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February 2012

Why I use the N word: NETWORKING

Well intentioned people approach me and tell me that "networking" is so passe. It is an old school technique and phrase that really has not role in today's modern society. That I should be really talking about "relationship development" or "connecting" or  using social media.  And this is exactly why I have continued to use the term networking. :) Networking is a well worn word but it also still conjures up resistance. My view is we have to confront our fears and shortcomings. We are inclined to euphemisms and political correctness. We prefer to change the word instead of our behavior. So let me set the record straight, "networking" is a word that has been around a long time. And yes, its description and definition were archaic but they have evolved as well. And today, I think it is perhaps more relevant than ever before.Networking

I believe that networking has been  poorly defined and even more poorly taught and learned. In the beginning it was perceived to be a tool you would employ for a job search and to meet new people, especially to get new sales leads. You would turn on or off your networking mode based on your needs and the situation. You were a selfish hit and run driver who met people and got what you needed and moved on. Networking got a bad rep over many years and that made people, even today, cringe when they'd hear it. Like public speaking, networking was an unnatural skill that people loved to hate. However, unlike public speaking, networking felt wrong, even unethical. The underlying premise that you were going to "use" other people. Networking was really for the extroverted. It felt forced and contrived. It seemed superficial and hollow. These ideas became the dominant and mostly offensive characteristics of networking that made it easier for most people to turn their backs on it. Yes, that me-oriented networking is anchronistic and actually toxic when it comes to your career and your life. 

Since 1991, despite people's objections I decided to use the N word and re-define it. Make it more accessible, usable and actionable. Like so many things, I have learned to embrace the fear versus trying to manipulate the words or my thinking. My goal has always been to help people conquer an old foe that they have shunned and procrastinated. I wanted to help people get back on the old networking horse and see it from a different perspective. That networking was not a selfish skill but a community building skill. That networking was not a technique but a lifestyle of engaging others and learning about oneself. I can not tell you how many thousand people have told me that adopting a lifestyle of mentoring and networking to help each other is not only more beneficial, but more important, it is more doable!

A brief survey of the last 75 years shows us how networking has evolved and is evolving.

Dale Carnegie in his legendary, How to Win Friends and Influence People, he espoused the basic  principles of how to connect back in 1936!

Six Ways to Make People Like You

  1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
  2. Smile.
  3. Remember that a person's name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
  4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
  5. Talk in terms of the other person's interest.
  6. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.

Mark Granovetter's ground breaking research in the 70's showed conclusively that "weak social ties", people we know but not well, provide us with more opportunities and new perspectives than our strong and close ties. In other words, we have to break out of our enclaves of comfortable and familiar connections and make and strengthen new ties.

Fast forward to 2000 in The Tipping Point where Malcolm Gladwell introduces people who are Connectors. Connectors are people who know a lot of people ( we all do) and they connect others to one another. They are the hubs of the networks.

2003 and 2004, Linkedin and FB were respectively launched and changed the sheer quantity of people we are connected to---strong and weak ties. But they create more opportunities than networks.

Whatever you call it networking is an essential skill to engage people around you to strengthen a mutually beneficial community. Each of us has a network. And we network. Relationships from work, life and family. The question is, are you actively connecting to others and people in your network to one another? Do you do it without an expectation? Are you strengthening your weak ties? Are you a connector or aspire to be one? Is your networking skill evolving or is it stuck in the past? Call it what you like just don't let the word interfere with your inner desire to help others and yourself.

Thanks for reading. John

 


Linside Us All

The Jeremy Lin story is literally omnipresent. If you have to be on another planet or dead to be missing this compelling saga about the Asian-American basketball phenom who graduated from Harvard, was overlooked by 12 teams and who has recently emerged as the star point guard for the NY Knicks. His Cinderella story of benchwarmer and couch surfer to superstar is an American story about hard work and determination--it is a story about all of us. The confluence of potential, passion, mentoring and opportunity shows us what is Linside us all. Jeremy lin

First of all, our collective bias about what a successful person looks like in a particular field can not be underestimated. All of us harbor stereotypes and prejudice that limit who we hire and admire. Even in the NBA, which has undergone a tremendous multi-cultural makeover largely due to the influx of international players. And remember when Tiger broke thru the elite ranks of the PGA...... The point is we still count "firsts" and marvel at people who shatter our assumptions.

