Successful Networking: Just be Quiet!

Let’s face it, networking for your business can sometimes be compared to root canal. It can be costly, time consuming and fairly painful if you’re
not armed with the proper skills and know-how. I mean, uggh, starting conversations with complete strangers, in a crowd, over appetizers.
“Shoot me,” right?
Well, it doesn’t have to feel like a bad singles dating event. Here are a few tips for successful networking every time:
  1. Set a goal for yourself before you go. Maybe you want to meet 20 new people, out of which you will have at least 10 somewhat meaningful conversations, out of which maybe 5 are interesting prospects for follow-up. Just when you get stuck in the crowd and think you can’t talk to one more person, you remember your goal and keep going – one person at a time. You never know who that “one last person” will be.
  2. Have an intriguing and SHORT line that describes what you do, which includes a question for the person you are talking to. For example, as a business coach, I might say “I help executives and teams get from where they are to where they want to be. So, tell me about some of your business goals and challenges right now.” People LOVE to talk about themselves – so let them. Don’t BE them. Got it? Your goal is to be the listener as much as possible. It’s way more effective, and a lot less tiring by the end of the event.
  3. Walk the fine line. DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT try and sell people in a networking event. Your whole goal is to gather information and build relationships.
  4. Collect business cards. Do not focus on handing them out. If you are trying to build your business by sitting around waiting for people to contact you from your business card, you will be frustrated, bored, lonely and broke in no time. Collect cards, write a note on the back of each one with one important thing you talked to that person about and the location and date of the event. You think you will remember, but you probably won’t. Now YOU are in the drivers seat for following up and setting up future meetings.
  5. Have a simple system. Maybe you have a CRM. Maybe you have an email marketing program already with a mailing list. And then again, maybe you don’t. No excuses either way. Have a place where you put new business cards. It can literally be a bowl from your kitchen for now.
  6. Follow up, follow up, follow up! Within 24-48 hours after an event, send each person a personalized, yet short, email stating something important they talked about during your conversation with them (refer to your notes on the back of their card). Make and offer to get together for coffee or a phone call to learn more about them and their business.

Top 5 Mistakes Every Small Business Solopreneur Makes

Decided to go out on your own, eh? Ready to offer the world your unique gifts in your own unique way?
Choose a name for your business, make a quick website, print some business cards, start a blog and ta-da – you are officially an entrepreneur. Now what? (Crickets chirping, perhaps?) It’s hard to believe, but sending out an email to everyone you know is NOT going to get you business. Neither is handing out business cards or making the perfect website.
Here are 5 Mistakes to Learn From when launching your new small business:
  1. Spending all your time building your systems and technology and never going out to actually meet prospective clients. You can’t just sit at home and organize your desk and make promotional brochures and send emails asking people to give you business. You actually have to go meet people. Successful networking is critical in the beginning of any new business
  2. Talking only about your business and yourself – with friends and family, at networking events, etc. Starting a business can become a Universe unto itself, but the rest of the world lives outside of that Universe. Speak in human terms from time to time. Here’s a little help – sports, music, weather, a basic “How Are You?” – these are all “human terms” up for use if you catch my drift.
  3. Trying to appeal to everyone. It’s OK. There are actually plenty of people in the world who need what you have to offer. Don’t mess that up by trying to appeal and sell your services or products to every Tom, Dick and Jane. Be picky. Be “On-Purpose.” Be really good at what you do and know who you do your best work with. Saying YES to everyone – NOT a good strategy.
  4. Not recovering from setbacks. You will probably hear a lot of “No’s” when you first get started. This can be crushing to the eager solopreneur. Surround yourself with great people (family, friends, networking groups, a business coach), keep your core purpose in mind at all times, and for the sake of your sanity and survival, please find meaningful ways to celebrate your successes! This will change everything!
  5. Spending all your time working. Yes, there is a lot to do when you start your own business. And one of the reasons you probably did it was to have more time and satisfaction in your life. REMEMBER that. Write that down. Read it everyday. Repeat after me “I promise to sleep, eat regular meals and get outside for some kind of social interaction and exercise on a regular basis. I love my friends. I love my family. I love myself. And therefore I promise to do these things.” Work:Life Balance is a vital skill in your own business.

Initiating Change: Do I Have To?

We’ve all had that feeling. You know the one. “OK, this is IT! I’m never going to ______________________ ever again!” (fill in the blank: drink, smoke, overeat, miss a deadline, be judgmental)

Or, “I’m going to start ______________________ everyday!” (fill in the blank: walking, reading, learning a new skill at work, appreciating my employees, meditating)

You have a big smile right now, don’t you?

Of course you do. I do.

It’s not usually a lack of will power. It’s not normally a lack of desire or know-how to change. Often times we set ourselves up for failure simply by missing the essence of what’s really important to us inside the desired change. And then adding on top of that unrealistic expectations.

So, what’s inside the desired change for you? If you want to start exercising, for example, have you asked yourself why? “Why do I want this for myself?”

If the desired change is coming from a place of fear, rejection, self-hatred or anger, chances are results will vary, to put it mildly. If you say, “I don’t want to be fat,” all of your energy is focused on what you don’t want. If I tell you NOT to think of elephants right now, what did you just think about? See how that works?

Instead, let’s think of a better “purpose” for your change. Like maybe, “I want to exercise because I enjoy feeling my body and I love feeling energized and happy.” Or, “I want to exercise because I love being healthy for my family.” See how those statements are filled with more inherent enthusiasm.

I often play with the “food and willpower” issue by thinking about what will make me happier. I think about how I will feel after I eat something. Which choice shows more LOVE towards my body? And don’t get this wrong. Sometimes the absolute right answer WILL be “I want to eat ice cream with my friends!” Ben Franklin says, “What one relishes nourishes.” Relish in good decisions – in a moment-by-moment basis. And remember your purpose.

