Networking Skills

How are your networking skills?

Networking Skills
In many aspects of life, whether it’s business, career, or your private life, networking skills are important. An extreme extrovert can find networking energizing. Someone new to networking or a full-blown introvert can find it downright scary. For those who straddle the fence between introvert and extrovert, it can be uncomfortable.

Networking skills, like other life and business skills, can be learned. If you’re an extreme introvert, you may never lose that uncomfortable feeling when you network, but you learn to function and enjoy networking groups if you choose to develop your networking skills.

Here are a few tips to get you started in building better business networking skills:

1. Look at networking in a new way. Dr. Ivan Misner, the founder of Business Networking International (BNI), defines networking as “The process of developing and activating your relationships to increase your business, enhance your knowledge, expand your sphere of influence or serve the community.” When you focus on the word “relationships” it gives networking a whole new perspective.

2. Invite a friend to join you the first time you attend a networking event. Sharing an evening with a friend and having moral support can go a long ways towards making it a more enjoyable event.

3. Attend a networking event with a goal. How many new people would you like to meet? Is there someone specific you want to meet? How many people would you like to reconnect with? Decide what’s most important for you and go make it happen.

4. In the early stages of networking, the key word is “developing”. As with any other type of relationship, it starts with getting to know someone. That means being genuinely curious. Prior to the event develop a list of questions to start and continue a conversation. How did they get into their business or career? How long has it been? What do they enjoy the most? What has been the most challenging? Who are their ideal clients? . Make it about them, not about you, and the latter will follow.

This is the beginning of building your networking skills. As with any new skill, know it takes time, and the process can be enjoyable.

Life Happens

Life Happens. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes not-so-good.

life happens

We all have opportunities to learn from life’s curves. I’ve had a number of my own this past year. But what I learned years ago through awareness, hindsight, and perspective is that those not-so-good times have happened “for me”, not “to me”. As a result, I’ve developed a strong trust that life’s challenges are a gift. Though I may not know exactly what that gift is when a challenge happens, I have enough past evidence that I can still trust that whatever happens is “for me”.

Randy Pausch was a man who inspired me by how superbly he handled life’s curves. He was a doctor, but “not the medical kind”, as his mother was fond of saying. Instead, he was a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University who became well-known for authoring and presenting “The Last Lecture” at the age of 46. Unlike other professors’ hypothetical last lectures, his was real. Dr. Pausch spoke to a packed auditorium ten months before dying of pancreatic cancer. While providing many lessons on life he wisely said, “We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand”.

During his 70 minute lecture he said “Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted. And experience is often the most valuable thing you have to offer.” With a beautiful wife of 12 years and three children he dearly loved, I’m sure he didn’t get what he wanted when he developed cancer the prior year. And yet, he gained a unique experience and magnificently played the hand he was dealt by offering his perspective on life to others. As a result, he was able to inspire and impact the lives of millions of people around the world.

When life happens and it’s the not-so-good kind, how will you choose to react? Will you remember Dr. Pausch for the wisdom he provided by magnificently playing a not-so-good hand? Who knows, your life curve might also be a catalyst to inspire and impact millions.

The Truth About Engagement

The truth about engagement has been troubling to follow.

Truth About Engagement Gallup, the well-respected polling company, has studied employee engagement for a number of years. They define engaged employees as ones who are are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work, and who contribute positively to their organization. In 2013 Gallup reported US employee engagement at just 30%.  In 2017 there was a small bump in the the numbers, up to 32.5 %. Is that enough to be hopeful?

Okay, truth be told, I know employees aren’t happy and engaged. I continually interact and work with employees, so know their stories. I also know women are leaving the workforce in droves to start their own businesses. That sure sounds like disengagement.

I reflected on my final dozen years working in the banking industry. Even while living through the chaos of repeated banking mergers, lack of engagement wasn’t anything close to 70%. My mind got curious and I wanted to find out a little more.

I learned there are really two levels of disengagement:  About half of disengaged employees show up but are checked out. They put in their time but have no energy or passion for their work. The remainder are actively disengaged. They’re unhappy, act it out, and spread dissension.

