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Networking Without Power: Going Old School

Networking Without Power: Going Old School

networking

    Remember the old days of Rolodexes, before mobile phones had every gadget and gizmo now known to man (and woman)? Remember when we didn’t have Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to connect with other businesspeople and had to actually, you know, talk to people?

    The way many of us network today, using online social networking and keeping track of things via Blackberry, iPhone, PDA and other “smart” devices, is superior in many ways to the “old” way of doing things. However, there’s a lot to be learned by going “old school” with your networking and heading back out into the real world. Today I’ll talk about some of the reasons old school networking outweighs the new 2.0 version, and how you can reconnect with your old school networking roots.

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    Online, you can reach more people, but the connections you build in person are stronger.

    Sure, in the Brave New World of online networking, you can generate infinite LinkedIn connections and five thousand Facebook “friends,” but are they really friends? Are the folks you’ve just connected with people you want to know and do business with? How well can you get to know someone and their business without actually talking to them?

    In the 2.0 world of networking, something’s been lost in the connection. These days, a lot of people connect with you just to increase their list of followers. But who are they? Connecting with someone on Facebook or LinkedIn without talking to them and getting to know them is akin to throwing a business card at someone as you walk past them. It’s neither effective nor does it represent your business well.

    Bob Burg, author of Endless Referrals (a book I highly, highly recommend),  writes this golden rule of networking:  “All things being equal, people will do business with and refer business to, those people they know, like and trust.” When you meet someone in person, don’t you get a better sense of whether or not they’re for real than if you meet them online? When you meet someone in person and take the time to get to know them, you can tell if you can trust them and if they’re someone you’d like doing business with, as a potential client, in a joint venture, or if they’re someone you want in your Rolodex to refer business to in the future.

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    Check your marketing plan: you may not need to reach the masses.

    There are tons of statistics that suggest you can reach millions of potential buyers online. But if you’re a solo professional or a small business owner, you may not need to reach millions. You may not even want to reach millions. If your business is local or if you’re a consultant, reaching the international masses online may not make even the slightest sense for your business.

    Old School Networking And You

    In the old days, people sat down and talked to each other. They got to know one another — not just in terms of business, but personally. They connected with each other’s families, spent time together, and when you threw business someone’s way, you knew and trusted the person and could really count on them to handle the business you sent them.

    Get Involved.

    So how can you get back to basics and go “old school” with your networking? For one, the kind of old school networking I’m talking about isn’t the kind you find in networking groups and events. It’s about enriching your life while also enriching your business. Now’s the time to volunteer and get involved and active in your local community. Get to know the other volunteers and their families. Expand your net of friends and business associates. Connect with your alumni group from college, join your local Chamber of Commerce. Sign up for just-for-fun sports leagues. These are the ways in which people used to network and these connections are stronger and farther-reaching than those of your Twitter followers.

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    You Never Know Who Someone Knows.

    Stop worrying about “qualifying prospects” and instead, get to know people. And as you hang out after a ball game, nursing a beer with your fellow players, remember that while you may not be talking to an actual prospect at that moment, you never know who that person knows. You may not have a direct business connection with someone, but you could very well gain indirect business through that connection.

    Throw Away Your Technology.

    Ok, so it’s great to have your phone or PDA up-to-date with all your networking contacts at the touch of a fingertip. But if you’re going to go old school, consider really going old school.

    Believe it or not, studies have shown that technology can create social barriers in interpersonal interactions. First, it can disrupt the flow of conversation. Imagine your phone ringing while the person you’re with is talking. Not only are they distracted by the ringing, but they don’t know if you’re going to answer the call or not.

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    Second, it can get between you and the person. Did you ever notice the way people transform when they bring out their technology to schedule a meeting on their digital calendars? Instead of going tech to book a time, keep a pocket-sized Moleskine calendar handy and schedule it in pen. Not only will the meeting seem more important because it’s in indeliable ink and can’t be deleted, but you won’t be disconnected from the social interaction. If you really need to take notes during a meeting, don’t use your Blackberry. Instead, keep a Moleskine notebook and a pen in your pocket and bring it out when you need it.

    On the surface, technology seems great, because it promises a great time and personal energy savings. So we think it fixes everything. But sometimes, using technology for things we used to do in person can reduce our effectiveness. Although I’ve argued for an old school approach to networking in this article, I personally prefer a hybrid approach to networking. Use technology to support and follow up on your in person networking. And if you can’t network in certain locations in person, use the online world to bring those places to you. But never forget the key component to networking: getting to know people. Build relationships and you’ll reap huge rewards.

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    Last Updated on April 11, 2019

    How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

    How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

    Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

    I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

    I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

    Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

    How Communication Skills Help Your Success

    Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

    Create a Positive Experience

    Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

    When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

    What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

    Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

    As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

    Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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    Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

    Help Leadership Skills

    It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

    Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

    As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

    Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

    If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

    Build Better Teams

    Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

    In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

    If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

    When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

    Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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    How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

    There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

    Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

    1. Listen

    Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

    Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

    People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

    Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

    Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

    2. Know Your Audience

    Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

    Here is a good way to think about it:

    Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

    You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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    3. Minimize

    I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

    He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

    Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

    State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

    The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

    4. Over Communicate

    So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

    What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

    Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

    Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

    Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

    There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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    5. Body Language

    The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

    When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

    In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

    When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

    Conclusion

    Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

    Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

    There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

    Now go communicate your way to success.

    More Resources About Effective Communication

    Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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