Seems like we have forgotten that the first NON-WHITE player in the NBA was Asian-American, Wat Misaka. Ironically he was recruited in 1947 by the NY Kicks, a full three years before any African-Americans occupied an NBA roster. We have to remember the pioneer shoulders on which we all stand.Misaka

The news is rife with college and NBA scouts and coaches shaking their heads and apologizing for missing Lin in their recruitment. However, according to his HS coach Peter Diepenbrock, Jeremy is a totally different player today, more muscular, better shooter and quicker. Duke's Coach Krzyzewski saw Jeremy play and says he is a late bloomer, whose talent has developed in the last few years.

Coach Diepenbrock also now says that Jeremy's race and looks did hurt his recruitment. Coaches did not give him their full attention because he is Asian. Often we are blind to talent, potential, and opportunity because it does not exist in a form we expect. And we miss it.

Reminds me of the legendary story about Willie Mays, who was the top rated prospect by the Red Sox scouts passed over by the Red Sox General Manger Joe Cronin. Cronin allegedly said, "...not a Red Sox type." And the Red Sox were the last team to integrate.

Asian Pacific Americans (APAs) are frequently overlooked for promotions, Board seats, and executive suites. For more than 15 years there have been more Asian American graduates of the top American colleges than Latino and African American graduates combined. APAs have also received more graduate degrees. And yet APAs are woefully under represented in the corporate Board rooms (402 0f the Fortune 500 do not have an Asian board member), the C suites, and the executive management ranks. APAs are overlooked everyday. Because of how they look and the cultural ignorance of those making the decisions.  Even though 60% of the planet is Asian, APAs are still "exotic" and "inscrutable" to most Americans. If you are not on the coasts and/or graduated from college, you probably have had little contact with APAs. You rely on your instincts and what your parents told you. In other words, APAs are still foreigners.

But given the numbers of APAs in the pipeline these results must and will change.

There is a bamboo ceiling built by those who stereotype all APAs and thereby limit their growth , development and promotion AND the APAs who never pursue their true potential to lead and develop their own talent.

Last week, I spoke to a group and a man came up to me and gave me a "compliment." "Never heard an Asian speak as well as you. Excellent presentation. Thanks." I know what he meant. The surprise that an Asian spoke English well just underlines my point. It is something I have encountered my whole life.

ESPN news bloggers are fired and reprimanded for using ethnic slurs about Lin in the last few days. There have been numerous racist and discriminatory slurs used by the media in reference to Linsanity. One step forward two steps back. Would this be tolerated by the Black or Latino communities?

Despite all of our awkwardness about this new Asian name and face in the news, Lin is inspiring people around the world. Young and old are celebrating his performances, his humility, his hard work, and his Christian faith. Asian kids are captivated by a heroic and celebrated face that looks like theirs. Yes, some of them will dream of NBA careers, but most will dream bigger dreams.

The power of a role model changes lives. One person can trigger mass mentoring.

Jeremy Lin never gave up his dream. He continued to develop his talent, improve his skills and prepare for his opportunity. He had to fight off all of the doubters. The potential within us is most often stunted when we lose the battle with our own doubt. We all know people with incredible natural gifts, who take them for granted and others who give up on their passions. The other side of talent and potential is a curse if it is never realized.

But Lin did not do this alone. His parents encouraged his basketball and non-traditional paths. His Coach Mike D'Antoni believes in him and gave him the shot. You need a network of support and mentoring to get your chance. Who your boss/mentor/sponsor/coach is always matters.

We need people's dreams. To unshackle the restraints imposed on ourselves and on others that are not our type.

We are surrounded by Jeremy Lins everyday. They are kids, colleagues, neighbors, and fellow citizens. How do we see the potential in everyone regardless of our biases on how they look?

Thanks for reading. John


Your two-sided career mouth

It is hard to understand what people mean--when they say conflicting things.

I want to go to grad school, or travel, but we don't get off the couch.

I want to win the lottery but never buy tickets

I want more but I don't want to do more

I want to meet my soul mate but don't want to meet anyone

I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.  Robert McCloskeyTwo mes

I meet a lot of people who confess things to me about their careers. And in that moment of honesty they say confusing things. Things that come from different sides of their mouths. I get to know in that instant the doubter and the doer, the courageous and the cowardly, the fearless and the fearful.

What I want to be and what I really want to be

What I hope to be and what I have to be

What I tell my parents and what I tell myself

Love people but not personnel

Enjoy selling but not sales

Value diversity, but no amongst my friends

Like change (read variety) but not change management

Love risk but want a guaranteed salary and retirement

Want new experiences but only the ones I choose

March Hare: …Then you should say what you mean.
Alice: I do; at least - at least I mean what I say -- that's the same thing, you know.
Hatter: Not the same thing a bit!

Pick your storyline and stick to it. Your story is all you got. Who you are and where you are going. Impossible to get help from anyone or make connections when your storyline is untold, inconsistent, or worse, conflicting.