Managers are key in employee engagement. “Managers from hell” create active disengagement, costing the US an estimated $450 – 550 billion annually. On the other hand, a great manager can virtually eliminate active disengagement and double the amount of engaged employees.

Engagement varies by organization, work-group, industry, occupation, and personal characteristics such as length of service, age, education level, and gender. Some examples:
• Millennials are most likely to leave their job within a year if the market changes.
• Generations at the beginning and near the end of their careers are often more engaged.
• Employees with degrees are less likely to have a positive and engaged experience.
• Remote workers and women are slightly more engaged.

A quote in the study resonated with me, as long as it’s meant with sincerity, not manipulation. “To win customers (and increase market share) companies must first win the hearts and minds of their employees.”

The quote took me back to my corporate days and the times I was more engaged than others? What was my truth about engagement? Who were the company leaders? Who were my managers? What was their role? Yes, my managers were important, but what responsibility did I take for my engagement, for my attitude, for asking for what I wanted, and for staying in a situation that wasn’t working for me?

My heart goes out to the millions who are passively or actively disengaged in the workplace. I hope they all find a way to bring more passion, joy, and engagement into their work.

Greater Productivity

Greater productivity? It might get you more time for what’s most important to you.

Unfortunately both employees and the self-employed talk about the long hours they work and the desire for more personal time. Although long work hours may not be the result of just one reason, you can reclaim some of your time when you have greater productivity.

Look at how you spend your work hours. You might find yourself as surprised as my clients have been. Create a list of your most common activities and then daily track the time you spend on them in 10 or 15 minute increments. If your work weeks are fairly consistent, a week of data will do.

What do you notice? Lots of time spent on email? Tasks that could be delegated? More time than needed analyzing situations? Personal time included in the work hours? Phone calls that are lengthier than they could be? Lots of interruptions? Too much time spent trying to reach perfection? Use the awareness you gain to begin making changes. Even small steps are a great way to get started and achieve greater productivity.

Gratitude – A Powerful Force

Gratitude is a powerful force. It can enhance a good life and kick negativity to the curb.

Gratitude

I was reminded of this when I connected with a business friend who I hadn’t spoken with in a year. While it was sad to hear about the health challenges she had encountered, her attitude thoroughly impressed me. As she relayed her experience with finding cancer in one breast, then finding it in the other one, having a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, the word gratitude was generously sprinkled throughout her story.

One of my spiritual teachers recommends we go on a “gratitude binge” any time negativity starts to creep into our thoughts. This is just what it sounds like – notice everything in your life for which you can be grateful.
Try it and realize how quickly the negativity disappears and you gain a new attitude. You simply can’t be negative and grateful at the same time.

It’s pretty easy to find five or ten things for which to be grateful, but can you challenge yourself to feel gratitude for everything in your life – even the negative? It might sound ridiculous, but that’s where the magic will happen.

Do you have a gratitude practice? If not, I invite you to get started with a 30 day commitment to one. Some people journal five or ten things they’re thankful for each day. Others do it verbally, either first thing in the morning or just before sleep (two powerful times of the day). If you already have a gratitude practice, would kicking it up a notch add value to your life? Whatever you choose, remember to go on a “gratitude binge” either to dissolve negativity or see how it might further enrich your life.

Sabbatical

Summer Hammock
Do you remember the joy and freedom of summer breaks from school? Throughout decades of work that started as a young teenager, until twelve years ago I had only taken two short breaks (five and six weeks) when my two daughters were born. I was longing for a summer break, or what working adults call a sabbatical. I considered buying a fifth week of vacation for two consecutive years and using those weeks back to back,at the end of one year and the beginning of the next year, to create a ten week sabbatical.

Instead, I left my corporate career and took a sabbatical before starting my business. Sleeping long hours the first two months and receiving comments about my refreshed and younger looking face made me realize just how exhausted I had become. The luxury of sleeping without an alarm clock, spending two months on a Caribbean island, and simply having nine months to do whatever I wanted rejuvenated not only my face, but my body, mind, and spirit.

