Ideas

Return on your Networking Investment

12 Aug
by Bridget DiCello

If you’re faced with an extremely busy schedule and increased demands in a challenging economy – you cannot spend a lot of time networking unless you get a good return on investment. Yet you find it necessary to get out and meet new people, connect and enhance relationships with current contacts and referral sources, and be out and be seen. You may not enjoy the typical “networking event,” because it doesn’t produce enough results to make the expense, time and discomfort of being around a bunch of people you don’t know, worth it.

From my experience, key activities that make it worth it your time and effort to attend an event:
• Decide what you need to achieve to make it worth attending events. Do you plan to make new contacts? If you do, do you know who specifically you’d like to meet or can you describe your target prospect? Do you wish to build relationships with current contacts or prospects by going where they go? Do you wish to achieve general visibility in larger crowds of professionals?
• Plan your month. Act purposefully. As much as possible, evaluate the events that are coming up in the next month and decide the best use of your time. Seeing some of the same people at events gives you an opportunity to deepen the relationships, but seeing them three times in the same month devalues that benefit. Plan to attend a variety of events to achieve your most important goals and stick within your budget.
• Invite people to attend with you. If they can’t go, the invitation itself is a meaningful contact and builds that relationship. If they can go, they will appreciate the opportunity, especially if it is an event of which they were not aware. It’s an opportunity to spend some time with the person you invite and introduce them to others.
• Show up early and act as a host. Stand near the door and welcome people. You can help them to feel comfortable, and have an easy conversation opener as they walk in the door.
• Move from conversation to conversation. Typically, making multiple contacts at an event will make it more worth your time. Spend 15 minutes talking to one very solid contact if that makes sense at the time, but reserve deeper conversations for a follow up meeting where they are often a better fit.
• Connect two people you know to one another. And vice versa, ask someone you know to introduce you to a contact they know and you would like to meet.
• Follow up with important contacts. I have long since stopped following up with everyone I meet. I know that some conventional networking wisdom will tell you to connect with a lot of people, not knowing who could help you/who you could help some day. Personally, I look at the return on investment of my time, am clear with where my beneficial connections will most likely lie, and spend my time there.

How about you? How do you ensure a profitable return on investment of your networking, time, energy and money?

Learn from Leaders who Fail as well as from Leaders who Succeed

04 Aug
by Bridget DiCello

If you wish to become a more effective leader within your organization, it makes a lot of sense to study great leaders, read what they write and what others write about them and talk to them if you can get the opportunity.

However, it also makes sense to study and talk to the leaders who have tried and failed, and to successful leaders about their failures.  It’s powerful to learn from mistakes others make, especially from those who have been in positions of leadership, stressful situations and under great pressure.

Ask them to share with you not only what not to do and but learn also what to do instead.  It’s very difficult for anyone to focus only on what not to do.  It’s important you gain from these leaders what they would do again if they had the chance to do it over again – hindsight is a powerful 20-20 view.

David Burkus has a great story on his blog about the power of studying failure – by looking at the bullet holes in an aircraft.

To learn from a leader’s experiences, Ask Questions.  Just because a leader’s approach was successful in their situation, their advice may be hard to apply to your world.  Dive into their decision making processes as well.  Ask how they decided to take the path they took in their particular situation to become successful in it.

A successful leader probably doesn’t realize all the good things they did, just the more obvious or those about which they are most proud.  The more questions you can ask about situations where they were successful, and the more you can get them talking, the more knowledge you can glean beyond the things they would tell you if they only summarized their lessons.

These suggestions assume that you can have a one-on-one conversation with these leaders.  That is the environment where the best lessons are learned.  Because most of us cannot call Bill Gates and make a lunch date, you need to think of the leaders you know and ask for a bit of their time.  If you are prepared with intelligent questions, that you send them prior to the meeting, many leaders will be happy to share their insights and wisdom.

What insights have you learned from your failures?

Time Consuming Conversations – Time Wasters or Absolute Best Use of Your Time?

21 Jun
by Bridget DiCello

One of the biggest time wasters in your business day is time spent talking with other people!

AND

One of the absolute best uses of your work time is productive conversations with people important to your success!

