Networking

NetworkSharing

Lot of discussion about how to meet people and the way you say hello. Yes all of the technique driven first impression stuff matters but where are you networking? All of us need practice at just getting out there more and introducing ourselves, talking less and listening more. Having more concise answers and pithy questions at the ready. But what if your ladder is leaning on the wrong wall, you are fishing in unlucky waters, or you are mingling where there are no movers or shakers. 

Weak ties

Here's the deal: Get out of your bubblicious world of contacts that are connected to what you already know. You have to get out of the strong tie interchange of comfortable social and professional networks and branch out to the weak tie world of new opportunities.  Note: See Granovetter research and my related post

Sure you can look at the job postings or respond to different parts of your Facebook feed, but you will be caught in your own gravitational orbit of familiarity.

We are all sitting on enormous networks we will never use or ever fully appreciate. Like all abundant resources we need to explore them and share them! It is crazy how much influence and power we are connected to. What if we opened up these contacts to others? Help others connect and then get connected. First rule of networking is always give first--to share.

Want a new job, meet new people? Get connected to the people you know and the people they know. On Linkedin it would be your 2nd and 3rd tier connections. Based on interests you get introduced to these connected worlds to learn about work, associations, hobbies, causes... You have a cup of coffee, join an online forum, attend an event through a weak tie connection. For example, you have a family member who is battling a disease, you want to learn about opera, you'd like to more involved with your identity (ethnic, gender, LBGT etc), you want to learn about self-driving cars. Personal stuff, random stuff that you are interested in. Ideally something you have promised yourself that you would pursue someday. Because fulfilling a little promise to yourself feels good! Or helping someone else connect feels great!

You start asking around who is connected with the Alzheimers Association, the Asian American Lawyers, Uber/Google/Tesla. You look deeper into your Linkedin account for such connections. You ask someone you know to share their contact or connection and be introduced and whamo you are off to the races. You have just traversed the weak tie superhighway to something new that you are interested in. The shared network handshake!

And your real handshake and your eye contact also need to be coordinated. Yes, your resume should be updated too. 

But more important you need your list of interests!! What's on your list? Note: When is the last time you SWiVELed? Download SWIVEL_new_2017

So the key to networking is who you are networking with--it's the network, stupid! 

Perhaps you will really learn about your interest and pursue more ways to get engaged with this interest and meet others who share this interest. But it is equally as likely that you may will be introduced to a new world of opportunities you never knew existed. Every new person will reveal something new, if you allow it. I did not say something amazing that rocks your world I said "new".  We need new perspectives on career, happiness, balance, meaning, and fulfillment. We need all the help we can get. This is where the listening and open mind parts are so vital. 

Meeting new people on the common ground of interest is interesting. It is not the bobbing and weaving to gain attention or be clever in the semi-dishonest dance of a cocktail reception. It is the sharing of curiosity and knowledge, and maybe even passion. 

And you know when you are asked to talk about something that you care about--you like it. Not a burden or a favor. It is always nice and even fun to meet people with common interests and share. 

You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want. Zig Ziglar

This type of networking opens your eyes and if you let it, your heart--to new people and ideas. 

I have a personal goal to do this once a week! Not unusual for me to do it twice a week. To have the joy of meeting new people with shared interests through referrals or to agree to make the connections for others. It has become a lifestyle of sharing connections. It is also how I rode the Goodyear Blimp, traveled to Cuba, played golf at St Andrews, got job offers, and moved into our current house--but those are stories for another time. 

Evaluate your network start  linking to the other worlds you don't know and sharing with new people you will get to know!

Thanks for reading. John


The Art of the Intro---Do you have a Hype Man?

If you believe that your success is tied to others, then you have to connect. Connect with people that help advance your thoughts and ideas. Connect with people who show you the paths to greater fulfillment. Connect with people who give you validation and an important sense of community and belonging. You have to understand that doing it alone is impossible. That isolation and insulation are your enemies. Once you accept this, then you have to engage others in your quest to become the best you can be. The best way to meet people is to be introduced to them.  Properly-introduce-yourself-572x297

As I have said many times, networking is a contact sport but it is also a team sport. In that vein, working with a partner or a team makes it so much easier to meet people. Meeting people at a social gathering, corporate reception, or other general networking opportunity is so much more fun and productive, if you are being introduced to others. No one is truly comfortable with the solitary process of "cold calling" and walking up to people we do not know and introducing ourself. The process of having someone else pave the way by making the connection is always more elegant and effective. If you want to meet new people or a specific person, form a pact with a person or people you know going to the event, to introduce one another to people they meet/know to each other.  This can turn these often anxiety ridden moments into a pleasure.

After I gave a presentation on networking and the power of the introduction recently, a young, very hip African American man approached me. He thanked me for the idea of "being introduced" to others. He was very excited and animated and told me that it was like having a "hype man". "You know, a hype man, the guy who promotes the rapper", he said (he crouched down starts shaking his dreadlocked head and pointing at an imaginary rapper and rapping) "He's the greatest rapper!" Yes, we all need a team of hype men or women. Advocates to give us third party endorsements. Someone else to talk about us, instead of ourselves. My best friend Willie used to call me his "Press Asian" when we were students. :) I was trying to help him get more visibility on campus. I was unwittingly a very early version of a hype man! We need others to refer us, promotes us, and introduce us to "audiences" and opportunities.

The old maxim holds true, " Could not have said it better myself."

But the art of the introduction goes beyond the sometimes superficial event scene and can be more targeted than general hype and promotion of your brand. You also need people on your hype team who know you well to partake in a much more strategic form of introduction. An introduction to others who you don't know that the team thinks you should meet. Others you have identified and want to meet. In either case, a warm introduction that gives you more credibility and enhances your value can make all the difference. 

The answers to these questions will help determine your strategy to meet people through introduction to advance your network and your career. 

  1. What are your goals, your priorities, your needs? What are you looking for? In other words, you have some direction that guides your networking. Otherwise, you foolishly think opportunity will come up and throw you a surprise party. 
  2. Who do you want to meet? Who do you want to talk to? Have you identified specific individuals, experts, executives, potential mentors/sponsors that you want to meet? There should always be people that you have respect, have a valuable perspective, or could help you-- people you would like to talk to.
  3. Which organizations, companies, non-profits do you admire? At some point you want to know these entities better, understand them, and perhaps be affiliated with them? Like individuals, you should be tracking organizations that you think are leaders, innovative or just plain intriguing. 

With these goals and targets in mind, you need to unleash your hype team. Talk to your inner network and pick their brains on who knows the people and organizations on your list. Start recruiting your hype team members. Make sure they are up to date on your resume and your skills, knowledge, and abilities. And then push them to find connections and introduce you.

These referrals are not a list of names and contact info given to you---that is bad form. There must be a warm hand-off, which requires a personal and professional introduction. In some cases you may want to draft an intro, just as you would do for a letter of reference. What do you want the intro to say and sound like? Why leave it to chance?

Of course, this only works because you are the hype man for your network too. You have to be willing to refer and introduce your network to others. 

Lastly, if you are ever going to be introduced as a speaker, or recognized at an event, make sure you provide some guidance. Often, people will ask you to draft the public intro. Don't just give your resume and cross your fingers--provide the intro and shape your brand!

Use the team concept of networking to meet people and uncover opportunities through introductions. Get a hype team and join a hype team or three. Make every introduction count. You will see that networking can be more enjoyable and successful when you work together. 

Thanks for reading. John


New deadly STD: OMBYism

In my recent encounter with Father Greg Boyle, the famed gang interventionist and founder of Homeboy Industries, he quoted Mother Teresa. "If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other." He said the measure of our ability to care about one another will be realized "when we love more than who loves us." He has spent most of his life loving gang members and helping them put their lives back together.

In contrast, many people overwhelmed by the world around them have decided that taking care of themselves and their own immediate families is all they can do. And they have convinced themselves that if everyone else just did the same then the world would be a better place. This way of thinking has led us to a number of socially transmitted diseases. (STDs)

NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard) is one of the long standing STDs.These infected people want everything just not in their neighborhood. Freeway off ramps, trash disposal, mass transit, homeless shelters, commercial development, schools, elder care etc. I remember well the families that appeared at a local City Council meeting to protest a Montessori pre-school operated out of a Victorian home for more than 100 years (Julia Child went there). The school served 76 kids! "The sound of children" was just too much for these sensitive and angry neighbors. Ultimately, the school had to build higher walls around it to better contain the laughter and pitter patter of little feet. These NIMBYists wanted better schools in the neighborhood but not next door, even when that school was there decades before their homes were built. I know it makes no sense, but that is how toxic the seemingly incurable NIMBYism disease can be. Backyard

I have discovered a vicious new strain of NIMBYism and the fastest growing STD--OMBYism--Only My Back Yard--this deadly disease triggers several brutal symptoms causing the sufferer to experience extreme self-centeredness, myopia, and ethnocentrism. These are followed by an uncontrollable penchant to live in gated communities, a significant decline in empathy for others, and an obsessive desire to maintain the status quo. OMBYists are devoted to only taking care of their back yard and their family. They have very stunted and homogenized networks. Their credo is: Love only who loves you, especially if they are like you.

The infuriating flaw with this selfish approach to life fails to recognize that a pampered family will have to live in a real  world that looks nothing like that back yard. The OMBYists superiority complex and self righteous attitude are artificial prophylactics against reality. And that the children of these infected parents breed unnecessary prejudice between their kind and the rest of the world.

Only loving who loves you is the breathing standard of living a meaningful life. Of course we love our families! Yes we love people back. But our lives will be defined by how we pro-actively broaden that circle. How we embrace others outside of our families and our clone communities. Father Greg Boyle talks about how learning to love gang members has deepened his perspective to see the other side of the tracks literally. There is no purely good and purely bad when it comes to humans and the human struggle. The world is becoming more complex. The easy way out is to define the limits of our spheres of influence as our family, immediate circle of friends and the edge of our fence lines. To over simplify the world into the good and the evil by deluding ourselves that somehow we are better than the others.

I recently met a man who wanted to make a shift from working at an elitist and highly privileged institution to a community based organization. He said his life goal is to help the "under-served" and the "less fortunate" people in our society. It sounded a bit insincere, but I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. So I said, "That's a wonderful life mission. So how do you help the "under-served and less fortunate" now?" He looked at me like I called him a dirty name. He was flustered and said, "That's my goal, not what I do now!" He went on to explain how busy he is, how demanding his job is, that he has a couple of teenagers, and he likes playing golf occasionally........His words faded as I saw the letters O--M--B--Y appear on his forehead. In other words, he has no time for others outside of his backyard. No time to do anything except take care of thyself and thy heirs. He only thinks about the "under-served and the less fortunate",when he is trying to impress others and feel less guilty. Kid

Adopting the mentoring and networking lifestyle is an antidote to the onset of NIMBYism and OMBYism. While we should take care of and enjoy our verdant back yards, the world outside of those walls is so much more beautiful and filled with real people who are under-served and less fortunate. We have to break down those fences and walls. We have to create connections and relationships that add value and build  broader communities that can confront and overcome the challenges we face, by loving many more than love us.

Thanks for reading. John

 


Amazing who you know, but you don't know

For the last 20 years, I have been teaching that the primary step in networking is:

First strengthen existing relationships and then expand your circles of friends

Brushstroke circle There is an obsession with meeting new people. That new people will unlock our potential, teach us new things, and create new opportunities. And that the people we know, have met, are surrounded by, are inadequate. Even as I write this again, it sounds stupid, doesn't it?

What comes into focus is how poorly we know and explore what we have. There is an irresistible allure of the new. It's why products offer new versions. Why car makers roll out their new line-ups. It also causes many divorces. We like shiny things and our consumerism world reinforces it. But often the new is irrational and riskier. And often it is more expensive.

I am not telling you not to meet new people. You gotta get out of your comfort zones and diversify your human portfolios. You have to inject new into everything you do. But it is not your first step. It is not a step to overlook. Meeting the new, will always be more challenging, more time consuming, and less comfortable.

Why ignore the network you have and the people you know?

People I meet always underestimate their own networks. According to them, their "rolodex" is always weak and does not contain the expertise they need. After I ask a series of questions, they "discover" that someone they know well could be a great connection. It never fails. Had lunch will a former colleague this week, and he is exploring a career change. He wanted me to connect him with new people. During our meal, he admitted knowing a senior executive at a very attractive employer. I added real value to the session by saying, "Please contact him." :)Rolodex

You may be able to recall or remember things about people from your glorious present or past. And making an effort to make these recollections is a start. However, it is more likely you don't even know these people in your network. You don't know their resumes and their backgrounds. And therefore you have no idea what their networking potential is. But this is just the beginning of what you don't know about your network and how you undervalue it.

The big deal here is that your current network knows you and in most cases you have established a level of trust through common experiences. Your current network cares about you. And that creates opportunities to get authentic feedback and ideas beyond their contacts. People who know you can move quickly to the questions you want to discuss. Chemistry and comfort exist. It provides a warm platform to now get to know them better. I guarantee this process will reveal a new constellation of connections and contacts for you to explore. The other super added value here is your network can refer you to these connections, because they know you!

Now here is an ugly truth. If you have been negligent about maintaining your relationships. Reconnecting with "old friends" or former colleagues can be awkward. And the sirens of the new network beckon. But c'mon, most people want to connect and reconnect. I get asked this question all the time, "How do I reconnect with former colleagues and friends?" My answer is always the same, "Call them, e-mail them." Just make the connection and if necessary, apologize for being out of touch.They will understand. Plus you will enjoy it!

A new world of connections and opportunities awaits and many of them reside in the past. Don't leap over your exisiting network just to meet new people. It is amazing who you know but don't know. Reach out and connect!

Thanks for reading. John 


Don't refer unqualified candidates. Don't pass the trash!

The power and influence of networking trades on your reputation--your brand. If you do not manage your brand by making sure that nothing undermines it, then you are a very poor personal brand manager.

If you have any semblance of a network, then you are being asked to help friends and relatives with their job searches or even more likely, for their friends or relatives. Always respond to assist and be helpful as I  have advised repeatedly here. The benefits you derive often exceed any you dispense.

However the decision to refer or hand-off your friend, relative or others is one that you have to examine carefully and thoroughly. Just as you stand to benefit from the experience you also can also damage your brand.

Referring job candidates that you know are not qualified, prepared, or even good is simply stupid for all concerned.

In Waiting for Superman, the award winning documentary on the state of education in America, it characterizes the process of exporting or exchanging horrible teachers between districts as either "passing the trash" or conducting "the dance of the lemons". Principals and Superintendents who can not fire really bad teachers because of tenure, opt to shipping these teachers to other districts in exchange for their bad teachers. It is an obscene process that reflects how little the kids/students matter. Pasing the trash

When anyone refers, forwards via e-mail, a candidate they do not know, or worse, a candidate they know is weak--they are passing the trash. Imagine what this does to a brand, especially if they are a repeat offender at referring bad candidates.

I get dozens of referrals a month for specific jobs. And there is a dramatic increase in this transactional, thoughtless, process of referring candidates bereft of quality. Sometimes it is plain embarrassing. But always a waste of time. I have to decline the candidate AND explain to the referrer that the person is not even close to the specs.

People just want to get the task of helping people off their plate and on to someone elses. This is a cardinal sin of networking and mentoring.

Why mentoring you ask? Because the referrer needs to take the time and effort to help the candidate reflect on their goals, on their resume, on their process. This is where mentoring can be the most valuable. Stopping someone from a poorly defined job search and adding value to their journey is the purpose of mentoring. These moments of mentoring can be super powerful. No one is served if you just robotically agree to "forward" their resume. And you become known as a trash passer!

Passing the trash is a new form of spam. Puts me in the position to be the bad guy. because not only do I swiftly decline these candidates, I tell them and/or their referrers why. In a number of cases I de-brief the candidate on their missing qualifications, typos on their resume, career goals and the lack of fit. But somebody has to push back and stop the stream of trash. I feel sorry for the candidates because they are pretty much riding the process out. However, they get damaged in this process too. They are seen as not having their act together and when ruled unqualified, that hurts them psychicly and in the marketplace.