Why do we take jobs we don't want, to impress people we don't like, to buy things we don't want? Deepak Chopra

Because we get distracted and settle for what looks good, or what others tell us or what just happens. Because we are NOT pursuing what WE want.

Time is meaningless to those who say things they don't mean. And in the meantime, time marches on and as Les Brown says, ..You fall behind in your bills and your dreams.....

We look to find our lives by exploring the new. We look for inspiration from other people's lives. Yet our inspiration is within us.

This is where mentoring and self reflection can be transformational. Making sure you know your story by telling it to yourself and to others you trust. To get feedback and direction.

We are creatures of habit who have thoughts and goals that often don't align with our actions. Either we have to wake up to these conflicts or we have to get help in understanding them.

Speak your possibilities.  Eric Saperston 

And if you do speak with your heart you will make connections to yourself and the world around you. The sooner you close one side of your mouth, the sooner you will have a clear idea of what you have to do to become who you are.

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...”  Dr Seuss, Oh the Places You Will Go......

Thanks for reading. John


The Risk of Not Taking Risks

How will I know when I can take a risk? This may be the most popular question I get. Some hear about my career path and some are hovering around a decision and they wonder---How will I know when to jump? How will I know if it is worth it? How will I know if I should take the chance?

We are confronted with these decisions everyday and I assert almost every moment. Managing risk, choosing options, deciding not to say something or text something, making choices about how you spend your time, being lazy or being productive, doing something well or taking the short cut, listening to your angel or your devil.......You avoid or take micro, big or enormous leaps across a chasm of risk. You make hundreds and perhaps thousands of decisions like this that cumulatively impact your brand, your present self and your future self. We make bad and good decisions, but risk is a matter that we encounter while we are awake. Risk is not a foreign idea. Risk

I was speaking to the kick-off meeting for AAPA, Asian American Professional Association, which has a primary objective of mentoring. 300 mentors and mentees showed up to connect and help one another. This weekend, I also taught a half day workshop for the Rising Stars Youth Leadership Program for high school students. And I emphasized in both these sessions that the greatest network starts with connecting with yourself. The young and more mature brought up the question of career risk taking. And the way the question is framed, can conjure up sky diving or alligator wrestling where you put yourself in harm's way. There are great dangers in career and life changes. The most lethal of which is not being who you are and what you want to be.

It takes courage to listen to your goodness, and acton it.    Pablo Casals

For me, and the way I answered the question, is the greatest risk is regret. I made a promise to myself not to accumulate regrets. Met and know people who have spent their lifetimes developing their regret collections. They seem very old to me. I have always said, "The number  of regrets is a much better determinant of your age than years."

So I use use what I call the regret matrix to make decisions.

  • Will I regret it?
  • How much will I regret it?
  • Or which will I regret more?

Often on the other side of the equation is a deceptive, attractive and convincing opponent--her name is Miss Stability. She is a siren that beckons and whispers that no grass is greener and leaving her would be not only unfaithful but dangerous. She does represent a lot of truly good things--the known, the more predictable, and most important what you have. But for those of us who dream, have ideas, undeveloped talents or still want to change the world, she is a formidable foe. She guards the status quo with her powers that generate self-doubt.

Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.  Shakespeare

Here's the real problem. Stability is a mirage. In fact, you don't even want stability. Do you really want world peace, global warming to end, animals to be protected, cancer to be cured, a promotion at work, your kids to have better lives, your company's stock to rise, your home value to increase etc etc? Then you are very dissatisfied with the present. You want lots of change at the macro and the micro levels. On personal, professional and even global levels.

No you can't say, "Can't some things stay the same?" Let me tell you oh selfish one, your wish will not be your command. In fact, the opposite will happen and will always happen. Change is the standard and the normal. Start adapting to it. And you want it too!

When I was in grad school, a faculty member told us that we would have 5-7 careers and maybe as many as 18 jobs during our lifetime that would not be able to predict! That has already happened to me. Today it is more volatile and change is more swift and comprehensive. In other words, if you are not changing you will be changed.

Hanging on to what you have is a nice theory. But if the stuff, ideas and even people you are coveting are evolving and morphing, then you have to stop and smell the change. Stability is a nostalgic moment that we can admire and use to model the next stability and so on. But Miss Stability is a fleeting femme fatale that has no intention of marrying you.

One of the financial institutions has a great ad: NO Risk or KNOW Risk. Clearly, you need to have a cup of coffee with your risks and get to know them, meaning your life's goals. The clock is ticking and regrets are piling up. As I said, the greatest risk is WE lose YOUR dreams.

Thanks for reading John.