Saturday, March 24, 2007

Networking with FOCUS - Bringing it all Together

If you have been following this series of articles, you will have noticed a couple of key ideas cropping up again and again. Hopefully by now, you will have recognised the importance of having a strategy for your networking rather than leaving things to chance.

As we have discussed, while many people look down on ‘networking’ as a series of old boys clubs or small businesses desperately exchanging business cards, in reality individuals and businesses of all sizes need to network to succeed. And that is much easier with a clear vision of where you want to go and what you need to do to get there.

In addition, you may have noticed the regular use of the word ‘focus’ throughout the series. Unfortunately, most businesses lend very little focus to their networking and therefore experience unsatisfactory results. This isn’t because networking doesn’t work, it’s because of a lack of thought that has gone into it.

As discussed in previous articles, to get networking to work, you need to:

• Know what the Financial return from your networking should be
• Set out some Objectives across the board, not just looking at the financial benefits
• Know what Commitment you need to put into your networks to get the results you want, and how much you can manage
• Ensure that the people who want to help you can Understand what you are looking for
• Bring all of this together into a clear Strategy for your networking.

In short, add some FOCUS to your networking and watch your business or your career accelerate forwards.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Getting Emotional

After speaking at a recent event, one of the attendees was explaining how, in his view, despite the high intelligence and career achievements of many of the people present the majority of them had a low EQ, making it difficult for them to network effectively.

I had been acquainted with the idea of EQ instead of IQ, the power of emotional intelligence compared to what we traditionally classify as 'intellect', before. What I hadn't looked at before was its link to networking but surely there is a clear parallel.

When you look at the Wikepedia definition of EQ, as 'an ability, capacity, or skill to perceive, assess, and manage the emotions of one's self, of others, and of groups', the link becomes clearer. After all, doesn't one's ability to network depend on your interpersonal skills?

In her 'Brazen Careerist' blog, Penelope Trunk describes Emotional Intelligence as 'the one skill you need for three key areas of career growth'. Describing Emotional Intelligence as the way you differentiate yourself at work in the new millenium, Trunk refers to Drew Gilpin Faust, the first female president of Harvard. According to Trunk, Faust's key qualification for the job is her ability to communicate well with a wide range of people, a notable shift from qualification-focused appointees in the past.

Last night I attended a Women's Social Leadership Awards event run by Ogunte Tribal Network and hosted by BT's Women's Executive Network. One of the speakers, Sofia Bustamante, talked about the power of networking for her and how traditional hierachy was being erased. Sofia shared with the audience her dislike of CVs for people applying for jobs and how they didn't really address the individual's skills and abilities. For Sofia, emotional intelligence, the ability to connect with others, is far more importance than work references.

While I am sure we won't see a sudden shift to all appointments being made purely on the basis of interpersonal skills or CVs being thrown out of the window; what is becoming clear is that the ability to make connections, develop rapport with individuals and with groups and to build a network is becoming more vital for people who either want to develop careers or build their own business.

Formal qualifications and functional ability remain important and will continue to be a key factor in career development. Accelerating personal achievement, however, will depend increasingly on the ability to connect with others, which is helped by strong emotional intelligence.

Penelope Trunk reference's Dan Pink's work 'A Whole New Mind' in her blog. In his book, Pink predicts the workplace of the new millennium will be about how people make connections.

“Key abilities will not be high tech but high touch.”

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The XBOX story by Tim Sanders

How much interest do you show in the people around you? Have you thought about how powerful it is to interact with people personally as well as professionally?

Watch this powerful video from Tim Sanders, author of Love is the Killer App.

You may not come across such dramatic circumstances but hopefully this will get you thinking.

It did me!

Networking with FOCUS - Helping Others to Help You

It is one thing to build an influential and enthusiastic network through a focused strategy; it is another to get that network’s support when you need it. The most common problem is not, as you might think, people’s disinclination to help. Often people don’t get the utmost from their connections simply because they don’t make their message clear enough.