Stop before you refer someone. And don't refer anyone you think has dodgy or sketchy qualifications. No one wins and almost everyone loses, especially you.

Thanks for reading. John


Your path to the future is paved with questions

One of the most powerful resources in your career and networking toolbox is curiosity. Yeah, the insatiable desire to try to understand how things work or don't work, what is success or failure and how is it measured?; what are the best practices?; who is considered the best or the leader?; what are the trends and therefore the scenarios of the future?

Questions shape our understanding and define our thoughts, opinions, and our preferences. Good questions lead to better conversations. And great conversations generate important relationships. Questions matter. Questions

Question authority. Did he pop the question?

Yet, there seems to be a dearth of well formed questions. You would think that learning would motivate our questions, wouldn't you?

We all evaluate dozens of organizations and individuals every week. Vendors, partners, colleagues, friends, restaurants, product providers, etc. We accept and tolerate many issues and challenges in our daily experiences. Often they trigger questions about how to improve something, somebody. Questions about the goals or expectations of a service, a project, or an organization.

There are the profound questions we have to ask ourselves everyday, every month, every year:

  • Who am I?
  • Where am I going?
  • Am I on track?
  • What is meaningful to me?
  • What do I want?

Questions are the lifeblood of the conversations that make mentoring and networking relationships work and thrive. What you want to know, what perplexes and stymies you, where you think there are gaps or weaknesses--this is the fuel that powers the engines of personal and professional change. But they can not be questions just about you and what you want.

We seem to be more interested in using our questions to purchase a car or a new computer than to choose our next job or career? We invest more time and energy into the quality of our material possessions than the due diligence of the work we do and how it will help us grow and advance.

Not having answers should motivate us instead of depress us.

I meet a lot of people. People who want to find jobs, people who want something, people who are searching, people who are lost, and people who want to partner. And overall, the quality or in some cases the absence of questions is surprising.

I look at resumes the same way I review business plans, or grant application. Where have you been, where are you going, why did you make changes, where have you succeeded, where have you failed, what makes you unique, why should I affiliate with you?

I could not make up the stuff I hear and see in interviews. Sometimes it is a reality show of outtakes from American Idol or America's Got Talent. Once in awhile it is invigorating and inspiring but that is the exception.

Here are my top five favorite meaningless questions that I have been asked by job candidates in the first interview?

  1. How many days off will I get?
  2. How much do you love working here?
  3. Are the dental benefits any good?
  4. How soon would I be promoted?
  5. Do you have a strategic plan?

It's like, "Did you just say that out loud?" There is zero interest in how the employer is doing or what is going on? Are you so self absorbed and ill-prepared that you have no genuine interest in the business, the challenges, and the results?

The most irritating sound outside of the vuvezelas at the World Cup is the worst radio station in the world, WII-FM. What's In It For Me. When this radio station plays so loudly that it drowns out even the semblance of what others want, then failure and rejection will be your listening mates. WII-FM makes one's questions seem self-absorbed and selfish.

We all know that asking questions has to be accompanied by thoughts on the answers. You can't just verbalize queries without ideas. Otherwise you are just another whiny solution-less member of the chorus of complainers. And there is little room in our crowded lives for this irritating irrelevant noise.

All of us have an exaggerated level of confidence in our ability to ad-lib, address impromptu situations, think on our feet. In general, when we rely on this non-existent skill, we look stupid. The only way to avoid this embarrassment is to prepare questions. Writing down questions. Thinking about what questions you would ask yourself if you were hiring you.

Our quest is looking for special people, special opportunities, special moments, and ulimately a greater sense of fulfillment--the diamonds in the rough, the needles in the haystack. We find these things by following our hearts, our intuition and our questions. We discover these things by being insatiably curious.

What are your questions?

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. Albert Einstein

Thanks for reading. John


Alumni Networks----Familiar and Influential Resources

Part of my procrastination of life's goals was to go through a bunch of academic programs--4 universities, 3 degrees and a fellowship. One of the unintended consequences of my scholarly digressions was to get connected to different groups of former students called alumni. Btw, alumni, Latin for "pupils nourished" is a distinctly American concept. International universities rarely kept track of their former students and certainly did not solicit them for financial support until recently. For example, Oxford, founded in about 1200, formalized its alumni society in 2006. Harvard established its Alumn Club in 1840. The word alumni is plural. Singular is alumnus, (unisex or male) or alumna (female, the unpopular plural alumnae), we say slangishly alums, or some say grads. Just do not use alumni when referring to yourself--"I am an alumni of XXX college."--unless you are schizo. :)  In Texas, they are always different aren't they, they say "ex-students". The definition of an alum is wide and varied. Mere attendance gives the individual, certainly the alumni association and that institution the ability to take credit for their achievements. Like all great ideas have many parents, all famous, successful, and certainly wealthy former students are claimed as "alumni". Alumni

I have been blessed to have a number of alumni networks that engage and fulfill me. Without them, I am not sure I would be as successful today.

In one of my former careers, I ran the alumni association at UCLA and served on national and international alumni governing organizations. With more than 2500 colleges and universities in the US, there are a lot of alumni! But I am notrecommending you attend more uncomfortable reunions!

This concept of alumni is not just restricted to post-secondary education.  You have been recruited into and have shared life experiences with many groups. Nearly 300 larger corporations have formed alumni associations for their former employees to stay connected.   Search corporate alumni groups Deloitte has a particularly strong one for example. Why you ask? Branding, recruitment, business referral, all through a trusted network. Does your former employer have an alumni group? Does your future employer have one, and do you know people in it?

PastLives Most of us stay in touch with a select crew from a former world of work or other experiences. These are informal and very effective alumni networks. You belong but may not be connected to, many alumni groups. Again, because of my career changes, I have 7 former employee such groups. The advantage of career changes! Like always, the questions is: Why aren't you connected to them? I know you are busy, I know you have less time and more choices and obligations. But these are people you know and share a common experience. Be careful.Trying to reconnect with these alumni groups only when you are desperate is tantamount to reconnecting with former dates from a previous era when you are lonely. Bad form, always smells of self-serving motives, and in the end not a long term solution.

If you have been following along, the strongest network opportunities are always among people you know or knew. Common experiences are powerful platforms for connecting and sharing.

Make a list of your alumni groups:

  1. Colleges and universities
  2. Employers
  3. Fraternities, sororities, honor societies
  4. Kids' play groups, PTAs, club athletic teams
  5. Internships, fellowships
  6. Volunteer and community service groups
  7. Faith based affiliations

Join as a member or reach out and reconnect. Do these groups have Facebook pages, Linked-in groups? Who do you know or remember? E-mail them, call them and connect.

Try not to be so focused on your current need and let the serendipity of connecting with a trusted group take you new places and opportunities.

The great thing is you have a base from which you can start a conversation. You immediately have questions or experiences that you can share to drive the connection.

Alumni networks can be powerful and meaningful sources of identity and community. Yes, and also provide some new leads on jobs or sales prospects, but that is always secondary.

Want to broaden and deepen your network and your opportunities? Think alumni.

It is amazing who you know, who you have lost touch with.

Reconnect with your past and advance your future.

Thanks for reading. John


Truth and Candor: Key Ingredients in the Recipe of Mentoring and Networking

Remember in Liar Liar when Jim Carrey's character was only allowed to to tell the truth. "Do you like my new dress?"-- he was asked. "Whatever takes the focus off your head," he replies.

No need to put our truth tasers on the kill setting! Taser

The truth is, we are less than candid everyday. How we answer the question, "How are you?", for example.

Sometimes being vague, evasive and telling a little fib is the only thing to do to avoid a fight or an unnecessary confrontation. We all have friends where we have to avoid certain political, religious, and parenting conversations, because we just have to agree to disagree.

There is always a time and a place to be the diplomat, the nice person. You know, the person who couches things in lovely and euphemistic ways. Where between the lines is a vast and cavernous space where the truth lives comfortably and invisibly.

George Bernard Shaw once said, "The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion it has taken place."

I am talking about candor, frankness, and directness in conversations.

Candor: Unreserved, honest, or sincere expression 

I am more focused on the sincere side of this ledger. Less on the brutal portion.

We have all experienced the broad gamut of styles from the flame thrower who uses the truth to burn everyone and everything. Then there are the “happy” people who smile and even giggle during a challenging moment and will do anything to not ruffle feathers or make anyone uncomfortable. Like all things we need to use the middle lanes of these communication freeways.

But if the truth was a more common currency in our everyday exchanges and transaction, we would be better off. Candor of the sincere type, would speed up so many things in our lives. Getting people to contribute their ideas and real thoughts frequently would facilitate change, improvement, and greater outcomes in our personal and professional worlds. Having people get to what's bothering them and complimenting the good would be so efficient not to mention pleasant.

Truth begets truth.

As a friendly reminder to myself and you good readers, the truth also includes the good and the praiseworthy. Sometimes, we hear "tell the truth" and we think give the bad news or make a confession.

Scales So many candid truthful good things go unsaid. How much we love, care about, appreciate the people and things around us too often remain unexpressed thoughts.

For those of you following along, mentoring and networking require a few extra scoops of candor if the recipe is to work. Both mentee and mentor need to get to a place of truth telling as fast as they can. Otherwise great time and effort can be wasted and misunderstood if it remains a polite game of mutual admiration.

Party manners are in order at the beginning of any relationship. We all know that this period is not real, later we will share ourselves with greater transparency.

Office politics is the most brutal and most challenging of all worlds. More than 2 people in an office and controversy, petty thoughts and behaviors can ensue. Getting beyond the rumor mill, the conspiracy theories, and the repetitive whining is a challenge in every office I have occupied. Part human nature, part management, and part culture.

Not speaking up. Not saying what you think. Not being an active contributor to your organizations’ development and evolution is a cardinal sin if you want to grow into a more effective manager/leader. The higher up the food chain you go, the more truth based on evidence and judgment is demanded. Less time for nuance, interpretation, and just plain waiting.

Sure it would be nicer and better if your boss, the work culture, your friends, your family all modeled this behavior more. And if they did it you would do it. What?!! There you go again, sounds like a whiny person who is not in control of their life and actions. Why not be first to model the behavior you want to see. Request more candid feedback and answers in your conversations. Seek and tell the truth.

Remember in Alice in Wonderland when the March Hare says to Alice, "Then you should say what you mean." And mean what you say.  200px-MarchHare

Thanks for reading. John


The Ubuntu Networking Strategy

Familiarity and predictability make us comfortable. Nothing wrong with comfort. But sometimes comfort can breed resistance. The resistance to making changes in our lives. People know what they have to do to improve themselves. The really do. They need to lose weight, become better public speakers, learn more about their computers, develop their hobbies, and connect with others aka network! But life, our habits and change get in the way. Some of us call these excuses. :) Comfortable

How do we get unstuck from this comfort zone. This zone of "I am okay" or "Things aren't so bad" or "What difference will it make?" and "Not sure where to start"

These are the mantras of complacency and resistance. The forces that keep you on that monorail chugging along to your familiar network of stops and destinations.

Our confidence soars when we do things where the outcome is predictable, where our view of the world is affirmed, and where our anxiety levels are low. But this can turn into your personal version of the movie Ground Hog Day and such comfort can create monotony. Your confidence will also rise when you accomplish something new and different. Both life experiences are needed to move ahead. But living only in the comfortable routine will limit your network. Hard to meet new people or be introduced to new perspectives when you rely on your circle of comfort. And the limits of your network will set boundaries around your opportunities.

If you are satisfied with your life and your ambitions are sated, then the strategy of nurturing who you know and care about has no limitations, it is a blessing. You have the great luxury of not being distracted by new horizons or goals.

My view is you have to continually renew your network. Not suggesting you dump your friends for new ones, but just enhance and diversify your sources of inspiration and guidance.

Ubuntu, is a wonderful African thought and philosophy that means many things but it conveys "that a person only becomes a person through others."I think we all believe this. That who you know seriously influences who you are. Does your circle of friends reinforce your worldview or does it challenge/improve it? This is a very hard question, because to understand the limits of your worldview is to know outside points of view. But it is a question we need to ask ourselves over and over to keep us honest and grounded. For me the spirit and essence of ubuntu is to add dimensions to our thinking through the help of others. The world is not simple. By meeting and listening to others we begin to appreciate this complexity. For me, ubuntu means the more people you meet, especially if they add new perspectives to your life, you become more conscious of your strengths, weaknesses, talents, dreams, and opportunities and a lot less comfortable!

Take inventory of your network. And target the gaps. But then also just commit yourself to seeking out people different than yourself. Whatever that means to you. There is a rainbow of possibilities here. Political, religious, ethnic, geographic, sectoral, educational, age, gender, sexual orientation, and your hobbies. Let this carry over into your other habits such as your reading, your musical selections, your dining, your work collaborations etc etcConnections

John Izzo set a goal to make new friends, so he carried a 3x5 card around with him everyday to remind him of this goal. He committed to look at it 10 times a day! He carried it not as a burden but as a precious commodity that he valued. You could have a card that says, "Meet new and different people" It's a pretty anal approach but it  will remind you everyday to reach out and connect.

For me, I have set a goal of meeting one new and reconnecting with one person a week! And it is a joy. It is a new habit that is addictive and so beneficial for me. Every person adds something important to my perspective and understanding. Once you get started, it's hard to stop seeing the world through others and becoming more informed and more of an ubuntu person. You will be inspired in countless ways. You will appreciate more about the world and about yourself.

Being comfortable is a wonderful thing if you have reached your potential as a person. But if you are like me, getting uncomfortable through ubuntu networking has clarified what my potential could be.

Thanks for reading. John


The Japanese American Networked Museum

True visionaries see things and do things no one else does. They imagine and act on possibilities. They often pursue these ideas in the face of opposition and obstacles. Yet they prevail.

I attended the 25th anniversary of the Japanese American National Museum (JANM) last night. It was a celebration of its founders and the rightful acknowledgment of their accomplishments. One of the most successful stories of any museum founded in the last century. It's story is remarkable and directly parallels the success of Americans of Japanese ancestry in this country.Janm

Many people, including myself, thought the museum idea was too narrow, too ethnocentric, too limited to be "national" and the focus of such fundraising and effort. But that is why I am not a visionary. In less time than most people complete their college education and training, JANM has grown up and become a force to be reckoned with. A towering example of the power of faith and vision. A multi-dimensional research, arts, and educational institution that defies the limits of its name. JANM's mission says it all.

To promote understanding and appreciation of America's ethnic and cultural diversity by sharing the Japanese American experience.

Consider the following achievements since its public opening in 1992:

  • 1,000,000 visitors, 60% non-Japanese
  • 400,000 school children on school field trips
  • Support groups in 17 states 
  • 3600 teachers trained--reaching 4,000,000 students
  • The only Asian oriented museum affiliated with the Smithsonian

The Japanese American population has always been small and today is shrinking. Yet the ripple effects of its history yield enormous value to a much broader community. The major American historical events involving Japanese Americans center on WWII.

  • The incarceration of 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry for more than 3 years under the ominous cloud of "enemy aliens" from 1942-45 in 10 War Relocation Centers or "interment camps". There was never a single finding of anti-American crimes or threats.
  • The 442nd fighting unit became the most decorated in American history. Placed in the forefront of battles in the Pacific and in Europe, the 442nd endured more casualties (314%!) and awards (18,000+!)than any US unit in military history. There is ample evidence that without this unit many battles and indeed the war may have been lost.

Despite being wronged and honored, after the war, Japanese Americans returned to racism and discrimination for many decades, including my parents. 45 years later, President Reagan signed legislation that apologized for the internment and authorized symbolic reparations. The act admitted that the internment was based on "prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of leadership."

Still amazing how many Americans do not know this relatively recent history. Less than 25% of US states require it be part of their curriculum. If Texas can now expunge Thomas Jefferson from its textbooks, then the fight to tell the truth in our history books is far from over.

Yet the story of placing ethnic soldiers on the front lines and the threat to Americans who look like the enemies of the United States continues to be played over and over again. Arab and Muslims are the newest targets of prejudice, racism, and civil rights violations.

The story of the Japanese American experience and success is one that goes on teaching and inspiring. On the threshold of Comprehensive Immigration Reform, we have to remind ourselves that we all came through Ellis Island, or off a boat or over a fence. That the story of America is one of diversity.

