What Networking is Teaching Me

Those that know me know that I enjoy connecting with others whether it is over coffee, a meal, or a chance meeting. I’ve been blessed to have had some quality networking meetings the past few weeks. In reflecting back on the people and these meetings, I’ve learned a few things:

  • People are generous with their time. That is so true of my community. I know the other person is sharing valuable time with me, so I invest some time before meeting preparing. I write out questions that I have for this person so I can get to know them better and learn about their journey thus far. I want to honor their time commitment with me by making the most of our time.
  • People have struggles just as I do. I have heard stories of jobs not going well and stories of heartache when someone has been fired. Listening and empathizing is a way to connect and encourage others. And they can do this for you, too.
  • People are passionate. I love seeing and hearing how the other person has found their niche and are running hard in that direction. I love hearing how they are impacting their world. I love hearing what they have learned along the way.
  • People share resources. I have learned that there can be a fair exchange of ideas and further connections that will benefit us both. I have heard about new books to explore, places to visit, and people to meet.

If you have yet to try something like this, give it a try. Who can you reach out to?

  • A senior manager at your workplace
  • An admired community leader
  • A business owner in your city

When you land the appointment and have the meeting, end by asking if they could connect you to someone who you can continue this networking time with. I don’t believe I’ve ever had anyone refuse to do this.

Give this a try and see what you’ll learn from networking. Meet someone new. Learn something new.

Coffee shop two business men Stock Photos - Page 1 : Masterfile

Connecting to Customers

Entrepreneurs on Fire with John Lee Dumas | Daily Business Podcast  Interviews

Earlier this morning, I was listening to John Lee Dumas’s podcast, Entrepreneurs on Fire. Do you know this one?

JLD offers up a new podcast EVERY SINGLE DAY where he interviews entrepreneurs around the world. And he’s been doing this for years!

The episode I listened to this morning featured Jeffrey Madoff. According to the podcast bio on Jeffrey, his “careers span fashion design, film production, teaching, author, and playwright. His book, Creative Careers, was an Amazon bestseller.”

This is a great conversation to listen to if you are in the business of attracting customers, retaining customers, and/or bringing ideas and innovation to market. What follows are some questions I heard on the podcast that I am asking myself as well as asking you as we grow our businesses.

When it comes to ideas that we are working with…

Are our customers (and potential customers) in love with your idea?

  • How can you “test” your idea with customers before a grand rollout?
  • How is the love you feel for your idea stuck in the vacuum of limited perspective exposure?

How can we innovate and bring ideas to the market that will make an impact? Here are some things that came up in this podcast:

Be sure your ideas are serving the interests of your customer/potential customer. Are you trying to sell your service/product from the perspective of your customer? Are you speaking their language during the promotion of your innovative idea?

Understand the customer’s needs/wants. Here is a point that Jeffrey made: how are we making ourselves necessary to our customers? You may sell them on an initial, gateway idea that gets them in your door. But how are you retaining this customer? How are you adding value beyond this initial offering? How are you making your company necessary so the customer is not tempted to look elsewhere for similar services?

Constantly build relationship bridges to your customer. Following up and following through with your customers will build loyalty. We all know that people buy from people they know and like. Building relationships goes far beyond the sale. This is the place where you truly understand what your customer wants and needs and then delivering on that. This is the place where your ideas can be tweaked to better serve your customers. This is the place where you can build a cadence of partnership, trust, and relevancy.

Take 24 minutes and listen to this podcast. You can find John’s podcast everywhere. You can also find it here: Jeffrey Madoff interview by John Lee Dumas.

Employee Engagement

How engaged are the employees at your organization?  In a Gallup survey for 2020, this is what they discovered:

Source:  https://www.gallup.com/workplace/313313/historic-drop-employee-engagement-follows-record-rise.aspx

This article makes great points.  From my experience and from talking with other leaders, employee engagement can be improved in multiple ways. 

Communication

Many surveys point to effective communication within organizations is lacking.  Top level leaders make decisions.  The expectation is that the next level down leaders will receive this communication and then share it down the line.  But that assumption is just that – an assumption.  Many times, the message is not shared with all employees.  Then a change takes place (that was to have been communicated) and the team at large ends up confused and frustrated.

Employees want to be in the know.  Communication helps connect employees to the mission.  And when that happens, engagement is more likely to happen. 

Training

Employees desire to be competent in their jobs.  Training and ongoing refresher training will help engage employees by giving them what they need – tools to do their jobs professionally and effectively.  Training should produce results to the company’s bottom line.

