Friday, October 31, 2008


Thank you for all the email and the comments left here! I really appreciate the points of the view and the questions.

Sometimes, a theme emerges; all the email I've received this week was about discomfort.

Mostly, folks start a conversation with me with a goal of "how do I do X?" They first approach networking and mentoring as a project with a set list of tasks. (You've all heard me rant, and will again, about how this is not a task-oriented process or a transactional approach, and personal style as a driving force).

I got excited this week - the conversation seems to have evolved to "I know what to do but how do I get past my discomfort?" (Mentors, note the posting from Sept26)

So here's a few statements around discomfort - what do you think?

• Discomfort with change doesn’t make change go away.
• Discomfort and dissatisfaction are not the same thing.
• Discomfort with a task or plan or idea doesn’t make that task or plan or idea any less worthwhile.
• Discomfort with your job doesn’t always mean you should change the job.
• Discomfort with networking is an excuse, not a reason, to avoid it.
• Discomfort is a great place to start an exploration of your career, your perceptions or your style.
• Discomfort with yourself doesn’t make change go away.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Are Women More Reflective than Men?

I don’t mean in terms of reflecting light (haha) but in regards to wanting to think things through before moving forward.

I see a lot of support around helping women network or mentor but not as much for men. Is that because men as a group aren’t in vogue (having held the spotlight for so long)? Or because men are comfortable mentoring and networking even if it’s untutored or unrecognized?

I get a lot of men asking if they could come talk to me about those two subjects. But never publicly. And never as a group.

I do believe women are really great at pulling together a group - what I call being able to call together the kitchen table. They can create and foster a gathering where everyone feels supported and supportive and great discussion can occur.

I’m generalizing of course. I’ve certainly met my share of women at whose “kitchen table” I’d be afraid to ask for water.

Yet this innate ability to create an interactive table fails women when they put the word ‘networking’ in front of it. Men are comfortable networking but (again generalizing) hesitate at hosting a intimate and interactive gathering.

Is there really a gender gap on this issue?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Peer to Peer - each other's best resource

I started with this as my basic concept. I talk about peer to peer so much that I can't believe I haven’t blogged about it in all these months. Like the foundation of a building, I've taken it for granted that we all stand on it.

How did I figure peer to peer (P2P) as the most successful way to approach building a personal community?

I asked myself: what are women great at doing? Building communities - personal communities that incorporate the private and the professional, the intimate and the public.

How? By gathering family, friends and neighbours co-workers around the table and hosting a conversation. Call it the kitchen table, the conference table or the patio - we’re great at getting folks talking and sharing.

We’re natural facilitators - giving as much as we receive. Making folks comfortable. Encouraging conversation and debate.

The same tools that make us good as facilitators should make us natural networkers. We’re always doing networking when we gather a table.

Let’s call this ability to gather a table: peer to peer (P2P) networking.

P2P simply put is about creating the various tables and circles of folks with whom you share information, successes, failures and questions.

It’s folks of your level (social, professional – choose the designation) with whom you can debate the questions.

The P2P hierarchy isn’t traditional – it’s not based on position, title or industry. It is experience to experience. Body of knowledge to body of knowledge. Everyone has something to contribute. There is no supplicant in this equation.

Life is collaborative. We come together in changing roles (manager, expert, guest, etc.) - by project or event - and learn from each other all the time: experienced manager sharing with the expert, new career sharing with the person who already reinvented themselves, someone finishing a process with someone just starting.

A team meeting, a barbeque, a golf 4some, a brainstorming session with your trusted peers - all ripe for P2P networking.

Networking happens all the time by this definition. Every meeting, every time you stand in a line up for coffee, every elevator ride is ripe to make a connection and share information.

Remember - networking isn’t a single event - it’s a process.

P2P networking you can start today. You can offer and you can receive support and advice - you can ask questions - you can simply meet people with no agenda other than asking yourself - would I sit at this person’s table?

It’s a building personal community.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Perfection not required

Your career is not a boat… A boat with even a small leak is going to sink. You, on the other hand, don't need to be perfect to succeed. Seth Godin

If you don’t know Seth Godin - he is a marvelous writer of all things PR and marketing (see his blog link on the right). He is funny and insightful and - though I’m not a marketeer - I’ve gained some new perspectives from him along the way.

This particular quote from his blog posting of Oct.21 made my day. Especially since I’ve just sat through a presentation where I was told to make sure I was “rowing my boat” and not drifting with the current.

We need the reminder. We don’t need to be perfect to offer good mentoring. We don’t need to know how to network perfectly. We just need to do our best and we’ll all be ahead together.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Rant on committees

I sit on a lot of committees. Doing so sounded way more exciting when I was younger and more foolish. Now I think of ways to delegate them.

I’m not sure if that’s a product of there simply being too many meetings - or if it is because invitations are handed out to too many folks. We all know everyone (including me) has an opinion - we don’t need to have them all represented at every meeting.