Tapestry Norm Mineta, former distinguished congressman and cabinet member under President Clinton and Bush, told a small group of us that the "future of JANM is to weave together a tapestry of colorful cloths, each strong and colorful on their own, but much stronger together."

Each of us must find our sense of community by looking within and then connecting with others. The greatest and most potent networks are those that begin with a personal connection or cause. Then the power of those networks is manifested through the ability to connect to other networks and exponentially increase the impact. Isolation is the biggest weakness of any network. Thinking bigger than ourselves is always the goal.

JANM has come so far so fast. It has become a hub of networks. It has exceeded the wildest expectations of its founders. It has even defined its mission by putting its self-interests after the greater good. JANM has transcended the Japanese American community to become an invaluable resource for all of us.

Thank goodness for visionaries. For people who dream without regard to the obstacles. For the leaders who connect others to their visions and dreams. For taking us to higher grounds so we can appreciate their vision and to see the next mountains we must climb.

Regretably, racism, prejudice, and ignorance abound.

Typical of the Japanese American community, their work and achievements are less about fanfare and more about commitment. We all owe the founders of JANM a debt of gratitude.

Thanks for reading. John


Friending and Linking with purpose

Aren't first impressions important anymore? How we introduce ourselves, what I call your BIT(brief introductory talk) can make a world of difference in how the conversation and the relationship get started. How we shake hands, hand out our business cards, and what we say, form these critical impressions. And whether people are added to our networks will be largely governed by these impressions. But for some reason, these common courtesies and protocols go out the window when we go online. We do things online we would never dream of doing face to face. Connecting through online social networks may seem less intrusive, so really smart and nice people abandon generally expected etiquette. I guess it is so easy to hit the send button and move on to the next transaction that they don't think about it. Fb

What am I talking about? Okay I get a FB or Linked-in request every day. You know, on FB, "so and so would like to be your friend. If you know so and so, click Confirm." or " I'd like to add you to my professional network on Linked-In." If I know the person and I see this connection as mutually beneficial, then I confirm or accept immediately. However, 90% of these requests are from people I do not know or once met years ago. But since their request does not give me a clue how I know them, acknowledge the time that has elapsed, or even a superficial and insincere request about my health and well-being, I hit delete. Even a note that says "I need to use you, would you mind?" would be refreshing! Logo_linkedin_88x22

Ignore or delete these requests:

  1. Crashers-It is very irritating to get a friend or a link request from someone you don't know AND they employ the generic pre-set message Not even a salutation, note or indication what they want. Don't have time to solve the riddle or read minds and I certainly do not want any strange interlopers in my network. Delete.
  2. Left Fielders--This person seems familiar or maybe knew them in a previous life. You have not heard from them in years and they again use the generic request. Ignore or delete.
  3. Posers--You know this person but they did not give you the time of day before. Now they are in desperation mode. Like a lonely heart looking up old flames, they are looking to reconnect and it will be a one-sided deal with you on the losing end. And again, there is no explanation. Delete.

The problem is people can appear to be in such a rush or sending such quantities that thoughtfulness and personalization are trampled in the name of speed. And speed kills. We have to avoid being hit and run networkers. Our brain has to be engaged before we floor the gas otherwise we get into accidents and hurt ourselves. 

Not unlike a resume that does not have a cover note. Or when presumptuous people  give my name as a referenceand don't give me a heads-up. I may have a very favorable impression of the person, but have lost touch. And the new position they are seeking surprises me and since I do not know what they have been doing in the interim I can not connect the dots. Elegant hand offs matter. Making the extra effort to manage the process and give it a personal touch is invaluable.

There is an art to reconnecting with "old" contacts. It takes thought and time.

What if you opened your snail mail box and found a bunch of business cards inside, would you call them? Absolutely not. The BIG difference in a social network is that by confirming or accepting I would also agree to give them access to MY network. That scares me. This could be borderline network theft. Crash the network and then let them take what they want. And who opened the door?

Networks of contacts, circles of friends, and/or your connections are a precious resource that is to be protected and nurtured. There is no prize for the most. This is one place where size does not matter. Yes, if you are selling stuff or services then making mega connections will be helpful. (if everyone knows that is what you are doing) Any attempt to mask sales with empty attempts to share or support is a violation of the network. But we do want to share our networks as well. How we share and who is in our networks is always your choice.

Like everything, and as Covey says, "Start with the end in mind". What is the goal of your network? As you know, there is a real and profound difference between your professional and personal networks. Especially on FB, you have to make choices. Do you care if you have casual acquaintances, friends of friends, mixed with your best buddies and family and work colleagues? People find you on FB, people you knew, people you liked and not, people you care about and people who are seriously irrelevant. How can you treat them all the same? It is a gut check. Do you care? Do you want to read about their current lives? Make the call. The quality of your network is based on your choices, it always has been. And in the end it reflects you.

Good networking requires effort and time. Reading people's walls or Linked-in updates can be fascinating, but I have never found them sufficient to strengthen the network. I have to supplement by going offline to private e-mail, phone calls, or even a human interaction to make the online transactions meaningful. Some will argue with me. I endorse whatever works for you, but the quality of your network starts with your confirming or accepting that initial request. And if that request is personal and thoughtful, then your network grows with purpose.

Thanks for reading. John


The networking gene and how I forgot to network

We all know that job networking--the personal process of finding opportunities and being referred and recommended for a job--is the most effective way to get hired. This is an undisputed fact that is supported by dozens of studies and surveys. To say today's job market is "competitive" is a felonious understatement! If you are qualified, then the most meaningful way to separate you from the pack or should I say the mountain of resumes is by networkingSo if your job search and/or career exploration does NOT include a robust networking component then you know you have seriously reduced your chances to succeed. It is the most fundamental premise of this blog and I usually assume that we all get it.

Dna So why aren't all smart people employing a networking strategy? The answer may be as complex and diverse as the population. However, I have observed three common behaviors that undermine people's networking capabilities:

  1. I do not have the networking gene. We tend to be so hard on ourselves. We believe that many talents are in our DNA or not. That we are born artistic or not. That we are good public speakers or not. That we have been dealt a stack of chromosomal cards and that hand can not be improved. We think about networking in the same way. But it isn't true. Yes we all have been born with many strengths and talents. Only a few of those talents will be developed during our lifetimes. Clearly some have been born with great gifts that they have discovered and others live in ignorance of them. Most of us mortals have to try and work with what we have, which is always more than you give yourself credit. Great evidence that people can develop any and all of their talents. Art, public speaking, and leadership can all be honed from novice to extraordinary levels with practice and persistence. Strengthening the networking muscles is even easier. There is no special networking gene. Everyone has the capacity to network well with very little effort.
  2. I just don't have the time. We tend to take the path of least resistance. Networking takes another step or two. And let's be honest, we are lazy. We know what we have to do and maybe we feel even confident about our networking ability, but it is easier and simpler to just send in the resume and cross our fingers. In doing this, we have inconveniently forgotten the value of the network. Investing a little time and effort in networking, especially in the job search, will yield far greater outcomes.
  3. I just need some help right now. We have not adopted the lifestyle, the lifestyle of networking (and mentoring) all of the time. We fall back into the old habits of only using networking when we have an urgent need. Adopting the lifestyle requires that you network continuously. Not just when you need a job or a favor. How do you feel when you are on the receiving end of such a request? We always have to avoid desperation networking. Networks are nurtured in good times and bad. They are a precious investment that need time and attention. Make a withdrawal from your network bank to address your current need, just remember to make regular deposits of goodwill to keep your account strong.

All of these behaviors are rational and defensible. Part truth, part fear, part procrastination, part time management, and part humility. Doesn't matter how much each part represents, it is a recipe for lost opportunities. Opportunities that are sitting right in front of all of us.

Some people are born great networkers, some achieve great networking, and some have great networking thrust upon them.--apologies to Shakespeare. Who will you be?

Like most things, we become better networkers by doing. Knowing and not doing is a masochistic sin.  

First of all anyone can do networking and do it well. Networking does not require:

  1. Any formal training or techniques.
  2. A personality makeover--to be more extroverted for example.
  3. Any cold calling. There is always a preference for warm calling.  

Here are some basic things that we all have to be reminded about:

  1. Networking focuses on your existing network. People you know well, people you trust and who trust you.
  2. Networking is ethical and uses your unique comfort to guide its limits. In other words, you are never going to do or say anything that feels wrong.
  3. Networking is mutually beneficial process that builds community. Helping each other is part of life and being human.

So if you have no existing network of associates, friends and family. You are not ethical. And you are not interested in helping one another. Then you are right, networking is an innate and esoteric skill that you will never master.

On the other hand.......

You must connect with people to get feedback on your resume, to get an insider perspective of the companies you are targeting, to get a direct referral at a senior management level to make sure your resume gets read. You do this by connecting with your network and by communicating your needs and interests. Connect with your network about your short term needs and adopt the lifestyle. Connect with your network to make it stronger. Just connect with your network.

I have tried to reduce the number of excuses that hinder your networking. You have the right DNA, you have many hidden talents, you have the potential to be a great networker, you have the time, and if you have the will, your horizon of opportunities will be far greater.

Thanks for reading. John

 

We begin again to renew our network of commitments

 

Every new year I share this thought. Back in 1999 I found a website called Interviewwithgod.net. The host claimed that God visited him and answered all of his questions. This posting left an indelible impression on me.

What suprises you most about humankind?  God allegedly replied:

  • That they get bored with childhood and rush to grow up, then long to be children again.
  • That they lose their health to make money, and then lose their money to restore their health.
  • That they think anxiously about the future such that they forget the present and live neither in the present or the future.
  • That they live as if they will never die and die as if they have never lived.

Lanikai steps

I can scarcely wait till tomorrow when a new life begins for me, as it does each day, as it does it each day.--Stanley Kunitz

When we sense a beginning, we tend to get more focused. A chance to start over and do better. We push the magical reset button to get a do-over. As long as you do not get caught in the vicious cycle of the same old resolutions that are so familiar that they become meaningless. You know the ones--"I need to exercise more." "I need to eat more healthful food." "I need to spend more time with my family." Lily Tomlin said, "I gained and lost the same 10 pounds so many times, my cellulite has dejavu!" According to the University of Scranton, making new year's resolutions increases your chances of accomplishing a positive change by a factor of 10! However, without specific goals, dates, times, and metrics, only 1 out of 5 keep their resolutions. So prevent your annual vows from becoming the broken record sounds of insincerity. But you knew that!

I will avoid all of the overused metaphors and analogies that depict the year past. You've heard them all, WEATHERING THE STORM, BEEN A ROLLER COASTER, OR NAVIGATING THE ROUGH SEAS. This year will not be a CAKE WALK by any stretch. Still a lot of challenges remain in the economy. Even though it feels more comfortable. Comfortable, the most dangerous place to be in the world. Don't let your guard down. Don't even let a sliver of complacency enter your mind. This has to be a time when you increase your resolve to continue your journey to strengthen your position in your life. Or to make new huge strides towards a new destination. You can start with baby steps if you increase your momentum with each step. This somewhat quieter time is when you make your move. Small and fleeting competitive advantage to move right now. Don't put off what you have to and need to do.

Here's a few thoughts to shape your new year's strategy:J0443793

  1. Make this a defining year and time. How will you remember this year? When you look back upon it, what made it unique and meaningful?
  2. Don't define your goals by what you do NOT want. Follow your heart and your head. Envision  the way you want your life to be. Not a default position based on what you want to avoid.
  3. Don't be the smartest member of your network. Assess your network. If you are the biggest fish in your pond, then move into a great lake, your network is not helping you. You are helping everyone else. Upgrade your network to challenge you and push you. Break out of the groups that hold you back. Your network has to inspire you and breed success.
  4. Schedule your mentoring physical.Get an appointment with your mentor(s). Renew your openness to confront a truthful and trusted evaluation. Test out your new goals to get constructive criticism. If you need one, get on your horse and find a great mentor.
  5. Reward yourself.What can you weave into your calendar that you will look forward to? Is there a special trip? A favorite activity or hobby that can interrupt your hard work with delight?
  6. Meet up. Beyond your transactional postings on FB, reach out and engage those you care about in serious exchanges about their goals and your aspirations. Arrange, dare I say, face to face conversations. Figure out how you can assist them achieve their new year's resolutions. It will make you and your network stronger.
  7. Conjure up the child within. Let down your guard a little. Beckon the creativity and genius that resides inside. Let it out. Take some risks and most of all have fun!

To accomplish these goals or any goals for 2010, the experts say dumb things like lower your expectations and be realistic. If you want to settle for what happens or accept the status quo, then be my guest. I say, get inspired. Renew your passion for the things that matter to you. Then you will see something that might surprise you -- a glimpse of who you really are and were meant to be.

2010 could be just another year that comes and goes and we will ask where it went. You and your cellulite will have been there before. Or it can be an extraordinary chapter in your life that is filled with chances and changes. You choose.

I wish you a prosperous and fulfilling year. Thanks for reading. John


Holiday Cards or House of Cards

Tis the season when we get filled with both the joy and burdened with the habits of the holidays. You know what I mean. The fun and chore of giving and getting. One of the most interesting parts of the season, at least for me, is the exchange of holiday cards. And here we often go into pure robotic mode. J0401611

Some anal maniacs have been sending out cards already. I got one before Thanksgiving! The card was unsigned, no note. They planned early but did not have time to personalize it. Why send it? I guess to check it off the long list of holiday tasks.

Many people have heard of the BYU professor who sent randomly chosen people from the phone book holiday cards. The next year close to half sent him cards! Robert Cialdini, the former Professor of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University used to tell this story. I followed up with him on several occasions and had the pleasure of hearing him speak many times. He later sent me a Xmas card! He taught me many things, but mostly the power and importance of reciprocity. That's what the BYU professor proved, that the trigger of mutual obligation can provoke a pavlovian response to a stranger who sends us a card! Yikes.

We decide to take on the hassle and expense of sending a card to friends and love ones. (that is if we really review the list to see if they are in fact still our friends) We may even use this opportunity to send a photo or two with a little newsletter on the happenings of the family unit because we have not had time to update them during our busy busy year.

Here are some basic principles and opportunities created by the holiday card exchange:

  1. If you are going to send a card, please sign it! If we are merely sending out an impersonal mass mailing, then why do it. Email it. It's not the thought that counts, it's being thoughtful.
  2. Make sure you update and cull your list. Only send to people that matter to you. Exchanging a piece of paper and a stamp with people you do not care about will never matter. If you do not remember the person on your list, you may be better off opening up your local telephone directory! :)
  3. If you send a newsletter, please make it readable and brief. For a long time I wrote the anti-holiday family newsletter in protest. Instead of the typical brag sheet of happy faces and perfect family stories, I revealed the truth accompanied by an embarrassing photo of the family--like this one. SunflowerSadly, to me, this newsletter and photos were banned by an angry mob with whom I co-habitate.
  4. Add card recipients on the fly to connect with new people you have met or reconnected with.
  5. Keep track of your list. As you add recipients, figure out a system that works for you. Fyi--no list, no network!

Thinking and acting green is also urged. But there is still something about a personal note, card, photo and maybe newsletter that is lost in the cyber-world we live in. Consider the pleasure you get when someone actually puts pen to paper and says something real! That's my point if you are not going to personalize it and put your John Hancock on it--walk away from the cards!

In any event, the holidays, despite the craziness are a wonderful time to reconnect with people. People you know well, people you just met. It is a time to express our appreciation for one another personally. Thankfully, everyone, well most everyone, understands that the gift giving thing is less this year. So your time, your personal effort to actually talk is valued and valuable.

Please do not say that you understand this, "but the holidays are too busy--I will make those connections next year." If so, keep that promise! Otherwise, it usually goes on the Himalayan size pile of intentions and to-dos that we tend to ignore.

Like passing out business cards you have to be thoughtful and intentional. Like all networking, how do we make the connection meaningful for me and thee? Otherwise we are building a cardboard network and a house of cards.

