Clarity: Your actions speak so loudly, Part 2

reflection of manakinLast post we discussed being honest with yourself and whether you see yourself clearly. The next logical question then is, “do you understand how the world sees you?” Understanding our own motivations, actions, successes and missteps is important. We often fail to understand or forget how powerful a message we are sending through our actions. To repeat Mr. Emerson, “your actions speak so loudly, that I can’t hear what you’re saying.”

My father used to observe that as a leader, he couldn’t see into people’s hearts. All he could see was what they did. I think that’s exactly right. His point was that trying too hard to discern “intent” or “the content of people’s hearts” can be really challenging. Continue reading

Networking: Know Your Community

networking“Software developers don’t schmooze. They talk about code & problems they’ve solved. Then they share their code.”

I was chatting with a friend at a church social about networking and meeting people when he popped this gem out. I thought this was a perfect summary of what I’ve referred to before as “networking with content”.

This topic comes up for me a lot, as I work with a number of new students every year. We preach that networking is critical to success in their search and discovery process (and it is). But we NEVER mean “go have a bunch of empty, value destroying meetings with important potential supporters.” Schmoozing doesn’t work in the long run.

So what does “effective” networking look like and what is relevant “content”? (Hint: it doesn’t mean you have to have vast experience or knowledge, but it does mean you have to be interested and interesting…) Continue reading

Relationships: Your Impact

A few recent interactions reminded me that you never really know the impact you have on another person. So at the risk of sounding like my grandmother: make an effort to always be gracious and supportive. It’s not always easy and sometimes is impractical, but do it anyway and I think you’ll see benefits on many fronts. And even if not, it makes your world a little nicer. A few examples…

Cameraderie when you feel alienated

I was struck by this in a recent conversation with a former MBA classmate. We had been friendly in school, but weren’t close and had lost touch since we graduated. During school we’d had some lively debates about issues from our classes and had some shared interests. But our contact was fairly limited to class and the MBA lounge.

It turns out my friend felt like an outsider in our program, in part because he was approaching an MBA as a learning journey. MBAs are often very pragmatic about their program. Their journey can be very much about the explicit opportunities they seek. It’s not always about “the journey”.  My friend was more about the journey than many of our classmates and so was I. Continue reading

Life Lessons: Things I Learned From My Parents – Part 2

(Here’s part 2 of 3 on some life lessons I took from my parents. Part 1 can be found here and Part 3 here.)

Durability of relationships – My dad went to boarding school. He was very tight with a group of 8-10 classmates and their wives. They took a weekend trip together every year when they retired and talked all the time. He was always their “class president” and he loved it. I think his buddies still revered and respected him. They also remembered his kindnesses 50+ yrs after they had graduated.

Two friends’ stories about my dad in particular stuck out to me.

1)    One buddy transferred in after freshman year and was Jewish (in a 1950s Protestant boarding school – they had services every morning). Dad defended him and helped him survive. Mel joked that mydad was really hard on him with practical jokes etc., but it was always in the spirit of INCLUDING him in the group rather than excluding him. Dad tweaking him and taking him under his wing was central to his acceptance at school and he never forgot it.

2)    Another buddy was brilliant but really struggled with the discipline and structure at school. He always felt like Dad’s friendship and riding him kept him in school. He never forgot it either and made a point of telling me the impact Dad had on him. Continue reading

Building Relationships: Don’t Make People Come to You

“Phil, don’t make people come to you. Go to them.”

That’s a piece of advice my Dad offered years ago that still resonates and drives my own practices as well as my teaching and advice to others.

My Dad was a really good “people person”. He was a leader at every level in his life. A four year class president in high school, fraternity president in college, rapidly promoted executive and a church and community leader. He was intuitive about others’ needs and how to get a lot out of them. (I actually had a former employee of his come up to me at his funeral several years ago and tell me “I hadn’t seen your Dad in over 25 years, but when I worked for him he changed my life and I wanted to come pay my respects.”)

Me pausing while I get emotional….OK, I’m back.

I actually can’t improve on his simple words, but will expand on what he meant and translate it into “management-speak”.

He didn’t just mean “meet at the other guy’s place” (although that’s part of his point). The deeper point is “go find people”. He was talking about concepts like “management by walking around”, “social network theory” and “servant leadership” before management books were written about them. Continue reading

Driving Results: Managing Stakeholders Effectively

It doesn’t matter that you’re right if no one cares what you have to say. I can’t emphasize this enough.