Training needs to be relevant.  Trainers, especially those outside of your department, need to know the current issues your team faces enabling training to become meaningful.  Trainers can and should partner with management to ensure job performance goals are in line with the training provided. Training is not an isolated event.  Training must lead to improved results.  Trainers train.  Managers measure the effectiveness of that training by observing their team executing what they learned.  Feedback should be sought out by the trainers and the managers should be providing relevant observations to make sure that the proper results are happening. 

Voice of the Employee

Employee engagement can rise when the team is given an opportunity to provide their voice within projects and company-wide initiatives. Ask for this.  Expect it.  Set the expectations on how their voices will be used.  The team can have a voice in a process even though the “vote” will be made by organization higher level leaders. 

Is a new vendor being vetted?  Involve key stakeholders in the process.  Allow them to “kick the tires”, ask questions, reach out to get references, sit in on RFP presentations.  Allow them to submit their feedback.  Then the C-suite execs can make a more informed decision.  And the team will know their voice was heard creating more engagement.

It is not realistic to think your organization will see 100% in employee engagement.  But how would your company function if you moved the engagement level from 30% to closer to 50%?   That exponential engagement will see new ideas, project involvement, diverse points of view all come to fruition.  Is there a downside to that? 

Taking a Moment to Connect

I am working near one of my groups this week. About 30 minutes ago, one of our newest team members walked up and asked if he could chat. He wanted to tell me what he was learning from a book I bought for him a month ago. He also asked what activities I had been involved with recently. I shared with him my experiences with our local Chamber of Commerce annual meeting as well as the leadership networking group I co-founded with my brother (www.firstfridaysfw.org). We talked of attending events together to get some networking experience under his belt.

Just a few moments, I was reminded of the power of staying close to your teams. I currently work in another building or at home most of the time. But this brief encounter reminded me how much touch points such as this one charges my batteries. Question: what do you do to connect with your teams?

Where Ideas Come From

Back in February, I challenged one of my teams with an initiative. I required each of them to share 1 idea or 1 area of improvement within our department and/or company. I created a OneNote folder where they would share these things every week. They had to include their name for accountability purposes.

Some took to the challenge immediately and some really great things are in motion today to bring their ideas to life. Some thought they really didn’t have any ideas. But through our 1-on-1 sessions when I got them thinking and talking, ideas flowed.

“But that’s a pretty small thing,” one team member told me after sharing an idea. And I reminded them I wasn’t looking for a cure for cancer. Just simple ideas that would help create less friction or would help others understand a necessary process better or that would create a better customer experience is what we were looking for. Small steps in the right direction compound to have a significant impact in the long run.

Do you know that your team has more to contribute? Do you know they have experiences that are extremely valuable and can be leveraged? Do you believe that ideas should come from all areas of your organization, not just the executive levels?

Give your team a challenge, encourage their participation, and watch them grow. You will see collaboration. You will see people stretching beyond their comfort zone. You will hear some pretty great ideas that you’ve never considered before.

And your team member, you, and your organization will become better as a result.

How to help a New Team Member | Team quotes, Business quotes, Leadership  quote

Your Mindset Change Can Improve Company Culture

This morning, I started reading a new book, Soundtracks by Jon Acuff. I have been studying how the brain works and how we act/react according to how we think. This book will be providing more insights into that area.

One quote caught my eye today.

“I imagine that everyone I work with is a business partner that I’m trying to help grow. I have 350 partners.”

Every day whether in person or working remotely, we interact with coworkers. Most of the time, these interactions go smoothly. Other times…not so much.

Acuff is pointing out in his book that our brains work off of existing “recordings”, thoughts that we believe (whether they are true or not) and then we act on them. Soundtracks is about replacing old “recordings” with new ones. Doing this brings meaning back to our encounters. It inspires us to move forward looking at life with a fresh perspective.

So today, as you log on in your home office or as you enter your office building (maybe for the first time in a year!), imagine that everyone you work with is a business partner that you are trying to help grow. If you get asked the same question multiple times a day, there is an opportunity to help your business partners grow. If you get caught up in an email string that takes a harsh turn, don’t respond with another email. Pick up the phone. Send out a Skype/Zoom invite. Walk to their desk if you are both onsite. And talk. Listen. Ask questions. Find ways to help them (and you) grow.

Break out of old patterns. Change the “recordings” of old soundtracks and replace them with better ones. You can do this. You can rewire your thinking. It is possible.

The End of Stress: Four Steps to Rewire Your Brain | Emotional intelligence  quotes, Stress, End of year quotes