Cheers! Thanks for reading. John



 


Food Networking or Cuisine Convening

Our lives are dominated by so many myths. For example, the whole idea that the holidays are the worst time to network and look for a job. First of all, most people fall for this myth so the competition is seriously lessened. Secondly, employers continue to have needs that are not interrupted by the holidays. Lastly, often there is more time for interviews during the holidays so response times can pick up. The point is that it is utterly dumb to stop your search or your process to advance your career due to the holidays. It may be the most convenient excuse to procrastinate.

One great thing about the holidays is the food. There is the over-eating thing, but that's a different challenge! I am talking about the great magnetic pull of the holiday meals that bring families and friends together. The traditions of food are so important to us and they create so many ways to connect and reconnect. Not just the big meals like this Thursday, but throughout the year.J0422843  

Here is one of my greatest pet peeves. The non-sensical conversation that takes place when people are trying to decide where to eat. This is especially irksome when the point of the mealtime conversation is to network! What you eat impacts how you feel. How you feel determines how you come across. That all translates to the quality of that exchange and the impression you leave. So the responses, "I don't care or It doesn't matter" give away your power and your influence. 

You don't have to be a full on foodie or a gourmet. But you have preferences and interests that you can share and lead with. Why not pick a restaurant that no one has been to?Why not share a favorite place or dish you like?

Breaking bread with others is a powerful form of networking--There are many origins and meanings of this phrase. It is based on the idea that eating together is very valuable time. It also refers to the pulling apart of the bread to share it with others in need and with close friends and family. Breaking bread is a metaphor for living. C'mon how many of your greatest conversations have been with food and a great meal? Remember the award winning film, My Dinner with Andre?

So use these times together as opportunities to catch up and learn. Use these times to listen to the conversations around you and connect. Use these times to savor the flavors and nuances of the conversations and the food and drinks. You can nourish your hunger for a more fulfilling life if you do more than eat. Bon Appetite!

Thanks for reading and not over doing it. Cheers. John


Opening Cliques, Circles, and Closed-mindedness

Some habits are ingrained in us at such an early stage of our lives. We try to change some of these things we do but change is tough. When we look back at our childhoods we can laugh at our immaturity and our uninformed ways. But if we are honest and take a comprehensive look at our upbringing and our early experiences, we can see how some persistent habits in our lives formed long ago are still with us. What am I talking about? How we relate to others and others different than ourselves. The formation of our circles of friends. The creation of our networks. The ultimate membership in our communities. All can be heavily influenced by our childhood experiences. Who we are, who we like, who we are comfortable with, who we trust.....

Remember when we were in junior high (middle school) and then high school? We had to start choosing the groups of friends that would define us and sometimes categorize us. Jock, preppy, brainiac, emo, stoner...the ethnic clusters and any other attributes that could determine where you sat at lunch or who you were seen with. Circle of ceramic friends And once you self-selected or where peers pushed you, it was hard to be a part of multiple cliques that crossed groups. It was especially tough on those who were un-affiliated--the loners. We now know that most of these choices had little impact on our success or future paths. Or did they?

A number of school districts, including Hawthorne California, are attempting to disrupt the formation of these cliques they see as reinforcing stereotypes and even bigotry. Before we discard this as another liberal initiative to have political correctness in our schools, read on. Well established that cliques or friendship circles are essential to the normal development of a kid. You play soccer, therefore you hang with the futbolers. You are academically oriented so you cavort with scholars. You think looks determine success so your crew is "beautiful". etc etc. No program is going to change these natural gravitational and centripetal forces. But taken to the extreme, say in prison, your "clique" is an ethnic gang and you have to maim or kill a rival prisoner as part of your initiation. I am still personally distraught over a white kid I was counseling 30 years ago who had to join an Aryan prison gang that guaranteed his life imprisonment. And today, the sophistication and the segregation by gangs and ethnicity is out of control. Regrettably some of these prison behaviors start to manifest themselves on our school campuses. In diverse communities in LA and other parts of the country, young students may have to bond with their ethnicity over their interests. So segregation around race, income etc starts to show up. Yes, yes, this starts with parents, but our schools are where peer pressure plays out.  

Don't get me wrong, cliques can create structure and reinforce the good and the moral. But they can also do the opposite. 

So back at Hawthorne public schools. These schools are trying gentle and innovative ways to get students to mingle and to connect to different students. I guess early childhood education now includes early networking education--love it! They sponsor "Mix-it-Up Days", a national project sponsored by the Southern Poverty Law Center's Teaching Tolerance Program Mix it upthat encourages social boundary crossing. But also helps many students form new social connections. The disconnected are as worrisome as the exclusively connected. So starting in elementary school, Hawthorne has provided the Mix it Up sessions with good success as reported by LA Times reporter Carla Rivera this week. One student, Paige(11)said she was not able to join groups with the wealthy kids. Shayna, another student, "Before I might have chosen to sit alone rather than with new people because it felt safer." So at an early stage young people recognize and start to internalize where they belong or not.

I hear the exact same things In the workshops I do for adults that have been out of high school for 20 years+!!  Making connections outside of our comfort zones that expand our networks is an elusive goal because of our learned and comfortable habits. Introducing ourselves to people we interact with on a daily basis--like our neighbors or work colleagues, remains a challenge for mysterious reasons. I have written and spoken about the proven health benefits derived from forming diverse relationships that test your thinking and challenge your assumptions. Yet, our habits, our socialization and our own fear keeps our orbit close to the planets we know and further from new discoveries. So, if we don't make an effort to connect to new and different people, our personal and community healths are at stake.

My parents helped me understand how important it was to learn new things and to meet new people. It has never been easy, but the benefits of expanding my horizons, disabusing myself of stereotypes and old falsehoods has kept me going back for more. Never too late to learn a lot from kids and our children. Mixing it up has to be the never ending goals of avoiding the complacency of settling for the status quo of our existing clique or circle of friends, strengthening our sense of connectedness by meeting new people AND rejecting our limited world views as the truth. It all starts by sticking out your hand out and introducing yourself

Thanks for reading. John


Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome--A veteran's career strategy

As we all try and sort out the senseless Ft Hood tragedy, my perspective was seriously altered this week. A few hours before the horrific news from Texas, I was in a briefing on a report on the state of veterans who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. It was sobering and inspirational. Sobering to listen to the data and the stories of how we as a nation treat the men and women who return from war. The extent of their physical and their mental traumas. While they have endured unimaginable pain and suffering, their pride in serving their country and their ability to adapt and overcome their challenges was truly inspirational. Paul Rieckhoff, founder of IAVA (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America), used the unofficial mantra of the Marines, Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome, as a call to action for the veterans of today. These three words represent powerful advice for all of us to survive and thrive. But back to the plight of veterans.

A few facts about these wars that I think need to be emphasized: 

War

Deployed

Ethnicity

Gender

Ave. Age

Married

Deployment

Iraq or Afghanistan

1.8 million (to date)

Volunteer

71% white

16% Af.Amer

10% Hispanic,

3% Asian

89% male; 11% female

27

50%

Multiple tours

Vietnam

3.4 million

Draft

88% white,

 11% black,

 1% other

99.8% male

19

Mostly unmarried

1 year tour

  1. 600,000 troops have gone on multiple tours--some as many as 5
  2. 380,000 returning vets have traumatic brain injuries (TBI) according to Rand
  3. Veteran suicides are at record levels
  4. More than 2 million children of active military and veterans have been affected
While I personally know a few folks who were deployed through the national guard and reserves, I have thankfully never received a call or e-mail about the death of a soldier. Many of us have been protected and shielded from this brutal experience. Instead we are numbed by the violent scenes on tv and the stream of obituaries of local enlisted servicemen and women, now nearly 5200. 

Listening to the graphic stories of courage and personal injury that Ocatvio Sanchez (marines), Michelle Saunders (army) and Derek McGinnis (navy) told. Each of them suffered extraordinary pain and loss. They still struggle with their injuries. But each of them has made their experience and the cause of veterans a defining moment for advocacy. As Derek said, losing his leg was nothing compared to the inner pain and internal maladies he battles everyday. This is an amazing story about Operation Mend that does magic in the repair of soldiers' faces including Octavio's. Please watch it!

These brave souls who return to a less than hospitable homecoming, have been turning to the internet to seek support and network. Myspace and facebook have become the new American legion community halls. Community of Vets and other wonderful resources for veterans who want information and help confidentially. Did you know that a returning vet will not receive any services without applying for it? So connecting to other vets is pretty critical to compare notes and experiences. 

I will never see vets the same. I used to view them as the brave and the unlucky. I used to see them as a group of other people, like an esoteric profession that was outside of my interests and needs. I am ashamed of myself and now realize how wrong I have been and how much my respect for these soldiers has grown. But that has to be the starting point. It is a national disgrace. I think we all have to reach out and assist our vets, bring them into our networks. Make their care, education, and employment a priority. Make their homecoming commensurate with their courageous service. Not just on veteran's Day but everyday.

I learned many life lessons in a very compressed time frame. We all need to learn how to Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome in our lives and appreciate that we have the freedom to do so because of our veterans. 

Thanks for reading. John


Net Assets, Net Worth, Network!

This economy has brutalized many families and fortunes. The world has been changed and especially whatever plans we had for the future. People who were going to retire- can't. People who felt secure- aren't. And at the lower of end of the economic strata the chances and choices are far worse. I have discussed these issues on these pages many times. Okay, I know any of you paying attention already know this. There is no reset button. There is no return to the good ole days of 2007! J0442414

So why do I hear so many people still talking about their losses, the changes, the altered plans, the anxiety over what could have been? The whole dissection of the spilled milk through your rear view mirror is such a useless and tedious process. You lost money-- the whole world did-- and you probably will not get it back. That time has passed and "the future is not what it used to be" as that famous NY Yankee catcher said. 

People say to me, I am going to wait until my "net worth or my net assets" reach a certain level, then I will explore new things and work I care about. Only then will I get married or take a chance at that new business idea. Not until my little safety net is repaired will I venture out of my cocoon and try my wings. Requiring financial certainty and safety is a fool-proof way of procrastinating.

Look you should be fiscally conscious. Yes, money matters and getting your financial house in order and having  a plan is the prudent thing to do--blah blah blah. But to let that plan and a specific dollar number take precedence over your life's priorities is crazy. 

I admit I did not lose millions or even a fraction of that amount. I never had a plan, much to the chagrin of my children, of leaving a large inheritance. Somewhat by necessity I believe what Andrew Carnegie said, who formalized philanthropy in this country, "dying with money is a disgrace." 

Most of us will never have "enough" money. That amount of money that will make us worry free. But how much do we really need? Like smart businesses we need to downsize/rightsize our financial and material goals. Why don't we free ourselves from the tyranny of the money and focus on making ourselves and the people around us happy? Seems pretty simple and straightforward, doesn't it? 

If you have the need to calculate your current net worth or estimate your future net assets, be sure to assess the most important investments you have--your network. Your family, your friends, your community. How do you value the returns on those holdings? Much harder to bail you out of significant deficits in your network than any monetary debts. Do I need to regale you with anecdotes of wealthy, successful people who are lonely, lacking meaning, and living without purpose? That the one thing that undermines happiness is the regrets over our relationships. Total success has always incorporated strengthening and maintaining those relationships. 

So re-value your portfolios of personal relationships. Look at your 401K and see if your family is okay. Take stock of the market and your circle of friends. Develop a plan to lower your debts and increase your credit within your network. 

Don't make any relationship or opportunity conditioned on your financial net worth. You risk losing things that money can never buy. Your total net worth is composed of all the important things that you value and all of the things you care about. Stop talking about, thinking about, what was and could have been. Start focusing on the future and how you will invest in your network. Your returns will be more gratifying and enduring. 

Thanks for reading. John


The amazing networks of strangers

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. 
Margaret Mead 

First a shout out to my friends and colleagues of APEX, the premiere Asian American professional networking group here in SoCal. APEX celebrated its sweet 16 birthday last night. For the last two years, APEX has been under the fantastic leadership of Hogan Lee who has taken founder Stephen Liu's vision to new heights. There are many things I like about APEX. I have watched it grow and mature. Today it enables thousands of youngish Asian Americans (I am too old :) and new immigrant Asians to develop their confidence through mentoring, networking, leadership and service. 

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 Apex has grown well beyond the typical networking and mingling orgs that connect young people for business and pleasure and evolved into a formidable community resource for new leaders. I have always advised joining organizations that have purpose and meaning to network v.s. joining a networking org that has no other purpose.  Some people are still critical of ethnic oriented groups because they segregate. What those critics don't understand is groups, especially immigrant and under-represented groups, need to build bridges of commonality to integrate the tremendous ambitions and talents of the very diverse Asian American community into the greater society. To be honest we need more APEX-like orgs. Congrats to Hogan and his leadership team for their accomplishments. 

This last week I was reminded of the power of strangers networking. Previously unconnected people coming together for a common purpose, driven by self interest resulting in collective benefit. Howard Rheingold said in his book , "Smart mobs emerge when communication and computing technologies amplify human talents for cooperation."  

Group idea

James Surowieki in his book the Wisdom of Crowds asserted how valuable the informed perspectives of the many are to see the whole and to derive more effective solutions. 

Open source organizations have led the way using smart mobs and wise crowds for many years. Open source, some say open architecture, allows for contributions and improvements to come from diverse peer-based sources v.s. a closed controlled and hierarchical system. You have undoubtedly heard of or used many open source products/services. WikipediaFirefox, and Moodle come to mind. Linux pioneered open source development where volunteers and peers update and improve the software or service driven by their own professional development AND contributing to the common good. Most often these products and services are free to use as well. 

Beyond open source, there are numerous examples where smart crowds are gathering. I just joined Groupon. (a commercial enterprise) Have you seen this? Bulk buying with strangers. A deal is offered in your home city (24 now) and a minimum number of purchasers to get the deal is announced. The deal is not good until that number is reached within a set time. Sort of an eBay bid for a Buy it Now with a minimum number of buyers. Brilliant. 

One of the hottest trends in philanthropy are giving circles.  Giving circles are groups of like minded people who gather offline and online to use the wisdom of the group to find worthy recipients of their collective charity. Smaller groups are more enjoyable and more effective.Today giving circles account for $100mm of gifts annually.

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I have been a huge fan of Donorschoose.org. They have led the way in making small project donations delightful and easy. Donorchoose enables tens of thousands of teachers (250,000 so far) to post their requests for supplies, special class projects, and field trips. A donor can contribute as little as $1. Here's the great part: Donorchoose receives the donations, delivers the purchases, including the field trips to the teachers AND thanks the donors. If you give $100 or more your get a report on how the donation was used and the impact it had. What has been a pleasant surprise is that donors are not just geographically focused, but also funding ideas and subjects across the nation. For example, donors who love Shakespeare, search and fund those projects locally and across the country. Donorschoose calls it Citizen Philanthropy and they have set a standard that all fundraising orgs should follow.

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Patientslikeme
 is another incredible site where you can connect with other people and their networks who have similar medical challenges. And get the benefit of wise and smart crowds.

I have learned how to rely on strangers on the net, I am trying to translate that to my face-to-face life! How much wiser would we be? How much smarter would our decisions be?-- if we would work and think together in an open source way. 

Thanks for reading. John


Sincerity and Serendipity = Karma

What is Karma? It is the impact and result of our actions, some say it is moral causation. Others, "You get what you deserve. What goes around comes around." Often there is a negative spin or emphasis. In Japanese there is this concept/word Bachi! Loosely translated it is a divine punishment for bad behavior. But for Japanese Americans, it is often used in jest. For example, when my son tries to slug me and misses and hits the wall. We say bachi!-- you deserved that! Karma But karma is a much broader and deeper belief in the actions we take will return to us. That there is a cycle of causality--that good deeds return benefits and harmful acts return harmful effects. We have all witnessed it and maybe wished it! :) In the end, whether we believe in reincarnation, heaven/hell, or destiny, we know that the concept of karma exists and plays a role in our lives. 

Something I espouse here often and try to live up to, is the very basic idea of treating everyone as your equal. That status, demographic characteristics, income, title, or appearances are never effective ways of judging influence, importance, or relevance. 