I’ve been intrigued with the sabbatical stories I’ve come across this past year. Sebastien, a business owner, wanted to take six months off to travel with his girlfriend (and propose to her during the trip). His goal was to only work an hour a day. Although not a true sabbatical, it is a radical departure for a business owner. Sebastien’s mastermind group told him he didn’t have the proper team or systems in place to take the trip without blowing up his business. But that didn’t stop him. Instead, he put some systems in place, went on his trip, and danced around the world with his fiancé. It’s a beautiful story of being told no, but choosing instead to do what matters most. Watch this magical journey Travel the World.

Stephan Sagmeister’s TED Talk on “The Power of Taking Time Off” was intriguing. Sagmeister is a designer who closes his New York studio every seven years. He explains the often overlooked value of time off and how he and his employees take a year off to rejuvenate and refresh their creative outlook.

In an article, Zahra Ebrahim, the owner of a design studio, talks about the constant struggle between “loving to do” and “having to do”. Sagmeister’s story inspired her to implement a two-month Summer Sabbatical for the company. If you e-mail their studio during those two months, you’ll receive, in part, this reply:
We give our entire team the summer off to go on a creative journey, to rejuvenate, to reconnect to ideas that make them tick. It makes our work better, it makes our ideas richer, and makes our jobs feel more like dream jobs.

The diary-like book “Radical Sabbatical” was interesting. It’s about a high powered corporate couple who put their belongings in storage, rented their home, and moved to Costa Rica for a year. It’s an insightful book filled with numerous challenges and abundant lessons, including how to live with more ease on their planned return to Costa Rica.

Do any of these stories intrigue you? Inspire you? Make you want to take a sabbatical? What would it take for you to make it happen? From just a few stories, we have evidence that whether a business owner or employee, if the desire is strong enough – it can happen.

Planning


How do you react to the word “planning”?

Some people love it… some try to avoid it… and others accept it because they know its value. No matter what your opinion on planning, it’s a structure that helps people achieve results in businesses and in life. Even the simplest business or life planning can help provide greater clarity, better focus, and faster results.

Fast forward to December 31, 2018. What successes are you celebrating? What challenges did you have this past year? What obstacles did you overcome? What did you learn? What are you disappointed about?

If you haven’t already started your 2018 plans, get started now by contemplating changes you’d like to make in your personal life. Where will you focus attention in the coming year: career, finances, relationships, social life, contribution, travel, physical environment, learning & personal growth, or your physical, emotional, or spiritual health? Put some structure around it by creating goals and remember… business is there to support your life, not the other way around.

Now jump to your business plan. What does your five year vision look like? When you have that clearly identified, refocus on the coming year. What do you want? When do you want it? What key strategies will help you achieve it? What steps do you need to take? When do those steps need to be taken? Start answering those questions and you’re on your way.

Unplug

Unplugged from Technology
What Would It Be Like To Unplug?

Technology. Do you love it?  Hate it? Or have a love/hate relationship with it?  Has its promise of time-saving and efficiency become just another vehicle for distraction, stress, and poor health?

“Unplugging” from technology is a movement, actually a backlash, that’s been gaining momentum over the past half a dozen years. At the heart of the movement is getting back to a purer, more present, more engaging way of life. Think Thoreau. It’s intriguing, and especially interesting, that the core of this movement is in the San Francisco area – home to technology’s Silicon Valley.

Evidence that unplugging is a growing movement is apparent in the various ways this trend is being implemented:There’s the  National Day of Unplugging each March (this year its fifth year);  Detox Week in April, made visible by musician John Mayer; Digital Detox Vacation Resorts, the premier resort being Earthshine Mountain Lodge in  North Carolina; Technology Shabbats, weekly from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday (since 2008); Walden Zones, with designated tech-free zones in your home; and Give Up Your Smartphone, started by a restaurant worker, irked by people’s preoccupation for texting and tweeting during meals.

I was greatly intrigued with a professional San Francisco couple with two children. They decided that technology, instead of helping, distracts us from more meaningful interactions. They made the decision to unplug after their first child was born, wanting their children to have a tactile and immersive childhood.