So often what is emphasized in school and management/professional training focuses on analytical clarity, technical skills and how to be “persuasive” in the context of presenting and telling your story clearly (and even this last part doesn’t get enough attention).

These are all valuable skills, worthy of developing. But if you want to consistently be successful in getting buy-in to your efforts, they aren’t enough.

You need to effectively manage relationships with relevant “stakeholders” if you expect consistently good outcomes.

A stakeholder is anyone who can affect or is affected by the decision you are trying to reach. So if you are trying to re-organize a business unit, stakeholders might include customers, staff, management, corporate officers etc.

Why should I care?

It’s simple. Do want to get things done? Here are few practical reasons why you need to bring people into your process (as appropriate). Continue reading

Networking Coaching on K102

I recently had the opportunity to help the K102 Morning Crew with their “I Need a Job!” series. Donna and Muss were great. I focused on helping contentest winner Sarah think about professional networking. Here’s a link to highlights of our session.

This got me interested in perhaps doing some video blogging. It’ll be a holiday break project. Look for more in the next month or so.

Business Networking Strategy Part 3

In my last several posts (Part 1 – Strategy , Part 2 – Tactics) we’ve covered what I think of as short term networking strategy and tactics. We used a job search as the classic example. Think of this as “the sprint”.

Now let’s get into how to build longer term healthy habits that can help in a variety of ways. Here you need endurance. Think “marathon”.  

All of the prior advice applies (obviously). Here I’ll be focused on the things that change when you’re talking years rather than months for the time-line.

We can call it “networking for life”.  I can imagine a Tony Robbins style infomercial selling my series of compelling DVDs. The secrets unveiled will transform your life. I just need you to give me your money…or read on 🙂

One illustration of how little we focus on good habits and head-down we can get in our day to day life is an experience I just had updating my linked in profile. I was consistently asked “am I looking for a job or ready for a change?” by friends and colleagues.

No. I’m happy with my job, but am working to stay on top of it and not let it drift. I also figure up to date info on my profile is potentially useful to others. It’s the same idea on the relationship side. Harvey Mackay wrote a whole book on “digging your well before you’re thirsty”.  I use the term all the time when suggesting to people some of what I’ll get into below. That my maintenance activity was seen as signaling change by my network says a lot about where people put this in their priority list.

The point is to not ignore staying connected until you need something. That is more parasitic than mutualistic and won’t inspire commitment from others.

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Business Networking Strategy Part 2

Here’s the continuation of advice on building networks. Part 1 can be found here. A note, these are more “things to make sure you do” than “numbered steps”. They do follow this relative order, but please don’t get hung up on it. You can quibble with the order I put some of these, but that’s missing the forest for the trees.

1 – Develop your strategy. (This was most of the last post.)

2 – Determine who to reach out to first

You have to pick a place to start. To pick, I’d think about your relationships as concentric circles. Each ring is based on your own definition of “closeness”. I’ll leave it to you, but there are logically fewer people in the inner rings.

My first ring of relationships is close friends (and family). After that, you have people you know well and trust and who feel the same about you based on regular interaction (work, church, non-profit organization etc.) You have colleagues you are on good terms with, but aren’t necessarily close to after that and so on…You get the idea. Work your way out.

Write down lists of who you believe would meet with you based on the strategy you’ve laid out. I’m big on developing a tracking sheet to document your lists and activity. More on that below.

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Business Networking Strategy Part 1

I’ve written several posts about elements of networking in the past, but never gotten straight at networking strategy at a higher level. I’ll split this into 2 posts this week due to length…

First, a few simple diagnostic questions:

How often do you get called with a new job opportunity or sought out for advice?

If it’s rare, you have a network problem.

Do you have a lot of others you can call for advice or to help with a critical introduction?

If no, you have a network problem.

Networking is among the most written about topics in business. My quick search of Amazon.com yielded 17,500 results to “business networking”. These included best sellers like Never Eat Alone and Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty as well as random tactical cut and paste guides like How to Succeed in Business Using LinkedIn: Making Connections and Capturing Opportunities on the World’s #1 Business Networking Site (I’m not making this one up…it’s a whole book!)

If it’s so well covered, why do we struggle with it? Just go read hundreds of pages about it and do it. I think it’s a mix of lacking both urgency and confidence. Many fail to fully appreciate the importance of developing a strong network. They know intellectually that it matters, but other priorities intrude. As for confidence, I get a lot of “why would they want to talk to me?” type responses from students and professionals.

I’ll briefly lay out some thoughts on how to approach both a short term networking strategy (for example a job search) as well as how to develop healthy networking habits for the long term.

Continue reading