I met a Beverly Hills private banker this week who told me this story. She was volunteering at an urban school teaching kids financial literacy. Later, she was sitting in her nice banker's office and a 6 year old kid walked into her office and said, "Hey you were at my school!" And the banker confirmed this was true. The young man confidently announced his intention to open up a bank account. His mom was now visible at the door and motioning for her son to leave the busy banker alone. "So you want to open up an account?", the banker queried. The mom nodded as the son emphatically exclaimed, "Yes!" So the banker decided to take the young man through the private banking process instead of escorting him to the tellers' outside. She completed the application and the account was opened.  The banker followed the full personalized process as if this boy was a high net worth customer. A hand written thank you note was sent. A then a telephone call to check in on this valued customer was made--the father answered. "Who is this? You are calling my son and he is 6 years old! You telemarketers are ruthless and stupid!" Before he hung up, the banker explained that his son opened up an account, which was verified by the mom (again!). The father was dumbstruck and handed the phone to his smiling son. Afterwards the father grabbed the telephone to tell the banker that he has lots of money in banks and no one calls him. He thanked the banker for her follow-up. The next day unbeknownst to the banker the father began singing the praises of this banker, regaling his colleagues with this story. He decided to start transferring his assets to the private banker's institution, his investors followed suit at his urging. Reciprocity When the dust settled, more than $50 million was deposited! The private banker set all time records for production and was honored. Karma! It all started out with a real, sincere and serendipitous encounter with a 6 year old boy.

One of my closest friends Rob, told me a story last night about a colleague he had at Wharton. This quirky professor decided to write letters anytime he experienced something good. He wanted to counteract those who only wrote to complain. He loved writing and jotted notes to cashiers, receptionists, clerks, and employees of all disciplines and copied the appropriate executives. He received grateful replies and to his delight, he received complimentary services and gifts. Some of the recipients were so surprised to get a compliment , because few ever came. The Karma here is palpable, isn't it? It's true we are quick and deliberate to acknowledge the bad and accept the good as an entitlement. I am as guilty as anyone. Bachi on us!  I am going to seriously try and acknowledge the good whenever I see it or experience it. I know it makes a difference. 

We encounter people and opportunities everyday through serendipity and through our spheres of influence. If we treat each of these chances as a time to do good and to never underestimate the value of the moment and the person, then our karma will rise and the bachi will fall.

Thanks for reading. John



Networking through the silence of neutrality

When things are utterly quiet. When you truly hear the silence, it can be one of the most peaceful and tranquil moments. Quieting the relentless noise in our minds, averting the cacophony of messages that attack us everyday, and letting our minds go blank are the most illuminating moments for me. Some call this meditation. Others name it reflection and introspection. Whatever the label it is a source of energy to me. 

Some of you know I hosted a live weekly radio program for 10 years at KPCC here in LA. J0440402 One of the things you learn in radio is dead air is deadly. Silence is a taboo. Makes perfect sense for the broadcasting medium. Listeners are there to be engaged, and silence, while a potentially powerful, is fatal in radio. Some people translate this idea into the way they talk and communicate. They don't listen and their mouth motors away. There is this nervous need or assertive assumption that they have to fill the space. Even, if they do not know what they are talking about the words keep coming as if their mouths will catch up with their ideas--always a dangerous move. The resulting monologue may be more fatal than silence, because your audience's attention span shrinks, especially when the onslaught is a rambling wreck. 

Been interviewing people for lots of jobs. And the Gong Show of having the vaudeville acts come in to audition is always fascinating. 250px-Gongshowtitle You remember the show where Chuck Barris would strike the gong to mercifully dismiss the untalented contestant (sometimes I wish I had a gong!). In this job-interview radio show like environment, I serve as the host and ask a few questions and then see what happens. Some candidates just blather on wandering around the planet to see if some of the random words and thoughts they express will return to the continent where the question resides. I know nerves play into it. But if you are semi-prepared AND you are listening then this fire hose approach to watering the daisies could be avoided. The most entertaining part is that they are not even listening to themselves and not knowing they have digressed, they never ask me, "Did that answer your question?" I rarely follow-up with questions if I have to pick through the pile of arbitrariness. Not worth the time. So I ask my next question to see if the brain and the mouth of the candidate sync up. If not, I ask if they have questions. About 50% of the time this is a perplexing question. Hard to believe that candidates have no questions. And that's when one of the last finishing nails goes into their shiny coffins.

Back on silence. When you make a habit of choosing silence in networking or meeting settings, you can be labeled shy but even arrogant or ignorant. Shyness evaporates as an excuse after people get to know you. Then silence can be interpreted in pretty damaging ways to your rep and brand. When you do not speak, your silence can communicate volumes.J0430507

Here's what Harvard Professor Leslie Perlow says:

"Silence is associated with many virtues: modesty, respect for others, prudence, decorum. Thanks to deeply ingrained rules of etiquette, people silence themselves to avoid embarrassment, confrontation, and other perceived dangers. There's an old saying that sums up the virtues of silence: "Better to be quiet and thought a fool than to talk and be known as one." The social virtues of silence are reinforced by our survival instincts. Many organizations send the message—verbally or non verbally—that falling into line is the safest way to hold on to our jobs and further our careers. The need for quiet submission is exaggerated by today's difficult economy, where millions of people have lost their jobs and many more worry that they might. A Dilbert cartoon poignantly expresses how pointless—and perilous—many people feel it is to speak out. Dilbert, the everyman underling, recognizes that a senior executive is making a poor decision. "Shouldn't we tell her?" he asks his boss, who laughs cynically. "Yes," the boss replies. "Let's end our careers by challenging a decision that won't change. That's a great idea." 

Couple of days ago a former of colleague made a confession to me, "I regret to this day that I did not speak up. (3 years ago) If I did our employer could have averted that disaster." 

Yes silence is safe. Not rocking the boat can assure smoother sailing but somebody better say something about the icebergs. In times like these, adding value to your jobs, doing more than we would usually do, is better job insurance than sheer neutrality. J0437293

Dante once said that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality” 

 John F. Kennedy

In my opinion, choosing what I call the stealth syndrome as a career strategy, where you silently keep your head down and stay productive, will relegate you to anonymity. And when push comes to shove, no one remembers you and what you look like. 

Enjoy the silences to calm your mind and energize your action orientation towards your goals. But pay attention, listen to what is being said, and contribute your ideas to the conversation. That's the best way to avoid the labels of ignorance, arrogance, or irrelevance.

Thanks for reading. John  


The mosaics, ripples and momentum that come from networking

A brief shout out to the LEAP interns (grad students interested in public service and the public good) I met with last week. Mary Rose, Leslie, Lisa, Pryanka, Seyron, Jen, and Vi engaged me in a wide ranging conversation about life liberty and the pursuit of fulfilling work, and of course, networking. Always inspiring and energizing to be around bright, youthful and idealistic students. I am certain that I received more benefit from the session than they did! Aaaah to be young and overwhelmed by choice and commitment. :-)  I tried to impart these 4 takeaways: 

  1. Students are powerful. Nearly everyone wants to help a student. You can ask "dumb" questions, you can be curious, you can talk to people at the highest levels. Later this type of power evaporates. 
  2. Challenge yourself. Get out of your comfort zone, your routines and try new stuff that is driven by your curiosities and your interests.
  3. Map is not the territory. Explore your ideas and experience them. Do not rely on your intellectual understanding or theories. Apply and test your theories.
  4. Minimize your regrets. Follow your mind and more importantly follow your heart. Because your age will be defined by the number of regrets you accumulate.

Maybe relevant lessons for those of us who have been out of school for awhile. I am sure a few of us would gladly trade our challenges for theirs! 

A am just struck by how our lives are so influenced by the people we meet and get to know. How these encounters can put new spin and momentum on our lives as we accelerate towards intended and often unintended destinations. If we pay attention and we seek new ideas, our trajectories can be altered or strengthened through these human connections. We know in our hearts, that we can not figure this stuff out by ourselves. Notwithstanding the American ideals of boot-strap individualism and self-reliance, our lives are less about our singular visions for ourselves, but the confluence and convergence of a mosaic of thoughts, advice, role models, inspirations, and needs that we obtain or observe in others. Gaudi mosaic Like Antonio Gaudi's amazing and awe inspiring works in Spain--mosaics made from broken shards of pottery and discarded porcelain, which individually may be de-valued but when connected create stunning possibilities. Such is our lives. We can create and put together fascinating worlds, propelled by the people we meet and get to know. Connecting ourselves to others and their ideas, and suddenly the world is smaller and our ideas are bigger. 

My daughter Jenna was marveling about her newest friend and how a superficial homework partner has emerged as a trusted confidante in a few conversations. Someone she "knew" was different once she got to know her. Jenna told me about the new ideas that have sprouted as a result of this new friendship or shall I say latent friendship. She has been introduced to new cuisines and a new network as well. By being open to the possibility of learning, by exploring, and ultimately leaving the comfort of your habits and routines--stuff happens. And that stuff will make you think about who you are and what you are doing. It will introduce you to new perspectives. And anything that gives you those opportunities is precious. 

A couple of weeks ago I was worried about what summer would be like without summer school, summer camp, and swimming pools. The budget crises closed all of summer schools here in LA, most of the pools, and many more families are unable to send their kids even to a local day camp. The consequences from Park closed these budgetary cuts will stunt the memories and opportunities for the youth who have few options to begin with. But I digress. Anyway, got my employer CCF to start a modest fund to raise some money to help at-risk and disadvantaged kids receive assistance to go to camp or join a summer activity. The first day failure was predicted. I was told that there are no funds from foundations, that donors are tapped out, that the unfunded needs were too great etc etc. I have always believed that to have a chance you have to start--Lesson # 357 on networking--I called the metropolitan YMCA to explore this idea for a fund, they talked to their Board. One of their Board members is on a huge foundation Board (not in Los Angeles), she talked to the President of the foundation, that president sat next to my boss Antonia Hernandez at a chance meeting and the other foundation president said she heard about the summer youth fund. And that foundation is now going to fund the summer activities of 3000 young people from low income homes! All of this happened in 10 days. Some say this was just luck. However, I have learned long ago that the ripples from our chance encounters and conversations can be enormous. 

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Try to return your mindset to those like the grad students I met. A world of possibilities. A world that opens up through others. As I like to say, networking is a contact sport but it is a team sport. Regardless, you have to start the conversations. You have to get know people you know and don't know. And also like the grad students, our opportunities and abilities to influence are always far greater than we think. We can choose to be the artist that builds the mosaic or the weaver that stitches together the fabrics or the pinball wizard that propels the balls that come our way to greater distances and opportunities. Once you make the choice and the commitment, the lifestyle of mentoring and networking starts ripples that can bring enormous returns to you and your network. 

Thanks for reading. John

  


The beginning of networking---Dedicated to my Dad and your Dad

Happy Father's Day! If you are fortunate to still have your dad, I hope you called him. If you have lost your father, think about him and appreciate that he gave you the opportunity to be where you are. 

I dedicate this blog to one of my best friends, Willie Banks. He lost his Dad a few days ago.
 ~In memory of William "Bill" Banks II~


Being a Dad is one of the greatest challenges, joys and adventures ever. It gives you an appreciation for the cycle of life. It gives you a chance to appreciate what your parents tried to do and how they shaped your view of the world. As Robin Williams observed when his son was acting up by using a string of obscenities, he saw his father with his arms stretched high and an evil smile across his face, screaming Yes! Yes! Yes! Fathers take pride in their off-springs successes and also a bit of pleasure in their children's confrontations with reality--especially when parents provided sage and unheeded advice. 

Here's how Roderick Yoshimi Kobara (that's my Dad) ignited J0434748 my interest in networking and a clearer path for me to succeed. Raising me was not always easy. I was very inclined to be anti-everything. Part of it was the times--the late 60's, part of it was my incessant desire to be different and independent. Part of it was the teenage funk generated by the endless war between the hormones and the pituitaries. One of the many victims of this battle is the cross cultural decline of respect for parental units, their irrelevance, their responsibility for all wrongs in the world and their embarrassing lack of coolness. 

During this awkward time, my Dad was frustrated with his oldest son--that's me. He found little benefit in my impersonations of Richard Pryor or when I told people I met that I was Viet Cong. He found these unfunny comedic pursuits and my less than stellar performance in the classroom reason to be concerned. Being a classic Asian Dad, a man of few words, he would say pointed things from time to time leaving the interpretation to the imagination of his children. One of these poignant moments changed my life. 

Dad always told us, the four kids, always to represent the family, to not embarrass the family name, and to be polite but quiet. There is a Japanese concept/value called enryo. Enryojpeg It is a giant cultural concept that means self-discipline, self-sacrifice, no-ego, and modesty. But when uttered by a parent it meant, do not touch, ask for, eat anything when visiting someone else's home. Restrain all needs. Defer to others. My parents would say "Enryo!" You can see how this would clash with the good ole American values of rugged individualism, me-first, assert yourself, take control, and lead! 

When people came over, especially my parents friends, my Dad requested we greet, shake hands, and then quietly retreat to our rooms. This was a confusing request in the enryo world in which we were raised. So we rarely obeyed this command. This was embarrassing to my Dad. After the umpteenth time we did not comply, Dad called my brother and me into the kitchen. As the oldest, I got the brunt of it. As teens we were stupidly inattentive even when our lives were at stake. My father railed against our incorrigible behavior. My brother Mitch and I looked at our shoes and this enraged Dad more. He grabbed me by the front of my shirt and pulled me onto my tiptoes. He stared me down, as Mitch moved to the furthest and safer corner of the kitchen. Dad said, "Do you know why I want you to do this?--say hello to our friends, shake their hands?" It's because I was never a public person. My career has been hurt by my inability to make speeches and meet people. You have to be public people to be successful in America." We had no idea what he meant. We just knew we disappointed him. It was not until much later I realized that being a public person was being comfortable and confident networking and making presentations. For my Dad, through his experiences of post WWII assimilation, humiliation and prejudice, he never felt fully accepted or welcomed in the business world. He partly blamed himself for his inability to acquire these skills. Nevertheless, my Dad was very successful in his work, and as a father, but he wanted a better life for his kids. And this was one of the many ways he guided us. 

Our Dads have taught us many things. 

For my buddy Willie Banks, I am grateful to your father for teaching you to be such a beautiful, generous and extraordinary friend and father. may he rest in peace.

Dad and me
For my Dad, thanks for teaching me how to be a public person. I have used that inspiration to be a better father and to go from enryo to an enlightened and fulfilling path. And I actively share and teach these concepts to anyone who will listen. 

Thanks for reading. John

Networking with humor, part 1

First a shout out to a bunch of rising star managers and leaders I met yesterday from Boeing, State Farm, Northrup Grumman and other leading companies. I was leading a private workshop on what else, mentoring and networking for LEAPLeap

I am frequently asked when I will do a public workshop--I rarely do. When I speak it is usually at the request of a company or an organization (like LEAP--been working with them over 15 years) for a closed group of employees or leaders. However, UCLA's Anderson School of Management has invited me to present for their Career Series on August 19, 2009. Here is the Download Executives_Brochure_pages for their program if you are interested. I asked them for a discount for my readers and they agreed! Here's the deal, enroll before August 1 and you will get $200 (an extra $100) off the full day --you will see me for a half day session then the well-known Bill Arruda on personal branding. (be sure to note that you are entitled to the John Kobara discount per Keith Groya--shhhhhh!)Okay back to our regularly scheduled programming......Ucla_exec_and_career

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A sense of humor is part of the art of leadershsip, of getting along with people, and getting things done. 
Dwight Eisenhower

For those that know me and those that have read a few posts, you know I try to inject humor into my messages. Not claiming to be funny but I do try and lighten the delivery with some levity and a bit of sarcasm. I have found that humor is a powerful weapon to disarm others and reduce some of the tension in the environment. In the context of networking, humor can be the difference maker. 

First you do not need to be a comedian/comedienne. You are not trying to be the class clown or the local jokester. Frankly, these types are not taken seriously. We are talking about the use of relevant stories or observations that provide a humorous perspective.

