Episode 276 Cultivating Professional Relationships: Networking with Heart

networking-with-heart

Explore authentic networking with Anna Lundberg. Learn to cultivate meaningful professional relationships that bring value to your career and business.

In this week’s episode, Anna Lundberg discusses the concept of networking and cultivating professional relationships with a genuine and heartfelt approach. She acknowledges the discomfort many introverts feel about traditional networking and offers a fresh perspective on building and leveraging networks effectively. From the importance of building trust and rapport to the art of genuine conversation and active listening, Anna shares valuable insights on how to navigate professional relationships authentically. She encourages listeners to reframe their approach to networking, focusing on adding value, expressing gratitude, and nurturing mutually beneficial connections. Join us as we explore the heart of networking and discover how to authentically build and leverage professional relationships.

00:00 Networking discomfort for introverts reframed with authenticity.

05:44 Understanding people’s needs to tailor conversations.

09:19 Online interactions need softer, more polite approach.

10:38 Focusing on resilience, generosity and building relationships.

13:45 Express gratitude, reframe networking, create job satisfaction.

*Resources mentioned during the episode*

1:1 Coaching & Mentoring – If you’re looking for one-to-one support to help you achieve your specific life and business goals, Anna has a limited number of spots for individual coaching and mentoring. onestepoutside.com/coaching

Authentic Networking

You do you find the idea of networking a little bit uncomfortable, a little bit icky? Maybe you identify as an introvert and you don’t like putting yourself out there. You prefer being at home, perhaps like me, you’ve been hiding behind your computer, working from home very comfortably, virtually, and you don’t love this idea of networking. Well, this episode is for you. We’re going to reframe how we think about this idea and look at how we can be genuinely ourselves, find a way to do this in a comfortable, authentic way, but still effectively building, nurturing, leveraging that network so that it supports us in our career and business. So we’re continuing the inspiration from Valentine’s Day and looking at how to bring heart into those relationships. And let’s first look at this idea of networking because it’s something that I can easily just say, oh, I don’t like networking. It feels a bit, what is it, eighty s, ninety s? The idea of going to some of these quite formal setups where you go and they have a raffle where you put in your business card, or you have to have like a 32nd pitch where you say who you are and what you do. There are some professional networks where, well, I haven’t even participated in them, so I hesitate to talk too much about them, but where you are really compelled to bring new referrals and it’s a really formal mechanism to use that network. 

And so there’s a full range of networking possibilities available. And it’s as ever, really important to think about what sits well with you and what works for you, what feels authentic and comfortable for you. Now I say comfortable. A lot of these things do require us to get a little bit out of our comfort zone, and I will do the same, I promise. But still, we want it to align with our values and sit well with who we are. But what is a network? I suppose it’s really just people we know. And it’s not just professional contacts, it can be personal connections. And I think there is a lot of data to suggest that career opportunities and so on come for from not our immediate circle actually, but that kind of one step further removed one degree out from our immediate network, which is quite interesting to me.

It’s about building rapport and trust, getting to know each other, understanding how you can bring value, thinking of each other when there’s an opportunity and so on. And it could be a, hey, I would like you to recommend me and you will recommend me kind of deal, or probably a nicer way, I think, to go about it. Is to come from a genuine place of giving openness, getting to know people with no ulterior motive, knowing that there may well be opportunities to either help them or for them to possibly connect you with somebody or do business together further down the line. But just coming at it really on a human level, to understand each other’s challenges, see how you can help each other and again, build that network based on really genuine interest and trust. I talk, and I have talked a lot about the elevator pitch and we have mixed feelings about this, perhaps, but it is important to be able to say, or at least write succinctly, articulate clearly, this is what I do, this is who I help, and this is the result they get. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to go to an event and say, hey, I am Anna, this is what I get. Sorry, I put an american accent. Apologies for any offence that just came out.

I’m Anna, this is what I do. I can help you do this. I have this programme, boom, boom, boom. I’m a published author and I have a podcast and I can create more freedom, flexible fulfilment that does not feel great. I have no idea who the person I’m talking to is, what their needs are and so on, if they’re even interested. So I tend to come at this from, yes, you need to know what that pitch is, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to go out there and pitch yourself to people. The first thing when you’re meeting someone is, hey, I’m Anna, nice to meet you. Right.

I don’t have to teach you how to talk to people yet. Somehow we forget, I think, the most basic sort of human interactions and polite conversations, you can bring that same energy to online conversations and so on. It feels a bit more artificial when it’s a networking event and yes, there is an expectation for it to be more professional, focused. But I think starting out with just, hey, did you enjoy the lunch? I quite like to. Back in my corporate days at least, I used to bond with people over the dessert table at conferences because we’d be standing there pigging out over little cupcakes and chocolates and things, and I always thought that was a great way to bond with other people. If you are going to a formal event, we can go to conferences and things. That can be amazing. But actually the interesting opportunities to talk to people are often in the coffee breaks and the lunch breaks and so on.

