaporating if you don’t bring the knowledge and skill to get the job done. On the filp side, demonstrating strong knowledge and skills will get the attention of people who can open doors and connect you with opportunities, but all the skill in the world won’t help much if you continually burn bridges and ignore the human side of it all.

Consider the possibility that your success is not based on what you know or who you know, but what AND who you know. That changes the game just a bit.

No Problem Too Big?

We all have more personal and professional resources at our fingertips than we can imagine. I am not naturally good at networking, but I suspect the advantage that great networkers have is that they are simply better able to see and tap into these resources.

I recently attended a training program that really underscored this idea for me. There were six table groups with about five people at each table. For one of the activities, each table was given a large, hypothetical, community issue to solve. As an example, one group was told that they were trying to offer low cost health screenings at a community health fair; another group was trying to create transportation solutions for a low income area. There were six different groups all trying to solve overwhelmingly huge problems.

Everyone then mingled throughout the room asking people from other groups what they could do to help. Amazingly, EVERY SINGLE PERSON had a skill, access to resources, or knew someone who could help. Although the situations were hypothetical, the resources and solutions weren’t.

The point of the exercise was to demonstrate the sheer volume of resources available in a community and I was blown away by it. Normally, if you went around and asked a bunch of relative strangers what they could do to help, you’d get little response and few ideas. So what made this activity different?

First, the focus was on gathering all ideas, big and small, and no ideas were dismissed. Also, we weren’t looking for a solution, only asking what the others could contribute (and a lot of times their contribution was to offer to connect them with someone else). Finally, no one said, “I can’t help.” The expectation was to think of some way, no matter how small or unorthodox, to help. This generated a ton of good ideas that would not have been otherwise considered.

If that magic can happen with a group of strangers, how powerful would it be with people you know? We’ve all done this to some extent, but I wonder what would happen if we really leveraged it? What if you took a problem you were working on and directly asked everyone you know what they could offer to help? (Posting it on Facebook or Twitter is not directly asking. Emailing is not directly asking. I mean to have a one-on-one in-person or over the phone conversation where they have to give you an answer right then.)

This is really leveraging the six degrees of separation. We don’t have to go too far out in our network to find someone who would be a great resource whether we are trying to find a job, buy a car, hire a personal trainer, find great day care, locate investment property, etc.

I’m becoming convinced that there are few problems bigger than the people we already know. The only thing we need to do is ask.