Before I briefly discuss networking, let me touch on the extraordinary benefits of laughing and making others laugh:
  1. Laughter is the best medicine. Laughing and having an attitude of fun and playfulness makes us live longer. There is great evidence that there are biological changes when we engage in these activities.
  2. Humor makes you more attractive. People that have a sense of humor are more interesting, more popular and more desirable. 
  3. Never laugh at others, but always start by laughing at yourself. We take ourselves so seriously and when we think about it, we do some pretty funny things. Rodney Dangerfield became famous for making fun of himself.  
Again, you do not need to be a stand-up comic. Many people say to me, I am just not funny, I am not a funny person, I can not tell a joke etc etc. If this was true, which is rarely the case, this makes you a great candidate to use humor. One of the most powerful forms of humor is the element of surprise. This can be done through a dead pan delivery or just saying something out of character.

Especially these days, we have to see the humor in things. Laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. Try to see the positive if not the sheer absurdity.   

Ways to help yourself see the lighter side of life: (from Helpguide.com)

  • Laugh at yourself. Share your embarrassing moments. The best way to take ourselves less seriously is talk about times when we took ourselves too seriously.
  • Attempt to laugh at situations rather than bemoan them. Look for the humor in a bad situation, the irony and absurdity of life. This will help improve your mood and the mood of those around you.
  • Surround yourself with reminders to lighten up. Keep a toy on your desk or in your car. Put up a funny poster in your office. Choose a computer screen-saver that makes you laugh. Frame photos of you and your family or friends having fun.
  • Keep things in perspective. Many things in life are beyond our control—particularly the behavior of other people. While you might think taking the weight of the world on your shoulders is admirable, in the long run it’s unrealistic, unproductive, unhealthy, and even egotistical.
  • Deal with your stress. Stress is a major impediment to humor and laughter.
  • Pay attention to children and emulate them. They are the experts on playing, taking life lightly, and laughing.
How do you integrate humor into your conversations with friends, colleagues and new acquaintances? First, shift your perspective to see more fun and humor around you. 

Keep track of little incidents that happen to you. Something your kids did. Something you did to yourself that was slightly embarrassing. Maybe a funny thing you heard or saw on tv. You are not trying to get people to roll around on the ground, you are seeking that little smile, a gleam in the eye and for them to open up.
  
When someone says, "What did you do this weekend?" You won't just give the same auto-pilot answer, "Just relaxed." "Not much." 

Instead you say, "You won't believe what my kid did, or what I did to myself, or........" You'll get a smile and then you will usually trigger stories from other people.  They have funny things to say too. Now you are sharing stories instead of robotic answers.

I have gotten great mileage out of stories that happened to me. True life is so much more interesting than any movie or tv show.

  • The other day, I was having an allergic reaction and my face started swelling up. I became self-conscious and asked if it was noticeable to the person I was meeting with. She told me it was and asked me what happened. I told her I had a collagen accident.Then I told her the truth and we laughed. 
  • I was meeting a very important person and I blurted out my name unintelligibly. So I asked if i could do it over again. He agreed, and I did a second take beautifully! He smiled.  
  • I reconnected with an old friend the other day and we compared notes on our kids and I asked, "What are you doing to be a "cool" Dad?" Knowing that is is an impossible question, we laughed and told a bunch of stories about how uncool we are.   
  • An appointment came into my office last week with a new Kindle under his notepad. I said, "Are you going to make me buy one of those things?!" He laughed and proceeded to show it off to me. 
These are merely examples where I try to find the thing to bring a bit of humor to the conversation, usually at my expense. These are not long stories that I memorized, but I try to pay attention and use the element of surprise.

I am resisting with all my might to provide a list of "lines" or jokes that will get you a quick laugh. Those don't work because you have to follow it up with something real that is you. 

The first and most important step to using humor in networking is to make sure we appreciate the humor we experience everyday and especially the funny things we do to ourselves and other people. Your attitude and then your observations and stories will add some fun and spice to your connections.Laughing

Thanks for reading and smiling. Gotcha! John :)



Finding commonalities and common ground--Fast!

Thanks for the great response to my last couple of posts. Appreciate the tweets, links to other sites, and the curious level of interest from Australia! G'Day mates!

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All of us have stories about discovering amazing things we have in common with people we just met or have known for a long time. You find out that you both went to the same high school, share a hobby, your parents know each other, you have a close friend in common.... A moment that reinforces how increasingly small the world is. What if we could figure out those connections sooner? Knowing how our worlds overlap and intersect will only expedite the relationship and ultimately the trust between the parties. 

Do you believe in the theory of 6 degrees of separation ?The idea that you and I are separated by no more than 6 people or 6 connections? As an aside there have been and continue to be experiments that go back many years to prove and attempt to quantify this interconnectedness. Stanley Milgram's experiment and many others have shown that we are all separated by 5 to 6 connections and that's where the number 6 came from. 250px-Six_degrees_of_separation Much of this work has been criticized and disputed. Nevertheless, Milgram's experiment was well before e-mail, the web, and social networking. So I would argue that we are measurably closer and more interconnected. My experience has shown me over and over that the theory of 6 degrees or less is true. I have learned that we are all connected and that we have so much in common. I don't mean only in the Buddhist, atomic material, we are the world ways. Regardless what we look like are our backgrounds, we have so many common bonds and connections that are often undiscovered. Sometimes, they seem to appear magically and serendipitously and we marvel at their existence. I am going to advocate here that if we are more intentional about discovering our commonalities, we will appreciate their existence and certainty of finding them. 

While this is a process you can use in meeting new people, it is also very valuable in interacting with people you think you know well. As I have said over and over, "It is amazing who you know who you don't know." 

A conscious goal you should have in every conversation (not the sole goal nor the dominant one) is finding commonalities, including common human connections. In other words, the 6 degrees concept applies to people but also to interests and experiences.

J0437254

A few tips on discovering commonalities

  1. Preparation and research: Google every person you know you are going to meet or think you might meet, especially senior executives. Learn what might be common areas of interest in advance.
  2. Listen and pay attention: If you listen and look for common grounds, they will seem omnipresent. When you hear someone, even a perfect stranger, talking about your alma mater, your favorite restaurant, your hobby, your employer--you have the chance to explore than common ground. If you see someone who has the book you are reading, a product you want or just bought, a luggage tag of your favorite sports team--then you have a means to discuss commonalities.  
  3. Lead with your interests and passions: How you introduce yourself and talk about yourself matters. If you integrate facts and interests into your spiel about yourself your BIT , then you create opportunities to connect. After the "What do you do?" or "Tell me about yourself." query, you tell your story. I might say, "I was raised up north and then came down here to go to UCLA. I work for the California Community Foundation and have three kids." Four points of interest and potential commonalities.
  4. The context is a common ground: Where you are meeting, your surroundings, the purpose of your connection are all reference points. Your curiosity drives you. Why did you attend this conference? How did you get into this business? There is a reason why both of you find yourself at this unique place and time. 
  5. Commonality questions: As part of a larger conversation, you can ask, "Do you have kids?" (because you do). "Where did you go to school?" (alma maters, college sports, majors)"Where do you live?" (local restaurants, neighbors) "What were you doing before this?" (colleagues at employers, current events)"What do you do when you are not working?" (hobbies, kids activities) Typical questions that are now slightly influenced by your commonalities. The answers trigger additional questions and potential connections.

Kevin bacon

With the intention of finding how we are connected and what we share, you will discover commonalities much faster. While using this strategy, please do not turn into Dan Rather and pummel your conversation partner with a series of set questions. Let the conversation happen, but keep an eye on the hints of commonalities. Once you do, you too will be convinced that the world and your anxiety over networking are shrinking. Kevin Bacon and your confidence in connecting faster are not very far away. 


Thanks for reading. John


Shaking the hand that needs you

I went to a fundraising dinner for Coro in Los Angeles where a a couple of my friends were being honored. Rick Tuttle one of my long time mentors who helped me see my potential and think out-of-the-box regarding my career. And Steve Soboroff a colleague of mine from Big Brothers Big Sisters and now in the philanthropic world. Steve has inspired me with his dedication and commitment to helping others and to showing up. 

Steve turned his acceptance speech into a micro workshop on how to shake hands and hand out your business card. He aimed his remarks at the graduating Coro Fellows who are now traversing the job market for employment. However, his animated how-to session was entertaining and instructive for all of the 400 attendees. 

Have you ever had a lesson on handshaking and handing out your business card? We all know how important these things are in forming or giving a first impression. We all have experienced when it has gone badly. Yet, most of us have never received a primer on these basic social skills.

Steve told a great story about when he was the Chairman of the LA Parks and Rec dept and arranged for then President Clinton to play golf at one of LA's nicest public golf courses, Rancho Park. Steve was invited to play with William Jefferson! And during that round of golf, Steve was treated to-"the most engaging person I have ever met." Steve asked the President how he coped with shaking so many hands. At the time Steve had just started a hotly contested campaign for mayor of LA. The President stopped in the middle of the fairway and gave Steve a lesson on handshaking.

Bill and john 001

 Here's what he told Steve:

  1. Slow down and take your time
  2. Direct eye contact and smile
  3. Firm grip and little or no shaking 
  4. Take the other hand and grab the forearm or elbow of the other person 

This last one is the key. The other hand adds an extra dimension of enthusiasm and trust to the shake. And Preident Clinton added that this also prevents the other person from pulling your arm out of the socket, especially if you have to shake a lot of hands. :)

Lastly, everyone wants to be remembered including you. So say your name slowly and listen and repeat the name of the person you are meeting. How you introduce yourself really matters--know your BIT (brief introductory talk) and then the experience will be memorable.

I got to meet President Clinton a couple of times and shake his hand.

 He is a master at focusing on you and making you feel special. 

By the way, I guess Bill Richardson, the former Governor of New Mexico, owns the Guinness record of number of handshakes in a day at 13,392! Ouch. 

This is a nice video on the dos and dont's on handshaking:

Now for the business cards: J0424431

Steve went on and showed everyone at the dinner how to give out your card. Actually this was the first time I ever heard anyone talk about this. These are great tips!

  1. Hand your card face up so the person can see it. Say what you do.
  2. When you receive a card, look at it. Be respectful and read it, make comments, or ask questions.  


This is also part of your first impression. Don't be a Vegas dealer and just hand your cards to everyone. Unless it really does not matter who you meet or who meets you. I guess stapling your business card to bulletin boards has a place in a mass sales effort. However, in networking, business cards are valuable and should be treated that way. 

  1. Keep your business card to yourself until someone asks for it.
  2. Only ask for cards or contact information for people with whom you intend to follow up.
  3. When someone offers you their card; the courteous thing to do is to thank them. Take it and read it. Reading what is printed on it, enables you to make a connection with the person giving it to you. It also says  that you care and respect the card that has been given to you.  
  "You can't shake hands with a clenched fist." - Indira Gandhi

Lots of debate about the origin of the handshake. Generally agreed that it started in midieval times when knights greeted each other with open hands to show they were unarmed. Even in this hyperbolic swine flu world, shaking hands is an essential form of communication and first impressions. 

Thank Steve Soboroff for helping all of us remember that the little things that make a difference. Now get moving and shaking. Thanks for reading. John

  


How Do I Help Others Network? The Conveyor Belt of Life

In the final analysis, I think we all will be judged on how we help one another. Have we unconditionally and effectively assisted our friends, colleagues, and family members, especially in times like these? Everyday I receive a request of some sort--regarding a job, a reference, looking for a new career, trying to connect to a new network of opportunities, review a resume etc etc. I am sure you are getting your share too. Usually the person in need (PIN) connects to me through someone else. And that person knows me somehow. I make a quick determination whether I can help the person and take next steps in my process--more about that later. People are eager to hand off the PIN in a quick transactional way. Like a hot potato, the PIN is quickly tossed to someone in the network, sometimes with care and sometime recklessly. Hot potato Sometimes with a nice intro and warm request. Often with a pretty inelegant hand off, leaving the PIN to say, "So and so said I should contact you." Hopefully I know or like so and so.:)

In sports, life,  and work---the art of of the hand-off is a valuable and necessary skill. On a relay team, how well the baton is exchanged determines how well they do at the finish line. Passing baton When a huge corporate sale is made, how well it is turned over to operations will create results for the customer and generate great word-of-mouth and more sales. On the assemblyline of life we must depend on the work that precedes us and hand off to the "workers" after us a better product otherwise the end product suffers. What we do builds on what others do. Otherwise life is like a giant Lucy Ricardo conveyor belt of chaos and lost productivity. 

 

If there is an evil conveyor belt operator, all bets are off. :) Seriously the only way the system of life works is when we each do our part and do it well. The probability of the quality of the end product goes up with the diligence and competency of each step. This goes for parenting, the education system, or project management or architecture. But it definately applies to networking.

I am the victim of bad hand-offs at least once every week. They go something like this: 

  • The voicemail message squawks:"Hi John, so and so said I should talk to you about my career/job search/resume." I think to myself I wonder who so and so is.
  • A friend calls me and says, "My wife's sister was just laid off and is going to connect with you. Can you help her find something in LA?"  I think what a very unfocused request.

Bad, bad, bad, hand offs! A disservice to me and especially the PIN. Here's how to prevent bad hand-offs and actually help the PIN. 

  1. Prep the PIN--When we agree to help someone who is connected to someone we care about, we have to help them. Meaning--Help the PIN think about their strategy, their resume, their approach and goals. Hold up the mirror to them and tell them what you see. Do their goals match their experience and resume? If not tell them. Do you know how much time the PIN has to find a new job or career? Makes a huge difference in what kind of assistance they need. What are the requirements for the next gig? Salary? Location? Don't put them on the assemblyline without your honest advice and assessment.
  2. Give them my SWIVEL Download SWIVEL new 2009. I provide this to almost every PIN who is referred to me. It causes them to stop and slow down
  3. Prep the Network--At least make a call or send an e-mail alerting the network that this PIN is coming down the conveyor belt. A brief note on how you know them, their resume , and what you think they need (as opposed to what the PIN thinks)
  4. Follow-up with both--Touch base with both via e-mail. Did you connect? If so, how was it? Thank the network!
Yes, I know this takes more time, but we are dealing with human beings not widgets on this assemblyline! This is a full service networking site not the cheap imitations. :) Seriously, that's why it is a lifestyle and not a hobby. How we help PINs in all walks of life shape who we are and our sense of fulfillment. Nothing like an assemblyline that cares about the quality of its production.

Thanks for reading. John 
  

Reconnecting with your "old" network

"We strive, all of us for excellence. We want to be the very best we can be. It’s axiomatic— if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you most often get it. If you are willing to accept less than the best, you’ll get that too. And that’s the point. If you work to your highest potential, do all you are capable of doing, you will literally astound yourself.

General George Patton, no shrinking violet, said it well: “The most vital qualities a successful person can possess is self-confidence— utter and complete heart, spirit, and audacity. You can have doubts about your good looks, your intelligence, about your self-control— but to win, you must have no doubts about your abilities.”
Moby dick

You need to be the kind of person who would go after Moby Dick with a row boat, a harpoon, and a jar of tartar sauce."    Jerold Panas

Not sure why you would use tartar sauce, but love this quote.

There was a tie in the poll and therefore I choose. :) There are two reasons why this topic is relevant to you:
  1. You NEED to connect with old colleagues, bosses, acquaintances etc, because you are pounding the pavement or need a reference.     
  2. You were just reminiscing about an "old friend" but you have neglected keeping in touch (no holiday cards have been exchanged) and you wanted to catch up.  
In either case you feel a bit awkward and a tad guilty. 
This is why adopting the mentoring and networking lifestyle is so important. Staying connected is hard work but less uncomfortable later. No worries. There are a host of strategies to ease your pain.

Before you go off and reconnect with all previously known humans--get your act together, do a little homework. Be prepared to articulate what you are looking for and what help you can provide. Remind yourself that reconnecting with "old" friends will be fun--even if you have an agenda. It will fill a small whole you have in your heart and in you mind and that will fill good. The more this feels like a chore the more tedious and anxiety ridden the process will be. 

