Archive for the ‘Networking’ Category

A Decision I Made 38 Yrs. Ago

April 12th, 2017

 

38 years ago, I decided to start my own business because I knew working for someone else didn’t feel right for me. I am too independent and at times don’t play well with others. More importantly, the inhumanity of some workplaces struck me when working with different companies. Working in sterile environments, shouldn’t mean having to be sterile, ourselves. Business consulting seemed to be a way for me to help people work better together and maximize their potential.

The person to inspire me to work for myself was my Aunt Yvonne. She had chronic arthritis. She was confined to a wheel chair. Yet, wrote a column for the local newspaper, sold cosmetics and Christmas cards all from her wheelchair. She inspired me to work independently. As a child, I sold cards at Christmas time with her.

I was nervous about starting my own business because I lacked money, a PhD and had yet to write a book. In my first year, I sought out the advice of a retired executive to help me. He was 80 years old. His approach annoyed the hell out of me because he kept asking “why?” Well, my answer was because I said so. My shallow response wasn’t satisfactory to him and he forced me to think about how our customers can benefit from our services.

 

So, I asked myself how selling Christmas cards as a teenager helped my then customers? The answer:– I made it easy for them, they didn’t have to sign their names and write their addresses on the envelops. It was printed.  Aha! That was my signature; make it easy for my customers!

My father was my role model for owning a business. My dad supported my family with Alwon Electric Co. He, like me, was just a good technician who worked for himself. He always had a small team helping him. He showed me, by example, how important it is to treat employees like peers and friends. His customers were loyal to him because he cared about them as people, not just as clients.

On the first stages of building my business I struggled because I didn’t know what I was selling and didn’t have confidence in my abilities. Yes, I could sell cards as a kid. But now I had to sell more complex and expensive products.

I wanted to quit when people weren’t buying. My biggest mistake was trying to sell to the wrong person–the gatekeepers: Personnel (these were the people who ran HR in the past). They listened, got excited and challenged me. Yet, no one bought anything! I had the wrong buyer and I didn’t know how to sell. What a horrible and depressing combination that was for me.

What motivated me was simple…I did not want to fail. Down deep, like my Aunt Yvonne, I knew that to succeed I had to have relationships. All I needed was a few solid business friends and things could take off. Not having kids or a husband to support made this easier for me. My Aunt Yvonne kept a happy face and remained persistent despite overwhelming obstacles. My dad built his business while supporting my mom, my siblings, and me.

I knew we could do good with the great leadership training and assessment programs we offered. So, my partners and I kept at it. With persistence, I began to find the right buyers. I prioritized getting in front of people who had the authority and budget to invest in their teams. These leaders (managers and business owners) also wanted someone they could confide in, a mediator to help with people problems, a coach who could help motivate and energize their staff. Yes, they wanted a consultant… like me. Business owners, as they’ve always been, were busy with building or selling and didn’t have time for the softer part of business. They liked our style. It worked!

For those wanting to start a business, I’d suggest you find your personal style, be persistent and genuine with those you work. My guess is that what you start out with may not be what you end up doing. If you listen to your customers, then you will find that as the market, technology and times change, so should you.

I watched my Aunt work on her phone from her wheelchair. She could hardly hold the phone, yet she spent many hours talking with people and building relationships that lasted a lifetime. And they bought from their friend Yvonne.

Without relationships, your sales are only transactional. With solid relationships, your impact can be transformational.

What Great Listening Really Means

September 8th, 2016

About 30 years ago, a manager of a manufacturing plant chastised me.  He said, “All you are doing is repeating what I said!” My intention was to make sure I understood. Yet, I was humiliated.   It hurt because it made me doubt my listening skills. From that moment on, I chose to engage clients further. I now do more than just listen and repeat. Exploring, questioning, sharing and building on their statements are my new tools.

For years we have been teaching and practicing active listening. In a recent Harvard Business Review article entitled What Great Listeners Actually Do, authors Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman share results of a new study and point out there is a lot more to it than just nodding and summarizing. These thoughts resonate with some of my own gut feelings about great listening.

newsletter-photo-of-dog-listening

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below are their excellent tips on what great listening means:

1. Good listening is much more than being silent while the other person talks.
To the contrary, people perceive the best listeners to be those who periodically ask questions that promote discovery and insight. These questions gently challenge old assumptions, but do so in a constructive way. Sitting there silently nodding does not provide sure evidence that a person is listening, but asking a good question tells the speaker the listener has not only heard what was said, but that they comprehend it well enough to  want additional information. Good listening is consistently seen as a two-way dialogue, rather than a one-way “speaker versus hearer” interaction. The best conversations were active.