Their unplugged lifestyle doesn’t include TV (except every two years for the Olympics), radio, cable modem, fax machine, video games, or paper shredder.

The kitchen is without a microwave, electronic coffee maker, ice maker, automated oven, digital clocks, electric can-opener, store-bought flour, prepared juice, or packaged foods.

Instead, they’ve gone extremely low-tech. They use a stovetop coffeemaker, hand crush ice, use analog clocks, make calls on a corded rotary dial phone (do you even remember those?), hand juice, and grind flour.

They have found simple pleasures in their low-tech life: friends lingering at dinner conversations without cell phone interruptions; reading a daily print newspaper; taking the kids hiking and biking; and baking their own bread. Other benefits are feeling more restored, present, refreshed, and sleeping better.

For another reason, some companies, including technology company Google, are insisting that their workers unplug for certain parts of the day.  They recognize that to innovate, employees need time to unplug.

This growing movement is important, not only for life engagement and innovation, but for our health. Author Kim John Payne says excessive connectedness is straining our bodies and our brains. Neurologically we can’t  be on high alert any more than 1/3 of our waking life. With the 10+ hours of high alert many people experience because of technology, we become adrenaline and cortisol junkies – both harmful to our health.

How does being unplugged for a day, a week, or for a longer period of time sound to you? Does it feel scary? Refreshing? Both?

I know I’m strongly tied to technology and do feel its weight. I don’t plan to go without it completely, but more and more I’m looking for ways to lessen its impact. On my vacation later this year, I’ll do what I’ve sometimes done in the past – go mostly sans technology. After all, I do want to take my camera and get some great pictures, which will only be seen by others after I return home.

 

Power of Words

thepoweroflanguage
How much time to do spend thinking about your words? The words you choose for emails, letters, web site content, conversations and presentations directly impact your chances of making sales.

Carefully chosen words bolster confidence in you, your company and the solutions you are presenting. Do your homework, base what you say on accurate information and prepare yourself for success. Use the amazing power of words to gain the confidence of others. State with strong affirmative language and demonstrate authority with your tone.

Below are a few effective phrases to think and say to get results with and through people:
• I am responsible
• I am up to the challenge
• You can count on me
• Consider it done
• I’m on top of it
• You’ve come to the right place
• I give you my word

Notice the difference between “I’ll try” and “You can count on me to get it done”.
For the next month, focus on and examine your speech. Pay attention to what you say and how you say it. Pay close attention to how people respond to you when you speak with confidence and conviction. Improve your sales by improving your use of words.

Are Your Listening?

Listening

A friend who is in her mid-40s told me that in spite of her professional accomplishments, her material possessions, and a fabulous daughter, she feels a lack of passion. Nothing is exciting for her any longer. Nothing sparks her interest. She may want to make a career change, but has no idea what she might want to do next. Like words from an old song, she’s contemplating “is that all there is?”

I experienced similar feelings prior to leaving my corporate career nearly a dozen years ago. Lack of passion, waning interest, and career dilemmas are common as women transition through mid-life. These challenges are written about in one of my favorite books – “The Breaking Point: How the Female Midlife Crisis Is Transforming Today’s Women”. Although Shellenbarger’s book was published eight years ago, it’s still relevant. I continue to hear the challenges of mid-life from many women I know personally and professionally.

What I learned from my mid-life experience is the lack of passion and emptiness is a signal that it’s time to change direction. Ignore the gentle nudges and they’ll get progressively stronger. Ignore them long enough and you may encounter illness, injury, accident, loss, or some other traumatic experience in order to get you to pay attention. Although it took me several years to make a career change, I was listening and am grateful my nudges didn’t have to progress to the destructive stage.

Much like the women in Shellenbarger’s book, my passion, creativity, and fulfillment were renewed when I took the leap and made the change. I found remarkable opportunities for personal, professional, and spiritual growth, and have been blessed with a wealth of people to guide and support me along the way. I was shown the truth of the saying “when the student is ready, the teacher appears”.

What nudges are you receiving, about your career or another aspect of your life? Are you listening or trying to ignore their existence? What will it take to get your attention?