Once you are ready and you have a list of "old friends, take the following easy steps:
  1. Google them. Find out what you can through available resources. You may snag their contact info. It will also give you the background on them so you do not sound so out of touch when you connect. BTW, you should Google everyone you meet with!
  2. Talk to mutual friends. Do some investigation through mutual contacts to understand how your lost contact is doing. He/she may be worse off than you!  
  3. Contact them.  Pick up the phone, bang out an e-mail, just re-establish a connection as directly as you can. Meet face to face if possible. The closer you were to this person, the easier it will be to start over. 95% of the time the other person feels guilty too and they will be thrilled to hear from you. Just apologize for the time that has elapsed and reconnect. The point here is make the connection! 
WARNING: If you come off too desperate or too pushy then you poison the reconnect. On the other hand, take the time to get through the "catching up" phase before you blurt out your need. On the other hand, if this person is a senior exec, then come straight out with it. They expect your call and are ready to support you as a reference or possibly to refer you. 

The more specific you can be with your request the better. 
  • I am getting close to a couple of offers, will you be one of my references?
  • Just wanted to let you what I have been up to and to see if I can count on you as a reference.  
  • I am in the running for a few positions, I was wondering if you know anyone at ABC, XYZ or 123 companies?   
  • I am trying to make a career shift and I'd like to meet someone in the XXXXX field. Do you still know so and so or someone at XYZ company?  
Make sure you update them on your qualifications and your recent professional experience. Don't assume they still know you and know what to say. 250px-Social-network.svg
One easy strategy is to establish or invest time in the social networking sites. Facebook, Linkedin 
and many others are fantastic ways for you to reconnect effortlessly. Some of you think you are too old to have a facebook, think again. Linkedin is a bit more serious and less fluffy site. Nevertheless, sign-up, register and input some basic info and you are off to the races. Once you have a facebook and or Linkedin pages, you can connect to groups and look up people. Then you will have people trying to connect with you! You are always in control to confirm these requests. Investing time on these sites to nurture your network is time well spent. Once you find a few folks you can read their bios and what they are posting. And you can see the connections they have! This gives you a head start on the reconnecting process. 

The big question is : Why do we let some people slip into obscurity? I am not talking about people you had to work with or people you need for references. I am talking about those great friends and confidantes with whom you shared your personal stories and dreams. Make the time and effort to re-establish these relationships and I guarantee you they will bring you joy, new perspectives, and new opportunities. 

A key premise of mentoring and networking lifestyle is start with your EXISTING network! reconnecting is so much easier than establishing new relationships. 

The question is not how to reconnect as much as when. And the time is now! 

Thanks for reading. John

How good is my network?

I know I am getting old when people ask me to help their parents network! This economy is brutalizing families and their futures. Yet, there are opportunities and jobs. The question is trying to help people connect with others who can help them with these opportunities. It is virtually impossible to go online and find a job. We need to help each other by connecting our networks to one another. You visually can see it on Linked-in. There is untapped power and influence when we plug our networks together. 

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“The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.”
Epictetus, Greek philosopher

Like looking in the mirror, we don't see ourselves any more. When is the last time we reflected on the quality of our networks? Have you ever spent a few hours doing a full SWOT analysis?--thinking about the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of your networks. No wonder our networks seem a bit limited. Without such an evaluation, there is little chance your network will adapt to your needs and your future goals. You may take comfort in the stability of your network or feel burdened by how stagnant it is. In so many ways we end up in habits and routines that make us very comfortable. This is reflected in the circle of friends, our cliques, and certainly our confidantes with whom we surround ourselves. Just how our personal kitchen cabinets are formed is a unique process to each of us. 

Most of us have developed or find ourselves in a constellation of connections. At the core is our trusted friends and family--the ones we turn to for unconditional support and advice. Then we are connected to groups of others from work, church, hobbies, fraternities, alma mater etc. These networks rarely connect, despite overlaps, and serve other professional and personal needs. This conjures up our multiple networking personalities and the different ways we interact with others. ZodiacYour network can look like a zodiac constellation of stars and planets Complex molecular structure
 or a molecular structure. Your network starts with you and the closer points represent your inner network and then there are nodes and hubs representing your connections. The point is we are part of unique networks that often happen and we rarely re-engineer them. We think we are stuck with these structures and there is little we can do about it. 

As Epictetus queries, Is your network uplifting? Our networks can be formed through obligations, duty, responsibility, and sheer luck. We may not notice how bound we are to history. We can't tell if our network is a hindrance or a help. Our well-meaning parents, even best friends may be holding us back. I recently had someone ask me if they could remove themselves from their own network because it was "toxic" to her new goals. Just this act of stopping and considering who is in your network and how it is doing are huge steps. But let's go further and take 2 more steps:

  1. Map your network. Use concentric circles, or a constellation of circles. You are at the center and use proximity to determine the strength or the trust of the relationships. Just list your most trusted network members to start. Feel free to map as much as you want!How does it look? Are you happy with it? 
  2. Rate your network. Give 1 pt for each question you answer yes.
  • Do you trust your network to give you the truth about the real you? (not stuck on an earlier version of you)
  • Does your network challenge you as much as it supports you? (diverse points of view, not a bunch of cheerleaders)  
  • Does your network feel vibrant and dynamic? (Are you adding new and different members on a regular basis?)
  • Does your network represent your future goals as much as your past? (Can your network help you with your future goals?)  
  • Are the networks connected to your network strong? (Your network has strong hubs that are connected to other strong networks)
  5 pts You can stop reading.  Your network is in great shape!
3-4 pts You need to enhance your network
0-2 pts You need a makeover!

If you feel your network is out of date, then its time to upgrade! The consequences for a stagnant network are considerable. Dr. Lisa Berkman of Harvard University, mapped the social networks of almost 7000 people over a nine year time frame. She found that "isolated" people were 3x more likely than the "well-connected" to die---Die!. There have been a dozen studies that have shown that greater health, happiness, and success come from better, slightly bigger, more diverse and active networks. 

Additional research reveals we have "strong" ties and "weak" ties. Simply put, strong ties occupy that inner circle and weak ties are less established. Adding people to our networks is time consuming, especially strong ties. It requires an investment of time and energy to have multiple "best friends". Trying to stay in touch with new acquaintances is just as challenging. But adding new weak tie members to our network gives our networks vitality, new connections, new opportunities, and even more cognitive flexibility--the ability to consider new ideas and options. Put another way, if you are not adding new members to your network you will deprive yourself of information, trends, viral impact, and greater possibilities. 

New relationships invigorate the network by providing a connection to new networks, ideas, and opportunities. Mark Granovetter's ground breaking work The Strength of Weak Ties and many other social scientists have shown conclusively that adding new ties enables new "communities of interest" to be formed. This is the premise of facebook or linkedin. Connect to people you know and then the people they know and so on. You start with strong ties that logically and trustingly lead to new weak ties that build a stronger network. So you do not need to hand out your business cards at street corners, use your existing network to add members and reconnect with people.

What do you want? Your networks have to reflect where you have been as much as where you are going. I am always surprised that new graduates or career changers have not joined the professional associations that represent their future career paths. Hanging around with, attending conferences, reading the journals, keeping up with the lingo of your future self is so easy-- yet often overlooked. I just advised my daughter Jenna to join the Occupational Therapy Association, her presumed career path. She will experience what her profession does and try on for size her future world. Adding people to your network who reflect issues, jobs, industries, areas of interest is essential. Again, by probing your strong ties you find new ties (or old ties you have lost touch with) that relate to your future destinations. This will help you hone down your job search, clarify career aspirations, or help others. 

Taking inventory of your network and where it is lacking is time well spent. Engaging your trusted inner circle in filling these gaps is a good place to start. Your mere awareness of your needs will connect you with new and more relevant networks pretty quickly.  Your network will become more more powerful through the strength of weak ties. Here's to a network that give you a more uplifting and longer life!

Thanks for reading. John



Attention Deficit NETWORKING Disorder (ADND)

Thank you for your off-line comments and encouragement. But I really want to know what you want me to blog about. I put up the poll to get your input, but not very many vote --so I will blog about what I am thinking about until the vote count grows or a better alternative is suggested. So, please post your comments on how I can engage your ideas! Thanks. JK

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Normally, we do not so much look at things as overlook them. — Alan Watts.

BLOG Roll Call!  I am going to call out your name to see if you are here with me. Ready? Are you with me? Present? Our hyper-busy, multi-tasking lifestyle is creating a bunch of bad habits that detract from our ability to connect with others. On one hand we have never been as connected to one another, but our tendencies is to have quick exchanges IM, SMS, text, twitter, facebook, etc are now the dominant forms of communication. Love the innovation, the serendipity, the new possibilities that are emerging. One of the unintended victims is our attention. Our ability to be present in a moment that has many distractions. Like many things we begin to get into micro-routines of behavior and we can miss the context, the environment, the unexpected, cues of communication, and opportunities. While we get focused the world is evolving, our worlds. Watch this video to see if you are paying attention. Three points I want to make:
  1. The Power of NOW: We avoid the present by thinking about what could have been and what could be. The past gives us identity and the future opportunity. But if that's what we focus on we get stuck in the past or the future--and miss the now. The Eckart Tolle tells us there was never a time that was not NOW.  "To meet everything and everyone through stillness instead of mental noise is the greatest gift."Eckhart Tolle  
  2.  Multi-tasking Myopia: Our lives are a series of transactions coming one after the other. Like an assembly line worker, we focus on the incoming work, tasks, and connections. But life is going on around us. You may miss an extraordinary sunset, your kid's moment of need, or an opportunity to connect. We miss the bigger picture and/or do not hear and see what is really being said because we are distracted. Check out Derren Brown's experiments in attention in London. We hardly notice people we talk to! 
  3. Put the Device Down!: Robotically we have acquired this new tic, this nervous gesture of looking at our devices often for no reason. Like someone who looks at their watch every 15 seconds, as if they forgot the time from 15 seconds ago. Others of us not only look at our device, but start responding when we are with others, in a movie theatre, or in mid-sentence when we are talking to someone else. The impression is something else or someone else is way more important than the present. The only way to achieve the above goals is an increasing awareness of the cyber leash. 
Text love


  "I am so into you.....type type type..........."
 
 
 
 
 
Believe me, I am as distracted or pre-occupied with the past and the future as any of us. I struggle with staying present--by being in that moment and giving the things and people the attention they deserve. It has been my growing awareness that has saved me and gives me a chance to be present. Most times
 
I know when I am not present and I can re-focus. When I was a time when I had no ideaI remember when I was a young young corporate VP feeling and acting "very important". I stopped by the receptionist of one of our operations to announce my arrival. The receptionist, who I had seen dozens of times looked up at me and said, "Do you even know who I am? You seem so busy that I guess I am irrelevant." Wiser than her years, I was shocked into focus and I saw her for the first time. I apologized to her and confessed my lack of attention. Since then, I try not to be like that--that rude and insensitive.
 
I have a young mentee who asked me the other day, "To what do you attribute the opportunities you have been presented?" I said, "I was lucky I was paying attention. I have learned that there are opportunities all around us. And people who crave and need our attention. But do we see them?"
 
Let's holster our devices--at least a few times during the day, refocus, feel and see the NOW, and your world will expand before your eyes.
 
Thanks for paying attention and for reading. John

Multiple Networking Personality Syndrome

Consider for the moment that more Americans are enrolled in outplacement services than in MBA, Law, and Medical graduate programs combined! For most participants this is a brutal wake-up call and hopefully they find a new and prosperous path. But the biggest obstacle to their awakening is their resistance to learning who they are and what they want. In the end they have to adopt the networking and mentoring lifestyle--the best inoculation against the plague of an unexpected job interruption and not working is networking!

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All of us have Sybil like qualities of having multiple personalities, many faces, and many dimensions. That does not make us candidates for elecro-shock therapy! :) It is normal and makes us interesting. However, where did these personalities come from? Why do we have these facets and what makes them shine? Hopefully, I have not lost you already. I am referring to how we each act in our multiple roles. As a parent, a wife, a subordinate, a child, as a guest, or a host. You know, the way we switch instantaneously to a new persona based on expectations, history, or what we think is right. This is a giant topic, so I will discuss how you recognize the way you are presenting yourself in the world of networking and mentoring.

I meet so many people across the demographic and economic spectrum who are unwitting members of the Federal Witness Relocation Program! They have assumed new career identities. Often, these identities have been foisted upon us like second-hand Halloween costumes. In most cases this costume has been sewn together by the advice and guidance of well meaning people who have told us what we should do, what we are good at, and what we should not be. The classic, "You can't make money as a (fill in the blank art career)." And needing an identity, we slip on the costume and it is better than nothing. And over time we think the costume fits and like many things we adopt it as our own. Mary Jacobsen's book Hand Me Down Dreams discusses this topic in depth on how others shape the dreams we have. Our parents have aided and abetted the crime of identity theft. Parental expectations can govern everything. Pleasing our parents is an innate desire. What they said to us about our dreams and what our choices should be can be lifelong incentives or burdens. Asian parents are notorious, as are many different types of parents (I just happen to encounter many Asians in my worlds) in setting specific and non-negotiable goals. Like the old and stereotypical story about the Jewish kid who pursued law because he could not stand the sight of blood! Asian parents push academic achievement, brand name colleges, and the specific professions of medicine, law or engineering. In addressing Asian American young people, I usually start by giving them permission to think outside of the Asian parent box. Tell the parent you are going to be a doctor--maybe that turns out to be a PhD in literature! 

You blend this costume wardrobe with the requirements of social etiquette, brown-nosing at work, first date party manners, familiarity, respect, political correctness and the costumes keep on coming!

Context changes how we act. Sometimes that is nice and sometimes it is stupid. Here's one example that befuddles me. When bright competitive and hard-nosed executives, entrepreneurs, and successful people join non-profit boards, they become imbeciles. They don their nice and gentle costumes and bite their tongues because they assume new identities and not themselves. They think that a non-profit is a sanctuary from their cut throat worlds. While the mission and bottomline of a non-profit is doing good, non-profits need the tough acumen and decisiveness of the business world--but more often than not they don't get it.

Being authentic, being you--the real you, has to be your goal. Hiding who you are or suppressing your interests and needs will only hurt you in the long run, because you will eventually land in the land of regret--the most painful land of all. And while being yourself requires the discomfort of removing some of those now form fitting costumes, we all know being real does not require you to remember anything. Pursuing what you want and not what you think others will like, or what your parents desire, will always be more fulfilling. Authenticity is the degree to which one is true to one's own personality, spirit, or character, despite these pressures.

Imagine for yourself a character, a model personality, whose example you determine to follow, in private as well as in public. Epictetus

I am not saying just blurt out your inner thoughts or to be so honest that you offend every person in your path! Mutual respect and being aware of your surroundings remain essential. That being said, you need to find ways to pursue your authentic self. Martin Seligman's authentic happiness site has a variety of free self assessments

Authentic Networking:

  1. Setting your real goals, not the ones that sound good to others
  2. Practice articulating what you want and who you are, not the words you have been saying as a placeholder.  Love when people introduce themselves as "Director of sales and an artist."
  3. Asserting yourself by asking the questions on your mind. Pursuing your true curiosity by asking the questions and getting the answers.
  4. Enhance your network with people that are real and model this behavior. Surround yourself with people who inspire you and like the real you.  

  Authentic Mentoring:

  1. Find a mentor who you can really talk to--Let loose and take intellectual risks with.
  2. Define and refine this real plan for you with a mentor co-architect. 
  3. Openly discuss your weaknesses and seek feedback from your mentor and others.  
  4. Conduct your own self assessment and get your mentor to evaluate it.  

Not saying that we can shed all of the costumes, but living exclusively in the Federal Witness Relocation Program will never work out. Like everything, your self-awareness about who you are, what you say, and where you are going are the best guides up the mountain of authenticity. That will determine who's in your network and who your mentors are. Then you can return many of the costumes to the goodwill shop. 

Sometimes we define ourselves by a job title or a role-- I am VP of the company or a homemaker. That is not you, that is only a part of you. Don't be defined by a role, you are an incredibly unique and talented person who is much more interesting and complex than any day job. And in the end, the only personality that counts is you.  

Thanks for reading. John  


How do I meet people when I don't know anyone?

