kitchen cabinet

Next Level Networking

Never give a party if you will be the most interesting person there. -- Mickey Friedman

Assess your current network and your mentors. Is it/are they good enough? Adding to and enhancing these resources is imperative. Never settle or get too settled with them. Is your network smarter than you?

No need to dump anyone. Upgrade by adding with a view to the next level.Next level

Surround yourself with smarter and more successful people. Always play with better golfers and tennis players. Always hire people who have more potential or even experience than you do.

Hang around people who know different things and people.

Connect with the next level. The next level you envision for yourself. People who are "ahead" of you in skill, knowledge, confidence and/or career. What are their secrets? How did they get there? And what is it like to be there? Do you even want to be at that level?

When you stretch you will appreciate what you have to offer and that you are better than you think. But left to the devices of self loathing and doubt you will never know.

I have learned this a thousand times. To hang with people who are further along the path than me. It pulls me and pushes me. More often than not I learn I already have what it takes to be at the next level. And other times I see my gaps in their gory details. Either way it is an education on the path I desire.

Don't get me wrong I do not categorize and measure levels. I just know what I don't know. I know when I am reaching my level of incompetence. I know people who are smarter than me. Being around them gets me to ask better questions, hear about sources of knowledge, and talk about things that matter. There is always a next level.

To be mature is to seek assistance.

So every time I have parachuted into a new field, I ask as many people who I think know --"who are the top 5 leaders in this work I should meet? And who are the 5 I should avoid?" And everyone has a list. Everyone gives me names. Then I call up these first 5 and say "everyone" has recommended I meet you. And the person says like who? And then I tell them, they are impressed and often a little embarrassed. And I connect to the next level with confidence.

To understand where you are going, talk to people who are going that way.

Who are the top 5 teachers, salespeople, executive directors, managers, fundraisers, CFOs in your field or in the field you covet?

Who are people that are more advanced in your other interests, better golfers, better chefs, more expert wine enthusiasts, better parents, better travelers.....

I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member. Groucho Marx

Join organizations, boards and clubs that have members who are next level.

So find people you think are further along your path. People who can teach you and stretch you. Not intimidating people who have rank and title, but people who will unwittingly or willingly show you the next level.

 Thanks for reading. John


What color is your network?

Years ago, I was on a career panel with Dick Bolles who wrote arguably the greatest and most important career manual ever, What Color is Your Parachute? This bible of career advice will soon turn 40! And while the title started out as an off the cuff remark to his students, the words "color" and "parachute" took on deeper meanings to his millions of readers.Parachute2

 When I met Mr. Bolles he was in his mid 60's. He talked about career change in ways that have shaped my thinking and my career. He said:

Everything you do should be:

Temporary--Nothing is permanent.

An Adventure--Engages your curiosity and sense of challenge

A Seminar--Learning new things, continuous education with goals

Fulfilling--Helps define your quest for meaning and purpose

I translated this into "A temporary adventure, which continually educates you about your quest for meaning." Love it and live by it!

The whole unintended "parachute" metaphor spawned all kinds of discussions, ideas and important questions:

  • When will you be jumping?
  • Where will you be landing?
  • Are you prepared?
  • Who packed your parachute?

As some of you know, I have "parachuted" a few times in my career. Landings are not always soft. You fall from great heights with at least the perception of danger. I like the idea of landing in new territories and discovering them.The only thing I don't like about the word parachuting is the notion that you are bailing out. I think parachuting may be an escape but it has to be done with intention. 

As an aside, finally completed my bucket list of parasailing, paragliding, gliding, parachuting, and skydiving. Parachuting takes on new meaning!

The best way to be ready to parachute or transition is to have a great network. So I ask, What color is your network?

What does your network look like? Does it look inspirational? Does it meet your  needs? Will it adapt to your changing needs and future interests? Here's what my network literally looks like in Linked in mapsLinked in Map 

 

 

 

 

Linkedin chooses the colors, but the colors denote your networking worlds, past lives, current interests, and even new pursuits. It provides a visual snapshot of who you are connected to and how. Each dot is a person that you can see and click on. Very cool.

 

Visualizing your network helps you evaluate it. Your mind's eye and your ability to only remember 9 people at a time really limits your understanding of your network. Is is it good, good enough, or inadequate? And why?

 

Your network has to be diverse. Not just ethnically, but in terms of point of view, sectors, disciplines, and geography. Without evaluation, your network is what it is. What you think it is and what it actually is are two entirely different things.

 

Think of your network like a team of advisers or a kitchen cabinet. You don't want group think or a bunch of yes people. You want smart, honest, creative perspectives, skill sets and ideas. Seek difference in your network. So you have to do a gap analysis? And you can't wait for an emergency job search to do it! Parachuting requires great preparation.