This fall, I’ve attended many meetings focused on networking and mentoring (again, the 2 words used interchangeably - see a previous post). The subject matter is no surprise but there are two common issues that arise at each one:

1 - The wheel is invented yet again. No one looking at how to do ‘it’ (mentoring or networking) differently - they just want to set up a committee to support it. How many committees in one organisation does it take…. an old joke. And ?why? must we silo by industry? Why reinvent the wheel by industry and then again by industry segment? i.e. can only your mom and your sister teach you to cook?

2 - At each meeting, folks talk about giving women access to senior leadership (vs. access to expertise or interest at any level). Come on! Doesn’t anyone at these meetings point out that networking is about creating interaction FROM WHICH comes the exposure?

That approach of ‘exposure to sr. leadership’ immediately creates pressure on attendees to flock around any senior people there and ‘make an impression’. We should be meeting everyone in the room. Impressions should come from good personal preparation and a well-run event.

If you’re on a committee to set up mentoring and networking in your organization, consider inviting someone who has already successfully run something. See if others across your organization are already engaged. See what other industries are doing and if there is any potential cross-over by piggy-backing. Most importantly, figure out WHY you are helping your organization network so that you’re not planning yet another event that no one knows how to make the most of.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Would politeness help?

I’m back - miss me? I bet you didn’t even notice. We’re all so busy these days with jobs, family, keeping the roof from leaking and finding time to sleep that life is passing at breakneck pace.

So I escaped on a brief vacation.

The thing that strikes me every time I travel is how nice folks are. They say ‘hi’ when they pass a stranger on the sidewalk. They don’t seem to sit on the phone/RIM while eating a meal. I hear a lot of ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. No one interrupts a train of thought in an attempt to complete my sentence for me. Why is it so striking that old-fashioned politeness comes to fore on vacation but we feel free to discard it during our regular working hours?

I think that’s a part of why we are often so uncomfortable with networking. It is transactional. We treat folks like a bank machine that is only of interest if we can get something out of them. We treat strangers and acquaintances as obstacles to getting our goals accomplished swiftly. And we’re exposed to the same treatment in return. In our rush to ‘get things done’, we’re rude in the name of business.

Heck, I don’t even answer my phone with “Hello?” anymore. I state my name and the person calling gets right to business. (I changed that today and kicked off a meeting with a personal anecdote! gasp!)

Would networking be more comfortable if we all treated each other a bit more gently in our day-to-day interactions? Treating others as an end in and of themselves vs. the means to our own needs?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I'm actually taking a short hiking trip with my kid (whose girlfriend will be feeding our animal and staying at our house for her own vacation). I'll be back online next week. I wanted to leave you with the thought that propels me through each day:

You might not always get everything you want and unfortunately sometimes you might not even achieve what you need but your chances are greater if you ask for help, actively seek it and contribute to the needs of others.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Leaders Network cont'd

So what is an example of leadership process around networking for a project or business program purpose?

The introduction.

That’s the greeting we give at a regular meeting where we may/may not know the other folks around the table. The usual “duck duck goose” game of introductions at a business meeting is to offer minimal information as one goes around the circle until it gets back to the chair where - “goose” - the meeting then takes off.

This is squandering the opportunity you and your teams and their teams get a dozen times a day - a chance to connect for the first time or deepen a connection.

These introductions should be viewed as a strategic business opportunity to offer information and open the door to future conversations either by revealing new information about oneself or by reinforcing information for new and established colleagues.

We should deliberately move from simply offering our name and title to offering meaningful information (which of course can change in context). “Hi I’m Dennie, Manager of X” becomes “Hi I’m Dennie and I focus on the project’s change management needs.”

And if that prompts someone after the meeting to ask “What did you mean by change management?” then a conversation has begun.

It’s a process. You can coach to it. You can use it. It is not only part of your personal brand but reflects your team’s reputation.

Why didn't I figure this angle out sooner?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Leaders - Know How to Network

I’ve spent the week talking with senior IT managers in the US about networking from the perspective that networking is a leader’s mandate; it’s not a choice.

Unlike the other postings, I'm not talking about how senior folk need to have a career perspective on networking (though they do). I'm positing that it’s good business to be a networker with your internal partners and your own employees.

While we can’t mandate folks to connect, we can mandate leaders to be effective relationship managers and share their networks with their teams. Our daily relationships with our colleagues and partners are the ones we treat as the most transactional - “you have to work with me ‘cuz you’re paid from the same company” is a common underlying sentiment.

Do you know how your team approaches and hones relationships? Is it by magic? Instinct? Or careful and considerate choice?

This is a strong statement: networking is a leadership issue.

Consider this: if networking is a process and not a single transaction or event; if networking is strategic planning; if networking is part of the daily business function (not career searching but daily business interaction) then it stands to reason that it is a leadership deliverable.

Viewed this way, daily business interaction can be broken in processes that should be discussed and explored like other business functions. Choice, instead of habit, would make a leader intentional in their interactions.

I’ll continue this in my next posting.