Expand Your Relationship Reach by Jim Johnson

Much has been written about networking.  There appears to be a change in how people view networking today.  Let me be clear – I enjoy networking events.  My brother and I started one that has grown to 3 major cities in 2 states!  But it’s how we and those who participate in First Fridays Fort Wayne approach networking that makes the difference.

To many, networking is simply about meeting as many people as you can at an event and handing out business cards as if they were candy.  Keep it upbeat.  Keep it on the surface.  High energy.  This, in and of itself, is not bad. That approach may work.

But it doesn’t work for me.  I want to encourage you to try a new approach.

How to Expand Your Relationship Reach

  • Approach Networking Intentionally. Go to an event in order to seek out new relationships.  That may result in exchanging business cards.  Absolutely be upbeat. But make your goal to get to know someone better.  Learn who they are, what drives them, how they impact the community, what leadership looks like to them in their current circumstance.
  • Follow up & Follow through. Networking events should not become a one-and-done event.  When you seek to get to know someone more, the networking event is only the start.  After the event, follow up with an email or a LinkedIn message.  Thank the person for their time.  Thank them for sharing with you – allowing you into their world.  Then invite them to coffee, breakfast, or lunch.  Guess what?  People will talk with you when you buy them a meal!  They really will!
  • Intentionally Prepare to Add Value. When you get together over coffee or a meal, come prepared with more questions to ask.  Prior to this meeting, visit their website (personal or business).  Review their LinkedIn profile and content.  Your goal should be to have an engaging conversation that will lead to understanding the person better, understanding their business, and how you can help them connect with others, grow their business, and become better.
  • Introduce Them to Other Leaders. Learn the skill of connecting people to people.  You will help your community to become better and stronger when you become a connector of people.
  • Continue the Connection. Share content you discover with new connections.  Do this via email or on LinkedIn.  Read content they’ve shared on LinkedIn and make positive comments.  Share their content with other leaders who you know would find that information valuable.  Drop them an encouraging email or text from time to time.  Invite them to a ballgame. In other words, nurture the relationship.

The result of intentionally doing this has created so many meaningful relationships with leaders in my community.  My 13 year old son constantly tells people, “my dad knows everyone.”  That’s not true, but he recognizes that I have worked hard at building relationships, and we have talked about why I do this and why it is important.

I have found no down-side to developing relationships in my community.  My life has been blessed by the people I’ve met:

  • A seasoned leader who continues to impact emerging leaders, entrepreneurs, and a mentor to men and women who are growing their businesses. He is an author and a proud dad to 2 accomplished children.
  • A leader who has served an Indiana Governor. She has been recognized with the highest award given to a citizen of our state.  She continues to impact our community through her economic development work.
  • A leader who influences young people through the arts. His choir has been a World Champion in a competition in China.  His vision will impact at risk young people for decades to come.
  • A leader who has served 2 Secretaries of Defense in Washington, D.C. He has shared what he has learned from world-class government leaders with local leaders here giving us a perspective few have had.
  • A leader who was an award winning news anchor shared how to communicate like a pro. Her insights from her experience inspired many leaders in our area.
  • A leader who recently shared his life story with me. From a high schooler who didn’t care about much to learn some hard lessons along his journey to an effective leader today who has fiercely decided he needed to self-develop for the good of his family, his company, and his community.

So, should I go to a network event?”  YES!  There are so many events out there.  I just want to encourage you to take a different approach to networking.  Think about it…then take action.

Jere greeetingYou will not regret developing relationships.  You will become better by doing this.  You will help others become better.  And, as a result, you will help your community become better.

(photo:  my brother doing his thing.  He’s a true connector!)
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Do You See Your Team? by Jim Johnson

Do you see your team? Do you see them as people, individuals?  Do you make personal connections with them?

Or do you see them merely as a position or someone to get something done for you?  When we do this, our staff, as human beings, can feel invisible or not valued. 

If we take the time to get to know our teams as individuals who have hopes, dreams, needs, and aspirations, I believe our teams will become better teams. As we work to connect with them on a personal level, our professional connections deepen as well. They will see that you are working to add value to them not only as an employee but as a human being. And when that happens, they will be more dedicated and more willing to buy into our vision.

Years ago I had the honour to be on the USS Nimitz – a nuclear aircraft carrier in San Diego. I had the privilege of meeting Captain Mark Manzier and hear how he interacted with the 5,000 to 6,000 men and women who served with him on that ship.

Every day he would connect with the crew in different ways and in different places. One day he met a young man and asked who he was and where he lived back home. The young man told him and then explained to the captain that his wife had just had their first baby. The captain asked if the baby was a boy or girl and learned the name. 

Later the captain was in a meeting with his commanding officers. And he asked the commanding officer who was over this young man, “What recently happened in the life of this young man can you tell me about it?”  I was told by another officer that in these circumstances, the superior officer had better have a good answer for the captain.

The captain built-in accountability into his lead staff. He found value in his leadership team knowing about the personal things that we’re going on in their crew’s lives. The captain also found value in making that personal connection himself. As the captain explained it, “There will be times when we go into battle and I will call on these men and women to do things that they naturally would not want to do. At that point of decision, they need to know I have their best interest in mind and that they trust me.”

Today, make a personal connection with your team. I’m not asking you to become their best friend. But I’m asking you to personally invest in them. Do you know what their family life is like? Do you know about their kids? Their hobbies?  Their interests?

Be intentional about “seeing” your staff.