Quick tip before I launch into this topic. Please help your friends, family members and colleagues network more effectively. And preoofread their resumes.I realize people are feeling a lot of pressure and they start to panic--the worst thing they can do is get into a purely transactional mode of mass e-mail networking. It is so self-deceiving to push the send button a bunch of times a think you are networking.(refer to my Non-desperate networking blog) The only way to differentiate yourself in a flood of job seekers is to get personal, take the time to reconnect. (Slow down) This is the number one topic laid off execs get who receive outplacement services. 

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I have received this question hundreds of times. It usually pertains to going to an event, a reception, or a party. First of all why are you going to places where you know NO-ONE?!! Stop crashing parties and weddings! ;) Clearly you know someone. Someone invited you, there is an affinity or a connection which put you there. That being said, know thyself. Meaning what is your appetite for uncertainty, for adventure, for surprises? Life is a box of chocolates......Or by contrast, do you want to have a lot more control, more of a defined strategy, more certainty? If you tend to be what I call a  grazing shark at networking events, you know someone who finds the food table or bar and hovers and circles that area. Never engaging, hoping to connect, but giving the impression they are going somewhere--back to the food. The grazing sharks never really networks, they look aggressive but actually are harmless and just eats a lot!Grazing shark  I will assume you relate to the grazing shark and want more certainty in your networking experience.

  1. First things first--your brief introductory talk-- your BIT--- how you introduce yourself and what you want are clear in your mind. So starting the conversation is a breeze.
  2. Prepare--What is this event you are going to? Think about who might be there, who you might want to me meet, and who invited you. Even google folks so you are up to speed on what is the latest on the people, their employers, their facebook, etc 
  3. Don't go alone--Networking is a contact sport and a team sport. Bring a colleague, friend, relative. Be a tag team. It would better if your tag team member knows at least one person at the event. You head directly to the one person you know and the the dance begins. Find out who they know and who you do not know or if they know the person you want to meet. If the person is one of the hosts of the event, then you are in luck because you can find out who is at this thing, how she knows them and then ask to be introduced. The key here is go to a hub of the event or create one by figuring out the connections of your connection! The deal you have with your tag team member is anyone who your team meets individually gets introduced to the other, and you find out who they know and the beat goes on. Here is an excerpt from my blog remembering names and faces-Tag Team:  It can be much easier to meet people and remember them when you work as a team. Let me explain. Clue your friend or partner at an event to come to your rescue when the name forgetting thing starts to happen. Seeing you have no idea who this person is, your partner sticks out their hand and introduces themselves, and say "Don't think we have met, I am....." When the mystery person introduces themselves you have their name! And then you look brilliant. My wife Sarah has rescued me more than a few times! 
  4. Don't be late--Arrive early--Being "fashionably late" is great if you know people!When you arrive late it is much harder to meet people. Cliques form, conversations are well under way, and breaking in is intimidating and tough--especially for the less courageous. So when you arrive earlier (you do not need to be there first) you have a chance to join or form a group, you get to meet the other early arrivers and that is always easier. If this is a corporate event/reception, you have a much better chance to meet the VIPs and the speaker, then waiting until the end when everyone converges. 
  5. Open your eyes and your brain--no filters--When you network, you meet people. If you are so focused you will only talk to people like you, or who agree with you, or can help you--then your networking experience will yield few results and you will remain trapped in your social and intellectual silo. The whole point is to expand your network and your mind! Quantity of connections is not your aim. Broadening your network with interesting people who share your interests and who have totally different interests is your objective.  Dozens of studies have shown that people with larger and more diverse networks live longer and have fewer r illnesses. 
  6. Find the joy--Networking, meeting people is fun. Make it a bit of a game with your tag team, then let the conversations dictate where you go. 

Hopefully this type of prep gets you increasingly comfortable with the networking lifestyle. Don't try and do everything by yourself! Networking is about connections, so start by teaming up.


Thanks for reading. John 


Networking with golf balls and bucket lists

Every year I try and accomplish something I have always wanted to do. I have kept a list of places to go and experiences to attempt. Sort of my bucket list, from the great film with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. The bucket list comes from the phrase "kicking the bucket", which refers to the moment the bucket is kicked out from under a hanging man. Despite its morbid beginnings, a "bucket" list is a wish list of things you'd like to see and do before you expire. There is the whole genre of 1000 places to see before you die etc etc. Anyway, I have a list and I recommend you make one too. I have already checked off the typical things like skydiving, race car driving, traversing the Great Wall, repelling a cliff. But it has also included riding the Goodyear blimp, a hole-in-one, attending the world's greatest sporting events.....My golf list included getting a hole-in-one, playing Pebble Beach, and someday going to Scotland to play St Andrews. The list serves as a road map of my incentives for good behavior, something to look forward to AND taking advantage of opportunities when they arise. This last week I played famed Pebble Beach golf course. Glenn bob and jk pebble

My best friend from high school, Glenn Carpenter and I (Glenn's in the middle and that's his Dad Bob to the left) have been conspiring to play the number one course in the world for a couple of years now. Glenn was able to get us on for a good deal on 10 day's notice. So we walked the historic links along the Carmel coast last Monday. Glorious time, no words can suffice! The actual game of knocking the ball around was very challenging, but the vistas and camaraderie were phenomenal. 

Golf has been one of the most powerful forms of networking for me. I feel very fortunate that my Dad taught me the game. Thanks Dad! I have played at least one round of golf with my father for the last 35 years. It is something that binds me to him. All of my kids have had golf lessons, my son Bobby plays and I hope we share this crazy game for the rest of my life.  

Golf has been the subject of great books and movies, Legend of Bagger Vance, Tin Cup, Caddy Shack. Tiger Woods has captured the imagination of the world. It is an unnatural game that either repulses or addicts. It is a game where the ball sits still and motionless and you struggle to hit it. It is a game, like no other, that tests your ability to concentrate, focus, and ultimately to execute. Robin Williams gives the best description of this confounding game and how the Scots invented it. (Warning the routine is filled with profanity)                       

When I was young I never realized the social power of golf. I have met and gotten to know thousands of people on a golf course. Whether planning a round with friends or relatives, or being matched up with a random "stranger" at the course. It is different than many other sports and hobbies. You are outside with nature--you and your colleagues share a desire to conquer the sadistic design and hazards of the course. (This excludes any distracting betting.) And there is always the 19th hole (the after match conversation/commiseration) So you could spend 4-6 hours together. It can be meaningful time. Golf, like no other activity, is part of doing business and fostering business relationships. Every industry I have been associated with (as you know that is a bunch) golf was there and it has helped me. 

Learned a few life lessons from golf that have translated well to my non-golfing life.

  1. Got game?--Golf is about what you have to offer that day. No team to make up for your weaknesses or mistakes.  
  2. We all start out equall--Computerized systems provide each player with a "handicap" based upon their ability and the course. At the outset, we can gauge our progress against ourselves and others.
  3. Positive pre-swing thoughts--The only way to succeed in golf is to envision the best outcome. If you focus on the hazards in front of you, your outcome will fulfill that vision. In other words, the law of attraction, that positive makes positive and negative attracts negative, is a certainty on the golf course.
  4. Etiquette matters--Being polite and respectful of others is an essential part of the game. 
  5. Sportsmanship and the honor system--You have to know the rules and follow them. And at the end of the day you are accountable for your actions. In what other sport do you have a player calling a "foul" on themselves?
  6. The course is not the range  (map is not the territory)--Every course, every shot is different because of the weather, the terrain, the lie of the ball etc, so you have to adapt your swing, your stance, your weight to the circumstances. 
  7. Can't be bad and slow--The two worst things on a course are slow play and bad play. But if you are both, you can ruin the game for everyone around you. 
  8. Keep Score--The only way you know if you are progressing is to keep track of your strengths and weaknesses and how you can improve. 
  9. Get over your mistakes--Have a bad hole, put it behind you as quickly as possible. Tiger takes 10 steps on the course and then forgets the last shot.
  10. Enjoy the walk--As I said golf is outside and usually, like this last Monday, I saw things I will never forget. Nature is so profound and so inspirational. Regardless of the score, you must constantly remind yourself about the special things around you and how fortunate we are to play the game.                                                                                                                               
Golf is a lot like life to me. I think I am a better person because of it. Sounds like a cheezy way for me to try and play more. Seriously, it has helped my career and my networking. You may have seen this one before but it serves as a good reminder to make room for the golf balls first--life, golf balls, and a beer  

What will rise to the top of my bucket list next year?
Thanks for indulging me this week. I will address the topic of "meeting people when you don't know anyone" next week.  Thanks for reading. John
  
  
  

  


BEYOND small talk ---- engaging in conversation that matters

Just got back from Phoenix where I attended a Board meeting for Walden University. For-profit online university that is enjoying great success. As you probably know education is one of the businesses that grows in hard times. Walden is enjoying record growth from working adults who want to re-tool and re-position themselves. Pursuing your education , degree or not, is one of the most powerful ways of strengthening your network. Meeting and working with people who are serious about their career trajectories always opens up new ways of viewing oneself and one’s opportunities.

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When people talk about small talk, they usually mean superficial, meaningless banter. You know, the lines about the weather, or the local sports team—“How about those Lakers?” Or worse, making comments about people’s clothing, “Love that dress.”  C’mon nobody likes saying or hearing these comments.  Take some comfort in the universal disdain for this process. And to a certain extent everyone struggles with the opening line moment.  However, the art of conversation is a skill that speaks volumes about you and your brand.  A Stanford University study of MBAs 10 years after they graduated showed conversation skills were far more important to their career success than the grades earned. The most successful grads were those proficient at talking to anyone—from assistants to bosses. So the art of “small talk” is not just a nice to have talent, it is essential.

First and foremost you have to minimize the fear and discomfort factor. I recently met a fundraiser who told me, “I never talk to people on planes.” I asked her why. She told me that she relishes her privacy. Okay, I can respect that, but if you subscribe to my point of view, networking is a lifestyle means you are open to connecting most of the time. I learn something from everyone I meet. Everyone is entitled to private time, down time, and quiet time. But when you choose a job where interacting with others is vital or you have a burning desire to advance your career then you have to network.  Being open to reaching out and introducing yourself is the first step. Please be sure to read my earlier post about how you introduce yourself.

Second, start with people you know but you don’t know. Colleagues at work you just see in the hallways, a family you see at church every Sunday, a fellow board member at your favorite non-profit, a parent at your kid’s school, a neighbor at the end of the block. Strike up conversations with these people who are in front of your face, may help you broaden network and sharpen your skills. It’s not always about meeting strangers.

Here are some basic tips on how to make this introductory moment easier:

1.       Be yourself: Don’t employ any lines or techniques with which you are not comfortable.  That’s  where the disconnect happens. You try to be someone you are not. So work within your personality and your strengths.

2.       Acknowledge others:  Seek eye contact. Greet people with a simple “hello” or “how are you?” It is a lost courtesy. And if you smile then you will invariably receive a pleasant response.  I found this to be the best and easiest opener. Then I listen. People say things on their minds. And then the conversation is off and running. If it stalls you move to step #3.

3.       Be aware of your environment: Current context is your key.  Where are you at the moment, what are your surroundings?What are you observing? What clues about the people are in  front of you?  Let’s say you are at a conference or a class—a place where you have things in common with the others there.  Let your curiosity guide you. Why are these people here? What are they hoping to gain? What did they think of the speaker or the teacher? So many angles to start a conversation.  You sit next to someone on a plane, or at a meeting, you notice they are carrying a book or the company logo on their briefcase or you overhear them mention their alma mater. These all are possible conversation starters. For those you know but don’t know. The focus  of the initial conversation is basic stuff, what your neighbor thinks about the recent development in the community, what the parents at the school think about the leadership etc etc Start the conversation about what is important at the moment.

4.       Let others lead the conversation:  There is a myth that these tips and techniques are making you the Larry King, Charlie Rose, or Oprah. Clearly, if you are adept at facilitating, moderating, or  interviewing then you have a big advantage. I was pushed into hosting 450 live radio shows when I was younger. I learned the hard way to listen carefully and to let the guest lead. The listeners did not want me to dominate the airwaves—just like a conversation. Sure you have questions and maybe an agenda, but conversations always digress and some of the digressions are the most revealing and insightful. If you want to be a 60 Minutes investigative reporter then you will keep the” interviewees” on track, but you will not be invited back to any events! It is much more interesting if you actually are interested in the people you meet rather than just your needs.

5.       Never say “yeah but”: After someone else speaks we have a tendency to try and top the story or tell our story without building on what has been said. Often, we are thinking, “please stop talking because I have a better story.” Instead acknowledge what has been said by commenting on what is funny or impressive about the story. Then, say “yes and” to build on what has been said. This is a classic method of improv theatre actors. To take the last line and not negate it but use it positively to advance the conversation. If you say “yeah but” then you block the conversation, as improvers would say.

The art of conversation and even “small talk” is an invaluable building block of networking.  Small talk can lead to big ideas. If you are curious, observant, open to meeting people, acknowledge what people say by listening—you will meet people who will change your life, the lives of your network, and like Stanford MBAs you will find greater success.

Thanks for reading. John


Maintaining my growing network

Vote on my next blog !     ------------------------------------------>

Before I start this edition, let's reflect on the current world and the importance of maintaining your perspective of what is occurring. If you feel hypnotized or numb from the changes that are bursting around us, then you are in danger of falling asleep at the wheel. Make sure you are paying close attention. If your organization shrinks another 20%, would YOU be laid off? Who around you seems frozen by change, or uncertainty, obsessed with the rumor mill, or just going through the motions?These are the most vulnerable now. And where do you fit into this spectrum? Layoffs are not being based on seniority or classification. They are increasingly done to weed the staff that are not performing NOW, staff less committed, and of course on cost---meaning high salaries are more vulnerable. Smart orgs are "right sizing" to where they think the org is headed and not on where its been. 

Watch this video to put things back in perspective:

Maintaining my growing network

If you are growing your network in this environment, then you are to be congratulated. That means you are reaching out to new and existing contacts to nurture and engage in mutually beneficial relationships. The key here is EXISTING relationships. If you are trying to accumulate a multitude of brand new contacts, then maintenance is very challenging. However, maintaining  a network of people you know is simpler. There is a irrational impulse to meet as many new people as possible. This violates the spirit of networking as I define it. So, a focus on reconnecting with your network to discover the incredible array of information, knowledge, expertise, and yes, contacts they have, is vital. That being said a few pointers on keeping track and therefore keeping the network warm and vibrant.

  1. Schedule time with your key contacts: List the people that are crucial to your network without regard to your current relations with them. People you know who can and have been very important to you. Invariably, some of them you have lost touch with. How often I hear this disturbing phrase, "Been so busy I don't have time for my friends anymore." Pick the handful of people you have to connect with on a regular basis and schedule a regular meeting or phone call. You don't need a reason to connect, you connect because you need to and want to. It will always make you feel good and provide you with an insight or two. Since I started doing this it has given me great rewards and I stay connected. Hmmm just thought of more people I need to connect with.........
  2. Define and prioritize the rest: Keep a running list of people you need to reconnect with both old and new. People who's view of the world you value. People who you wish had more time to get to know better or whose company you enjoy. Make it a to-do list and make it part of your regular routine. 
  3. Beyond a rolodex or business card file---Take Notes!: Collecting cards and filing them in alpha order or inputting them into you contacts file is a start. But maintaining your contacts new and old requires updates. Adding notes about their family, their job, and their needs. Unless you have a photographic memory, you can not remember all of this. I have a photographic memory, just never any film. :) Seriously, put these updates and notes on the back of the card or input them into your contact database. I have been a cardscan user for many years because of the volume of cards I get.    
  4. Make the process of connecting urgent: If you follow the above, then these are folks you want to see and talk to. Therefore it is important--do not put it off. Avoid anything approaching desperation, except with your inner circle. I constantly test people trying to connect with me, people I have met but do not know me well. I ask them, "Is this important?" More often than not the say it is not and they will connect me later--they face off into the distance. They give up too easily. :) 

That's why I call it a lifestyle. Make your connections part of your habit. Maybe just as important as your exercise routine. Connecting can be very aerobic. It breathes life into you and gives you confidence. How is your network doing in this environment? What steps are they taking? How can you help others? Funny thing, the world does get smaller and a small world is much easier to manage. 

Thanks for reading. John 

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