It is no secret that we are all trying to network and forge new relationships in our business and in our life. It is a way of life these days. It happens to be a new leadership literacy that strengthens your ability to thrive and be happy today inside and out of organizations. There is research that supports this by the way.
Access to others is the new economy for sure. We interviewed Kelly Hoey, author of Build Your Dream Network and she helps us redefine what it means to network. Watch for our May newsletter interview with Kelly. She certainly helps us see connecting with others in a fundamentally new way.
I bet you know folks that are amazing at networking. They make is seem easy. I have to admit I value this process of connecting and learning the stories of others and maybe that is what makes it seem easy to me. The idea of building a connection that matters and adds value is at the top of the list for us, yet, for many it is not intuitive. I receive emails almost every day from someone who wants to "network" with me or in some cases, it is disguised as network but really it is "can you introduce me to people you know?" I don't know them, but someone that knows me has suggested they reach out.
I am all for supporting that process of meeting and learning from others however, it needs to be reciprocal. Here are my tips in order to strengthen your ability to connect with others authentically and not just to tap into their contacts. Matter of fact if your goal is transactional, save the time in writing an email and don't do it. I say that with sincerity and wanting to help you be effective.
- Don't surprise someone with an email referencing a friend "told me to connect" to you. Ask the person that offered the referral to email first and "ask permission" to receive a reach out email from you.
- Time is a factor - if you send an unsolicited surprise email to someone you do not know - that email may sit in their inbox a long time. Using the permission approach is significantly more effective and respectful.
- If you are going to send an email to someone you barely know or do not know - start with something about them....show interest in that person's business, be curious, ask them a question or comment on an observation from their linked in profile or web site before you start down the road of "I was told you know a lot of people in my industry."
- Take the words, "If you hear of something that seems to fit me, keep me in mind" and never use them again! Don't leave that on a voice mail or email! Sorry, it is bad form and does not send a message that you care about building a relationship with them at all.
If you feel awkward about reaching out to people you don't know - that is normal. I highly recommend starting with people you do know or those you had some connection to and maybe it has been years since you said hello. That is far more effective than emailing a stranger. Again, research in this area, as shared by David Burkus, author and speaker on this topic, says that data shows improved results and those six degrees of separation stories flourish when you reach out to friends, old friends, or friends of friends.
We all want to foster authentic relationships. It is more fun and exciting as you see what might emerge for your business and your friendship.
Suggestion: Make a list today of people you have not connected to in awhile and call or email them.
Taking this step will surprise you in learning new aspects of what they are doing and you get to share what you are up to as well. Win win all around - go for it! Kelly Hoey says avoid the 911 call - an emergency reach out that says, " I need your help finding someone, getting funding or whatever." The networking journey is about sharing stories and experiences on an ongoing basis. With that approach, your network comes along with you on the journey you take in your work or career and you are there for them too.