Where is the difference?  Working productively with the right group of people is the key to multiplying success.  However, people are social creatures, who often fear something new, who wish to preserve their self-image and self-confidence, and don’t always get to the point in a conversation.  Therefore, if you wish for your ‘people time’ to be productive, it must be done purposefully.

Schedule appointments to talk.  If you plan to meet with another person and have a conversation, do it purposefully.  If you just ‘stop by’ their office or give them a call without a plan, you may end up wasting both of your time.  And they may do the same with you.

Set expectations ahead of time.  If you need to talk to them, plan a time and day and have an “agenda.”  Set a time and day on your calendars, even 15 minutes from now, to give each person time to “have their first reaction” and to prepare for the meeting.  Have the conversation ahead of time:  “When we speak, I will… and you will.. in order to accomplish [goal, task or decision].”  This works both up and down the chain of command.

For example, “I’d like to talk to you about the production logs.  How about Tuesday at 1pm for 30 minutes?  Before then, I will review the log for my areas of concern.  And you could review the log compared to last month’s as well as looking for overall opportunities for improvement.  When we sit down, we’ll go though the last two months, each sharing our observations.  Does that work for you?”  Make sure you get their commitment to the agenda you suggested.  If they don’t agree, edit or change it so that you can both prepare appropriately and not end up arguing about the agenda during the meeting.

If someone comes to you and wants to talk right then, tell them you are right in the middle of something, would like to be able to give them your full concentration and are wondering if you could come see them in 20 minutes.  Then, ascertain from them what it is they need from you when you come see them.  This asks them to think through the results they desire (which they may really not have done yet), and allows you to prepare as well, saving you both time and potential frustration.

Get very good at asking questions.   In these situations, you want to remain in control, specifically of making sure something productive comes out of the conversation.  Gladly take that responsibility.  In order to do that you need to ask questions from the standpoint of genuine curiosity to see where they are coming from and how that relates to what you are trying to accomplish.  With the information you gather, you can then notice excuses, frustrations in the form of roadblocks, and cries for attention that can get in the way of productive discussion.

When you talk, you share information.  You rarely can change anyone’s mind by talking.  By asking curious questions, you get the other person talking.  When they talk, you hear how they are really thinking.  When they talk, you can prompt them to consider your point of view.  Help them to get to a conclusion, considering what you value.  When they talk is when they think through things and may change their mind as a result.

It’s up to you to work to understand the other person.  The difficulty with having a conversation is that it is with a person – who has their own feelings, experiences, biases, expectations, etc.  The first thing they say is rarely the whole picture – as it is for you.  Ask your questions.  Give them time.

Schedule a follow up conversation if important to them or to you.  Set a time and date and the agenda for that conversation as well.

New Beginnings

12 May
by Bridget DiCello

I guess it’s only natural to start thinking about new beginnings in business when one has a baby!  Typically, I see business owners and managers fall somewhere in between constant newness and staleness in their business.

Are you the type of owner or manager who needs newness just for the sake of newness?  Are you trying new ideas, strategies and processes because they are exciting but don’t check if they are needed?  If you are, you might spend unnecessary dollars, experience limited return on your investment and use a lot of employee energy for limited success.

Or are you the type of owner or manager who believes that if it isn’t broke, we should not spend our time trying to fix it? If you are, your processes, systems and strategies may get a bit stale and work, but fall short of their potential.

Is there a happy medium? I think there is and it is found in the answers to these two questions:

1.       What is it that we are trying to achieve?  What does our vision of a successful company look like?  What do we want to be known for?  How do we want to do business (our values)?

2.      What do our metrics tell us about how well we are achieving our desired vision, results and values with how we currently do things?

Any exciting new idea should be tested with, “What do we hope to achieve with this change?” and “What is the probability that the benefits will occur?” and “What resources will be needed to test and implement this new idea?”  In other words, what are the good reasons to implement this change, and how do they weigh against the costs and probability of success?

Every process, especially when there is a problem or issue, should be met with, “Do we need to revisit this process overall?” and “What do our metrics tell us about how well we are doing?” and “When’s the last time we looked critically at how we run this process?”  If the issue is an anomaly, there is no reason to spend time analyzing the whole process, but if the issue is in fact a warning sign of a larger problem, it is time to revisit the process before it crashes.

What is something new and exciting that you decided to implement?  How did you make the decision to put energy in that area?  Do you have a process that needs to be revamped that you are avoiding?