As discussed previously, once you know what return you are looking for it becomes much easier to communicate a clear message to others. Now you have to focus on that message and understand how it is perceived.

Frequently we are tempted to be as comprehensive as possible when asked what we do. It is far more effective to stop and think, “What do others need to hear for them to feel empowered to take actions I am looking for?” and then focus in and be as specific as possible.

Put yourself in other people’s shoes. You understand your business and your needs in much greater depth than they possibly could, so how can you frame your requests so that they can really latch onto them? When we have looked at this subject in past seminars, there have been very few occasions when a presentation couldn’t be completely overhauled when looked at from this angle.

Ask a few of your close friends how much they understand about your business and how they may be able to help you. And turn the question on yourself as well, looking at your business.

You may be surprised at the response, and compelled to look at the message you give from a different angle.

Next time … Putting it all Together

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Finding Your Passion

Are you passionate about what you do? Are there times when you feel that the passion has gone and you are simply going through the motions?

I am sure that all of us have experienced plenty of times, both in work and in our everyday lives, where we have simply buzzed about what we are doing and others where we don't know why we are there. I certainly have.

On the Thursday of the week after I left my last position I was in a friend's pub. I had been with the company for nearly eight years and for most of the time had considered myself so lucky with my choice of career, I was doing something I loved.

In the pub I was cheekily berating my friend for not inviting me to play golf with him that day. I commented to him that 'I can play golf during the week now' as my time was my own. I suddenly realised that there had been no reason why I couldn't do so before. I was Managing Director of the organisation and was in full control of my diary. I worked evenings and weekend, there was no such thing as a typical 9-5 Monday to Friday working week for me.

At that moment it all came home to me. My business had ceased to be a passion and had become a JOB!!!

I am a great believer that you have to enjoy what you do for a living. After all, we spend most of our waking hours working. I am working harder than ever before now ... and loving every minute of it.

Jo Parfitt, who edited my first book and was one of the editors of my second, has just published the second edition of her popular 'Find Your Passion' book. Containing tips and tasks to help you find your passion, it also contains interviews with several people discussing the passion in their lives. One of the interviewees is me, so if you want to find out how to find your passion, or just what makes me tick, check out the book at

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Networking with FOCUS - Giving Your All

Having set clear objectives, the next task is to establish the best places to network. With so many opportunities available, you need a clear understanding about which meets your needs and to which you can give the necessary commitment.

With your objectives in mind, research the groups in the area you want to develop. Visit them and find out exactly what is expected from you should you join. Membership of a networking group does not guarantee results. Whether building relationships, regular attendance or planning for each meeting, there are key tasks you need to undertake for success.

Two of the most common traits of successful networkers are generosity and reliability.

Much is made of giving first and then receiving in turn. Funnily enough, it works! You may not receive back from the same source, but, if you establish the reputation as a generous person who connects others, people will want to help you.

If everyone turned up at networks looking just to take, who would be there to give anything to them?! It is important to commit to help the group and others. It can also be a great way to raise your profile.

Reliability is a key factor in building others’ confidence in you. You must do what you say you are going to do, follow up on the contacts you make and turn up when expected, ready for the meeting. Who would do business with, or refer, someone who has not previously been reliable?

Ensure that you can devote time and energy to whichever network you decide to join. And if you can’t, don’t expect positive results.

Next time … Helping Others to Help You

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Come and See Me Speak....

I have a number of events in March where you can come and hear me speak. These include:

Friday March 9th - Professional Speakers Association Scotland - Edinburgh Thistle Hotel (St. James's) 7pm. 'Networking with Focus'. Full details and booking information to follow.

Wednesday March 14th - European Young Professionals - Pangaea, Mayfair, London 7pm. 'Its Not What You Know...' . Details and booking information can be found here.

Tuesday March 27th - BT Women's Executive Network, BT Centre, St. Pauls, London 11.30am. 'Connecting People'. Details and booking information can be found here.