 

So just accumulating contacts or FB friends is fine, but what are you building? Some networks are like a collection of pennies. All of them are the same and just added to the top of the same jar. We know that makes no sense. I am totally for randomness but you also have to step back to see how your network matches up with your ambitions.

 

Hard to traverse the tightrope without a net---work. :)

 

This does not require you to make a new set of friends or start stalking people :) Enhance your inner circle with people you already know but need to strengthen your connection with, based on your goals, curiosities, and ambitions. People that you respect and know have a valuable point of view--get more of it. 

 

Your network should not help you land but propel you and push you. It should be more of a rocket pack than a parachute. Jetpack

 

You know that you have a parachute on right now. The question is when not if. That decision to jump is so much easier if you have the network to support, research, prepare you for the leap. By the way, these are your parachute packers. They make your risk taking smarter and more aligned with what you really want.

 

So what color is your network?

 

Thanks for reading. John



Your Career Kitchen Cabinet

We all know that any great organization, company, even celebrity, certainly political leaders need a small circle of trusted advisers. And as we see in the news headlines everyday, if that counsel is not real and provides only encouragement for the wishes of the leaders(s), then trouble is imminent. --Like the old drunk who relies on the lamp post more for support than any illumination. True advisers provide accountability and a reality check on actions and plans. Who advises us? The regular folk who are not famous, rich or elected? We all have goals and dreams, but many of us need help to keep us on track. Otherwise, we can get away with saying and thinking things we never do. By the way, thathabit will give you a monorail ticket to a very undesirable place called Regret City!

Less than a couple of weeks into the new year you are probably still committed to your resolutions -- please say you have not bailed yet. :) One way to insure longer term success is to form a "kitchen cabinet",a group of your trusted advisers to monitor your progress and hold you to your goals. Similar to a board of directors, your cabinet knows your goals and asks for status reports. Like a a good board they are not interested in effort and activity, they want results. They are interested in a better you. BoardBoard room

However, unless you are such a popular person where you can attract people to serve your needs and you alone, then you should build a different structure based upon reciprocity. A group, no more than 6, that agrees to help one another. This kitchen cabinet gets together on a regular basis for the expressed purpose of advising and assisting ALL members succeed. This is a group of serious colleagues that care about each other and are committed to helping one another. Career guru Barbara Sher calls these success teams. It is a mentoring seance, where you are joined by the futures you see for one another.

Here are some basic tips on how you get started buiding your career kitchen cabinet:

  1. Forming the cabinet--Clearly, picking the members of your cabinet is the toughest part. Start with a couple of the people you know well. People you trust and getting together with them more frequently would be fun. If they know each other that is even better. Meet with them and broach the idea. I advise against couples only because invariably it introduces elements that can distract from the group goals. Things like chemistry, candor, and buy-in can be factors. If you are daring, each of your closest associates could invite one person that would add new dimensions and breadth to the group. And there is always something about having new people there to make you more attentive to the process. The key is getting people that have rapport, agree on the group goals, and are committed to mutual success. Try to avoid a group that all have the same backgrounds, political beliefs, or industry connections. This is where diverse thinking is powerful.
  2. Convening the cabinet--Without consistency this will not work. Sher recommends weekly meetings. I think monthly will work. But like a good book club, you got to prepare and show otherwise all is lost. Each member rotates to convene the group by choosing the location and date and time (if you have not settled on a regular date and time which is recommended.) You can set standards about the quality of the establishment, cuisine, newness etc to add a little incentive for the group. One group I was in required the host to cook "extraordinary" food so at least the food might generate thought. The group should make a one year commitment--12 meetings.
  3. Common ground for the cabinet--This is critical. Getting everyone familiar with the bios and backgrounds of each member is essential. So spending time on the introductions, in-depth and revealing understandings of one another will generate a new network of opportunities. Next, everyone needs to write down their goals. Use my SWiVEL or devise one based upon the needs and interests of the group. Having a common form that gives everyone a starting point for the conversations that will ensue.
  4. Cabinet sessions--After the intros and written docs, the sessions just have to make time for every member to report on their progress and allow for feedback. Not so formulaic that it feels too structured but focused on your purpose as a group. The assumption is every member is there to offer advice, expertise, and their network.

Hands together
But this is not a business as usual approach that helps one another achieve mediocrity. The secret to this concept is others will invariably see your potential more than you do. Your ideas become more polished or get abandoned because of the feedback. And when the group gets some momentum built on respect and trust, then the cabinet can become an incubation lab to explore new ideas and aspirations.

The reality is WE is always better than ME. We have to work together to refine our ideas about where we are going. A kitchen cabinet can be a powerful advantage that strengthens your network and your path to achieving your goals.

Thanks for reading. John