The other piece of initiating change is thinking SMALL. What ONE thing can you do today to support your desired change?

Maybe you say, “I’m going to exercise 1 day this week. Then next week, I will do 2 days. Then the next week I will do 3 days.” By the end of the month, you are exercising 4 days a week. Not bad, eh?

This is almost always a more successful approach then trying to exercise 4 days in the first week, burning out and quitting.

Think “One Small Step.” And “My purpose is to ______________________.” (fill in the blank: feel more energy, be super healthy for my family, love myself)

And remember this when you get stuck and feel like “one small step” just ain’t enough. A rocket ship that changes it’s course by ONE degree will slowly change its trajectory and end up in a completely different place on the planet in 1, 2, 5 years from now. One degree might not seem like much on the first day, but it will sure change the landscape of where you land.

Decision Making Overload: Pause, Breathe, Listen

“I just can’t wait to not have to make decisions for a few weeks!”

Sound familiar? Or desirable?

I remember a former manager of mine, who I loved and respected very much, saying this on her way out to an extended 3-week vacation. And I remember thinking, “THAT’S what you’re looking forward to? Not drinks on the beach or sleeping late or eating really great food?” Hmmmm . . .

That was before I held a leadership role.

Leadership has its challenges and rewards, but the constant pressure to make decision after decision after good decision can wear down even the best of us. From the minutia of office supplies and relationship issues amongst your team, to the critical choices of technology systems, innovation, vision and stakeholder satisfaction, decision-making can become a dense blur of burden.

So, how do we hold it together and keep our “heads in the game” and keep our teams moving forward?

I like to call my technique “creating space for the magic.”

Decision-making skill is a recipe that includes equal parts of training, education, experience, gut, trust and instinct. Training, education and experience are tangible. Visible. Measurable. Definable and comfortable.

Gut, trust and instinct are . . . none of those things! They require practice, finesse, dare I say intuition. They demand confidence. They beg for space to become real. So how the heck do you work on that?

Simple. Start small.

Give yourself a few extra minutes to get dressed tomorrow morning. Before you just go grab the blue shirt and black pants . . .pause . . . take a deep breath. Close your eyes.

Stick with me here.

Now, ask your gut, your instinct, your intuition, “What color shirt should I wear today?” Pause. Breathe. Listen. Laugh. Think to yourself, “This is ridiculous.” It’s all good. Keep going!

Throughout your day, practice pausing. What kind of tea should I have for my mid-morning break? What kind of salad should I bring home for dinner? Which route should I take home?

This is what “getting in touch with your gut” looks like. You can actually practice and develop it. Sweet, right? And it’s fun. And it will help you be a better leader.

The trick is to start with things that don’t have a big risk involved or a big emotional charge. Practice creating space for simple things like shirts and salads, and then when a real challenge lands on your desk at work, create space for the magic. Pause, breathe, listen. You will find that your decision-making muscle will get stronger and stronger over time and it won’t be so exhausting.

And then you can go on vacation and enjoy the simple things again. Eat, drink, sleep and be happy!

Meeting Makeover

It’s 1:55pm. There’s a 2pm meeting at work. Maybe you are running it? Maybe you are  dreading it?

Why do most meetings fail miserably and impart a sense of doom? And why, oh why, do we have so many of them?

Most people hate meetings because most meetings are run very poorly. How do you know if this is you? Consider these 4 things:

  1. Are people sharing and communicating openly, or are you doing all the talking?
  2. Do things actually get accomplished during and after your meetings, or is there a general sense of “I know nothing is going to happen after this meeting, so I might as well tune out?”
  3. Do people bring meals and large cups of coffee to your meetings because they know the meeting is going to last FOREVER?
  4. Do people frequently skip or conveniently miss a lot of meetings?

If you answered “yes” to any of these, not to worry! Here are a few tips to get you and your team on a better track.

One thing most leaders miss when they schedule a meeting is knowing what the purpose of the meeting is. What do you REALLY need to accomplish? When you think about the hourly rate of everyone in the room and the cost of that 30, 60 or 90 minute gathering, it might behoove you to take a closer look at various types of meetings and your desired outcomes.

Three of the most common types of meetings are:

  • Meetings to build relationships
  • Meetings to coordinate action
  • Meetings for innovation

The desired outcomes of a relationship meeting might include celebrating a particular success on the team or within the company. Another outcome might be for everyone to get to know one another better and build trust. Relationship meetings are extremely useful and vital for building effective teams and always include some activities and sharing. They are more informal and don’t typically require notes or minutes.

Meetings for coordinating action are much more formal and, much to your delight, can often times end efficiently and effectively in a relatively short amount of time. Take some time ahead of your meeting to map out 2-3 desired outcomes, and designate someone to take notes and capture commitments. At the end of your meeting, make sure everyone is clear on their commitments and timeframes and you are done! No muss, no fuss. People will learn to enjoy drinking their coffee on their own time, rather than in your long, boring meeting.

Finally, you have meetings for innovation. Maybe it’s time to reinvent a product line or shake up your customer service standards. These meetings are super fun and engaging and the least formal of all three types of meetings outlined here. The key to successful innovation meetings is creating a completely safe environment where all ideas are heard and captured and NOTHING gets left behind. Every thought/idea/concept that everyone shares is captured for consideration. It’s helpful to have toys, music and food for these types of meetings – and flip charts are paramount. Leadership commits to next steps, open communication and clear deadlines to start implementing action.

Put an end, once and for all, to dull, meaningless meetings with your team. The results will speak for themselves. People will be more engaged and you will feel less dread over planning and running them. A win:win in our book.