PERSONAL GROWTH THROUGH NETWORKING
Networking – The exchange of information or services among individuals, groups or institutions; An interconnected or interrelated chain, group or system.
There are lots of outlets – online and in person – that talk about the power and usefulness of being a great Networker. In its simplest way, getting to know new individuals – trading information and building your life around meeting interesting people, seems like a no- brainier. But having said that, I am amazed at how the people that I meet with understand that we should have some time together, but are not really sure of the Strategy that might get them the most from that time. I think the effort toward Networking has changed dramatically over the last 5-10 years. Though I have not been an active Networker from the perspective of “I want to use it for my personal growth”, I am now at a unique place where I need to engage in active networking; I am putting it into practice over the next 6 months, using networking to build my Loyalty Solutions Group Management Training Business.
What Problem am I solving?
I never try to solve a problem with out 1st clearly defining the problem:
Over the last 10 years the business world has worked very hard at expense control, and in particular treating human resources as a managed expense, not an organizational asset. This effort has placed front-line managers into situations that they have not been given much training on how to handle. Additionally, they are being managed by divisional or regional managers that are very focused on the core operating numbers, and there is very little focus on building an employee-centric culture.
Finally, the senior management is still from the Baby Boomers’ generation, who view competition as a core employee motivator, while these front-line managers are in the Millennium generation and have little passion for the concept of winning at all costs.
If I am correct in describing the current problem, in the coming years the solution to this generational divide will be to re-engineer corporate cultures from a competitive-focused work environment to a collaborative-focused work environment.
I am now ready to build a networking strategy to;
Exchange information or services among individuals, groups or institutions,
Engage interconnected or interrelated individuals or groups of people interested in discussing and sharing solutions to this problem.
WHO IS MY PRIMARY TARGET AUDIENCE?
I am 1st going to focus on Human Resource professionals who are living in this current employee culture, to verify that I am addressing the right problem. I will also strive to engage CEO level management who might be confronted with this issue.
GOAL: To make sure I am realistically defining the issue that I am trying to solve.
WHAT DO I THINK, OR FEEL, THAT MIGHT IMPACT THEIR ATTITUDES AND RECEPTIVENESS?
The nature of the solution to this issue is that businesses need to move their workplace culture toward collaboration – and that is an unknown pathway. I believe that businesses need to discover (the pro-active way, or the hard way), that doing the same thing over and over will not get you a different outcome.
WHAT DO I WANT THEM TO BELIEVE ABOUT MY ABILITY?
That I am knowledgeable and experienced in creating highly cooperative working environments that are also very productive, and can handle change better than competitive-focused cultures.
HOW I WOULD LIKE THEM TO RESPOND:
The conversation will focus on understanding their level of interest in this concept, understanding their beliefs about the barriers to acting on this concept, and leaving them with a sense of curiosity about the possibility of this opportunity.
WHY SHOULD THEY CARE?
If my stated problem is correct – they are facing turnover, poor decision making, lack of loyalty and passion for the work, and the people in the culture are not having any fun.
HOW WILL I FOLLOW UP ON THESE CONVERSATIONS?
My goal will be to find ways to help them with what we discover – the issues they are dealing with. This could be, from my consulting context, an introduction to someone that I think might add value to their efforts, or possibly a published article written by me or others, discussing information that helps bring clarification to their issues.
ANYTHING I SHOULD AVOID?
I will avoid a hard core sales approach; I want to discuss my conceptual understanding, to discover their passions for this concept, to uncover which issues they need to solve and empower them to strategize success.
SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT BEING A GREAT NETWORKER
Adding context to the effort to use Networking to build a business and/or a personal social group is, I think, an important component to this effort, so here are some collected thoughts that I am using to define the context to my effort:
To be a great Networker, you must be curious: Being curious is, in my way of thinking, the Pathway to Passion and the Antidote to Fear. Going out there to discover whether your problem is real and traveling with the sense of confidence that these Networking efforts will be useful for you (but more importantly, for others), requires a high level of curiosity.
To be a great Networker, you must have a clearly defined problem: Remember – never have an answer without a problem. Networking implies that you have something you are curious about. Always define the problem clearly and then apply curiosity.
To be a great Networker, you must be fearless: Rejection is part of life, and having the ability to keep calling and trying when people turn you down can be supported by your personal self-esteem. You must be fearless.
To be a great Networker, you must be prepared: I am using this article to prepare myself for this effort. I believe that my product is solid, my website is well designed, and my contacts are well targeted. Now, I just need to be confident that I have prepared well and am ready to go – that I am not ahead of myself.
To be a great Networker, you must adopt to the idea that Networking is not about them helping you – It’s about you helping them: Your goal is to believe so much in the power of Networking, that you are constantly connecting people to other people that you believe will add value to the greater work and conversation.
To be a great Networker, you must be sincere: The idea of sincerity has lots of feelings and emotions attached, I suggest that there are two behaviors that will demonstrate your sincerity: Asking more questions, and Paraphrasing what you are hearing the other person say. Always demonstrate that you understand key points to the conversation.
To be a great Networker, you must follow-up on the conversation: At the baseline, this is a thank you e-mail, but doing a tangible thing like identifying key parts of the conversation, introducing them to a follow up conversation, or adding a thoughts that came to you after you left the conversation, demonstrates the value you placed on the time spent together.
There are more ways, that you might think of, to use Networking as a Personal Growth Strategy, but that will happen because you are driven by curiosity. In our current world there are no end to ways you can become smarter and wiser – As my favorite beer commercial states: “STAY CURIOUS, MY FRIENDS”.