2. Good listening includes interactions that build a person’s self-esteem.
The best listeners make the conversation a positive experience for the other party, which doesn’t happen when the listener is passive (or, for that matter, critical!). Good listeners make the other person feel supported and conveyed confidence in them. Good listening is characterized by the creation of a safe environment in which issues and differences can be discussed openly.

3. Good listening is seen as a cooperative conversation.
In these interactions, feedback flows smoothly in both directions with neither party becoming defensive about comments the other made. By contrast, poor listeners are seen as competitive — as listening only to identify errors in reasoning or logic, using their silence as a chance to prepare their next response. That might make you an excellent debater, but it doesn’t make you a good listener. Good listeners may challenge assumptions and disagree, but the person being listened to feels the listener is trying to help, not wanting to win an argument.

4. Good listeners tend to make suggestions.

Good listening invariably includes some feedback provided in a way others would accept and that opened up alternative paths to consider. This finding somewhat surprised us, since it’s not uncommon to hear complaints that “So-and-so didn’t listen, he just jumped in and tried to solve the problem.” Perhaps what the data is telling us is that making suggestions is not itself the problem; it may be the skill with which those suggestions are made. Another possibility is that we’re more likely to accept suggestions from people we already think are good listeners. (Someone who is silent for the whole conversation and then jumps in with a suggestion may not be seen as credible. Someone who seems combative or critical and then tries to give advice may not be seen as trustworthy.)
Check out the entire article for more info!

Making A More Meaningful Connection

January 26th, 2015

There’s a work conference that I’ve been attending for over a decade now. I’ve made long-time friends and colleagues there with whom I keep in regular touch. Many of us do the same work, consulting and selling similar products, and over the years we’ve formed “master mind groups,” where we meet every month virtually to encourage each other and discuss big ideas, as well as to stay up to date on our personal lives. We’ve grown to deeply care for and trust one another.

I always find it more fun and engaging to build relationships with people who are open and willing to be a multi-dimensional resource to other business folk, as well as to their community, and who add extra value to their clients and friends in order to succeed together.

With any group or event we join, there are always a few people there who only want to mingle with those they see “value” in, while ignoring others. Or there is the infamous business card ninja, who throws their business card at everyone around them.  That is no way to truly connect with people.

That’s why a Forbes article on forging real connections struck me. Below are their valuable tips.
Regardless of status or fame, people are people. And the 7 pillars of making a connection with another person are always the same.

  1. Be genuine. The only connections that work will be the ones that you truly care about; the world will see through anything short of that. If you don’t have a genuine interest in the person with whom you’re trying to connect, then stop trying.
  2. Provide massive help. Even the biggest and most powerful people in the world have something they’d like help with. Too many people never reach out to those above them due to the fear that they wouldn’t be able to offer anything in return. But you have more to offer than you realize: write an article or blog post about them, share their project with your community, offer to spread their message through a video interview with them. Give real thought to who you could connect them with to benefit their goals. If it turns out you can’t be that helpful, the gesture alone will stand out.
  3. Pay ridiculous attention. It’s nearly impossible to genuinely offer help if you don’t pay attention — I mean real attention, not just to what business they started or what sport they like! Do your research by reading blog posts, books and articles about the connection beforehand. Learn about their backgrounds and passions. Invest genuine time in learning what really matters to them and how you can help.
  4. Connect with people close to them. Most job openings are filled through networking and referrals, and making connections is no different. You automatically arrive with credibility when referred to someone you want to meet by a mutual friend. For example, I recently wanted to meet a best-selling author, and it turned out we had the same personal trainer. In reality, that fact means nothing, but in the world of social dynamics, it’s gold! Spend more time connecting with your current network of friends and colleagues and see where it leads.
  5. Persistence wins most battles. If you can’t get a direct referral, simply click send on that email or leave a message after the beep. But do not stop there, as most the world tends to. The first attempt is just the very beginning. Realize that the first try may get you nowhere, but the fifth or the tenth tries are the ones that start to yield results. An unreturned email or voicemail doesn’t mean they don’t want to connect with you. It’s your job to be persistent! I sometimes get hundreds of requests in a day from readers who want to connect, but only about 2 percent ever follow up. Don’t be in a hurry, but don’t be invisible either.
  6. Make real friends. Think about how you’ve made the friends you have. That’s all this is. You only make friends with people you genuinely want in your life. The same rule should go for bigger-name connections. Don’t over-think it. Be human, be helpful and most humans will happily be human in return, regardless of who they are.
  7. Remain unforgettable. All of the above are simple — yet sadly underused — ways of standing out. Send birthday cards. Mail your favorite book with a signed personal note from you on the inside flap. Send them your family Christmas card. Be genuinely helpful. You’d be surprised how the simplest things actually never get done. Being memorable isn’t as hard as some think!More great info on this topic! Forbes– Networking Is Not Working: The Secret to Making Meaningful Connections