Political Connections - The Politician's Viewpoint

A politician friend, who does not wish to be named, said the following in response to my blog posted yesterday:

The problem with political networking on line for politicians is its public nature. It is very easy to forget that your words can be read - and misquoted - when you are on your own with the computer. I suppose this is why so few politicians blog, and those that do often produce a tedious diatribe consisting of their daily engagements and toeing the party line. Left wingers also don't blog to the same extent as Conservatives because online humour can be quite abrasive, which leads to political incorrectness. They find themselves offending their friends and having to apologise. That's why I suspect the Labour initiative you mention will fail in the longer term.

Given the comments that he raises here, what future can there be for politicians getting involved in Social Networks?

Monday, March 05, 2007

Political Connections

The furore surrounding last week's launch by Charles Clarke and Alan Milburn of 'The 2020 Vision' masked a new trend emerging in politics - the recognition of networking as a key tool to interact with voters. The recent instance of votes for 'housemates' on Big Brother outperforming votes in general elections has been a cause for concern for anyone interested in the democratic process. Any attempt to involve the public in policy making has to be applauded and surely networking is the ideal vehicle.

In the United States, Barack Obama, pursuing the Democratic Presidential Nomination, has set up his own social network. Supporters can post their own profile on the site, network with other like minded people both online and at local events and post blogs on the site. There is functionality on the site to create and join groups (current groups range from Students for Obama' with over 2000 members to 'Southern Illinois University - School of Medicine for Obama' with one member!) and you can also invite your friends to join, a great way to build campaign momentum.

Last Wednesday I attended 'Women to Win', a networking event for prospective female parliamentary candidates for the Conservative Party. A voluntary organisation, Women to Win is focused on raising the proportion of female Tory MPs and runs a monthly event where women interested in standing can meet each other and senior people within the movement.

What struck me was the number of young women attending. It was clear that many found the events very useful in understanding how the process worked and what support they could get. By networking with other people in the same situation they were clearly building their confidence.

One person in particular, who was attending for the first time, was very unsure about whether or not she had the skills necessary to take the next step. She found herself talking to someone who had just taken the big leap and completed the forms to put herself forwards, after several months of attending these meetings. The benefit for her of being able to speak to someone who had experienced the same doubts was clear to see.

The 2020 Vision follows Barack Obama's lead, with a regular blog inviting comments from people who want to participate in the future direction of The Labour Party. The vision on the site claims 'renewal cannot happen behind closed doors. It requires an open participatory debate in the Party, amongst our supporters and with the wider public about the future direction for New Labour'.

The website's launch has been interpreted by many in the media merely as an attack on Gordon Brown's seemingly uncontested candidacy for the Leadership of The Labour Party. Whether it is or not, is not my job to judge. However, if it signals an escalation of political parties' use of networking tools to interact with their electorate, it can only be a good thing in the long run.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Networking with FOCUS - Beyond Money

Having discussed how important it is to have a clear vision of the financial return on your investment in networking, we need to turn our attention to the other ways networks can benefit both you and your business.

While new business is a key driver for many people joining groups, networkers report a range of rewards derived from their activities. Whether you are looking at personal development and support as an individual or staff development and new ideas for a business, it is important to have a clear range of objectives.

With more and more people leaving corporate life to work for themselves, networks can fill the void left after being surrounded by colleagues all day. It is only when you have left this environment that you can truly appreciate the value of having a group of people to share frustrations with, brainstorm problems and generate new ideas. The peer group support provided by many networking groups can prove invaluable.

Larger organisations should not dismiss this benefit and its relevance to their staff either. Giving your key employees a safe environment in which to develop their confidence, try new ideas, present to other businesses and be motivated by a support network can increase their productivity tremendously.

By having a clear focus on which of these intangible objectives will benefit your business, you can make a better decision on which networks to join, who needs to attend and what you need to put in to them in order to get the results you want.

Next time … Giving Your All.