Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Networking is part of all events and meetings

Networking does not happen only when the title of the meeting says "Networking" or when it's specifically called out in the agenda.... Actually, when it's in an agenda, that's when most folks slip out of the room to check e-mail or catch the train home!

Networking isn't an activity outside of our regular days. Networking is every greeting, every meeting, every chance encounter and every time you have the chance to introduce your self/team/purpose.

We are constantly strengthening existing connections and making new ones. While setting aside time in an agenda to do this is terrific - we should realize it is happening constantly and make the most of the opportunities.

I am planning a business meeting for 100+ folks Wedsnesday! (thus only one post this week) I expect the attendees to talk as a table, as a larger group, as peers and as friends. I'm mixing up the seating so folks will find themselves with the know and unknown. I'm driving conversation in groups of 8, 100 and 2!

Nowhere do I use the word networking - not in the agenda, speaking notes or subjects. Yet, I know if this event is successful that networking will be the piece that makes it so.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

There is no checklist for networking...

Of course there is... there is a checklist for everything. But what I really mean by the title is that a checklist is not going to make you a master networker.

A checklist can list tasks, outline a plan or serve as a "reminder" but it can't build a relationship for you.

The shelves are full of 'how to' books on networking; some of them are even worth reading. :-) However, if an instruction sheet could solve our hesitations, fears and (sometimes) missteps for networking, we'd all be masters of the trade by now.

It all starts with "why" you are building a network which, in turn, informs "how". If you're not using a checklist to build friendships, then consider building professional relationships in the same spirit?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Looking for a mentor - part 1

The debate about how senior a mentor should be to a mentoree is a tough question.

Does seniority make that person any better than someone else at anything?
Does their seniority reflect their experience, their luck or a combination?
Is mentoring better first established through the lens of seniority vs. experience?
Does what we seek from mentoring require hierarchical mentor or an experienced one?

I think many of us approach the seniority of a mentor in two ways:
1 - with a secret hope that, like a fairy godmother, the senior person will personally champion our cause and shepherd us to stardom (like an apprentice or favoured pupil)
2 - with the assumption that the because the person has seniority in an industry, that they are self-aware

Sometimes, #1 can come true. But not often. Mentoring - both sides of the relationship - involves hard work. Good mentors often have several mentorees, leaving the individuals to find and define success for themselves. Mentorees often have several mentors - who can't all take you to the top of their ladders. So #1 isn't often an ideal way to approach mentoring.

#2 still puts the onus on the person seeking mentoring. When you select a mentor, if seniority is your first criteria, you may not be clear on what you're actually seeking. You may be stuck on the #1 dream :-)  A good mentor is self-aware in order to be able to share why they are successful - or at least self-aware for the areas you wish to explore.

I'm not saying that seniority isn't part of your consideration in selecting a mentor or agreeing to take on a mentoree. It just should not be the first consideration?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Twitter: Notable one-liners

Some kids wanted to be firemen or doctors. Some wanted to be great chefs or teachers. Me? I wanted to write gory murder mysteries and be immortalized like Oscar Wilde for a few great quotes.

Fast forward to 2011 and the rise of Twitter. We're learning to introduce ourselves with "elevator pitches" and be pithy in 140 characters or less. I'm becoming a big fan of the concise!

Below is a list of the Similar Circles philosophy done in Twitter-sized bites:

1. I'd rather wear heels than date them.
2. Not having women around your leadership table is like having only third basemen on your baseball team. Or only eating with a knife.
3. Employees and customers are the same people. Women are employees and customers, not an afterthought or third consideration.
4. Being 'thin' is worth more salary for women? But my brain is so fat!!
5. It's never too late to speak up - icky things mostly grow in dark quiet places - raise your voice and make it harder for ick!
6. Why is 'artist' a less respected way to earn a living than 'engineer'? Why is 'emotion' a female weakness and 'logic' a male strength?

1. Food is the best way to start building bridges. Coffee and chocolate are natural conversation starters.
2. Give folks a reason to give you 15 min of their time - long enough for a coffee, short enough that they don't feel the pressure...
3. My next living room will be a coffee shop :-)
4. For some, a handshake can be the only actual touch in a day. And people wonder why I prefer to hug...
5. Relationships are the heart of everything - from crisis mgmt to parenting to careers. It's all about people.

Leadership & Change
1. What are we doing today that we shouldn't be doing?
2. Having an interesting idea is not leadership. Getting folks to try that idea is!
3. Voicemail is not a productivity tool - floating messages across sea of coffee works faster.
4. Persuasion is a great leadership skill even if it's also practiced by con artists.
5. Isn't true leadership: finding the greatness in others and helping them use it?
6. Does the end justify the motivation?
7. My debate today: Change needs a catalyst but does the catalyst define the change?
8. Would you rather follow a cause or a person?
9. Discomfort with change doesn’t make change go away.
10. True leadership, like parenting, sometimes means sitting in the backseat ...far from the controls and trusting the student driver.
11. Critical thinking needs creativity.

1. Intense discussions are best held in daylight.
2. Someone who insists they're always 'right' will ‘miscommunicate’ with you a lot. A bottle of Shiraz will not help them change their mind.
3. What spurs more personal growth - pain or joy? Tradition says pain but then why are so many folks caught in past hurts?
4. Don't wanna be known as 'original'...everyone is original...wanna be 'sincere, intelligent, talented, effective and interesting'!
5. Take flight - the best ideas come when you're in mid-air
6. We can't strengthen our ideas if we only talk with folks who agree with us.

Wishing everyone joy to share and community to spare.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Is it networking if you have to shout?

Call me silly but I don't know that one can really network in a room so loud and crowded that you can't hear the person shouting next to you.

The room was hip. The sponsor was on the ball. The crowd was eclectic. But there was no room to move - folks lined up down the stairs - and then the music started playing. The lack of space and noise level kept folks only talking to those they already knew and could comfortably yell into their faces.

All of us who hold events wrestle with the same things: how many is too many? how much fun? how much facilitation? what exactly is a networking event to a particular crowd?

If folks will mostly talk to those they know - do events need some hands-on guidance beyond simply being thrown into one room?

Call it "facilitating" or being a "hosting", would you prefer an event where:
  • Someone actively introduced pairs around the room throughout the event?
  • Room chatter was periodically broken with a message, a door prize or a piece of information to give a natural break in which you could circulate?
  • Attendees were guided and encouraged around networking before and during the event beyond simply being in the same room?
I don't know that there is a one-size-fits-all answer. I am interested in what you think makes a successful event!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

It's ok to make a 'break' part of the plan

Yes, there was a lag on the blog. Sometimes life gets in the way - most notably when we celebrate the end of someone's life. We take a deep breath and then pick the daily pieces back up.

It shouldn't take a major event to create permission to stop for a moment. In our planning and networking for careers and lives, a breather can be as refreshing as achieving a milestone.

So a once-in-a-while breather should also be in your personal development plan.

Before my friend died, he pointed out to me that it was ok to stop now and then. If you have truly achieved some momentum in life, coasting for a moment will not have any harmful effect. In fact, coasting might provide some perspective and the capacity for a fresh idea. (I have a mentor who calls this "shower time" as he feels the only time he has to free-associate is in the shower.)

So the last 2 1/2 weeks I let the internet and world drift by without me (it seemed to do fine too... drat!). I'm recharged and you're here reading so perhaps the break was as good as a post for us both?