But really starting from a very simple level, hey, how are you? How did you find this talk or did you have a nice Christmas? Whatever time of year it is, just start that conversation. Of course, if they ask what do you do? Then you can begin to say something. I tend to find that if you keep it really short and sweet, especially if it’s a personal, family context, social engagement, they don’t need the whole spiel. So I could choose to say I’m a business coach and oh, I work for myself, or oh, I’m a trainer and coach, I’m an expert in productivity. I could play around with different ways of saying this, right? But if I had a stretch, I could say I’m an author. But that feels a bit self aggrandizing. You don’t need to give them the full bio, the full paragraph biography in that initial conversation. If, as is most often the case, they don’t care, they’ll just say, oh, interesting, okay. 

And then they’ll go on with their lives and if they are interested in finding more, they’ll probe more and then you can tell them more. Even better than them asking you what you do is then that you find out what they do and what are they interested in and so on. Because then I can, from a simplistic level, if it’s someone who’s a senior leader in a corporate organisation who is looking to grow their career and their team and so on, there I would have a different conversation with them than I would if it’s someone who’s wanting to leave their soul destroying corporate job and want to start a business, or if it’s someone who’s already a solopreneur. My conversation with them from a professional business standpoint would again be different. So really it starts from getting to know each other at a human level, but also then letting them speak. And I think in terms of having a conversation that really feels natural and sincere, it is just being yourself. But some of the things that we learn through coaching and negotiations and so on are really important. So active listening is one of those things.

Mirror back what they say, paraphrase back and say, oh yeah, encouraging noises. That sounds really interesting. Don’t just jump in and talk about yourself. Show genuine interest in the other person’s work and their challenges and so on. Of course, the other side of that is that we may want to be a little bit vulnerable and open up our own experience a little bit in order to, again, be genuine in ourselves and also build that trust. If we’re just silent and probing the other person, it can feel a bit like an interview. Right? So sharing a little bit. Oh, yeah.

I really struggle with that too. Or oh yeah, it’s hard to get that work life balance right. Or yeah, I find it hard. I’ve got to work after the kids have gone to bed, whatever it is. Right. Find somewhere, something to connect on, but above all, be present in those conversations. And then if and when you see an opportunity to, hey, actually I have a book on this, would you be interested? I can give you a copy or I have a podcast or I had a really interesting interview with somebody who sounds like they have a similar story. I can send you the link, for example.

Right. In the business context, professional b to b. It might be I have a white paper on that topic I can send you. Or oh, you must speak to so and so. I have a coach colleague who says, and I know she backs this up so she doesn’t just say it herself. Everyone says, and we agree that she is a connector. She loves bringing together people from different places who have interesting things to talk about and so on. Right. 

So if that’s you, that’s amazing. You probably don’t need my help, but it could be any number of things where you’re adding value. Oh, I just heard this interesting podcast on this topic and so on. Right. Again, I think tailoring the approach to the setting is important. If you’re at a professional networking event, the expectation is different than if you’re at a fun social gathering. Get a feel for the vibe of the room I recently went to. I’ve discovered a local network here in pool in Dorset and it’s such a fun vibe.

It’s certainly not the kind of place where you’d go in and go in for the hard sell. Not that I do that anywhere. We have pizza and they compete to beat various Guinness World records. And there’s an assumption that people are good at what they do and interesting, but you’re there to learn and to talk to people and have fun and have that social community rather than to try to sell people or whatever. I’m a member of another community where it’s really a group of thought leaders who are incredibly smart, great thinkers. Always got really interesting things going on. But again, we’re not sort of pitching ourselves and so on. It really is a place of generosity and sharing and so on.

Obviously online is different to in person, but it doesn’t have to be. And I think we sometimes, as I said, forget some of the etiquette of human interactions where we’re interacting online. So just a bit of a softer approach and beginning by saying, hello, how are you? Or hope you had a good week. Have a lovely weekend. Those kinds of things can really help. I tend to think that most people are really happy to help now, going in and going, hey, this is what I want. For example, sorry, just take a step back, knowing that I am a career coach or a business mentor, however you want to call it. If you came to me and said hey, basically I’m paraphrasing, I want you to spend your time giving me free advice.

I’m not going to pay you and I just want you to help me. You don’t know me and give me stuff, right? Help me. That’s not a great place to start. I do get those requests on LinkedIn and so on, much less so now. And I’m better at setting those boundaries now that I have so much content and so on. I can then send them to the podcast or a free thing, or I can tell them to apply for a call to at least sort of formalise the context a little bit. But be careful when you’re asking people for things. In fact, one of the experts I follow, I’ve talked about her before, Dory Clark.

Her most recent book is the Long Game, which I love around resilience and being in it for the long term and so on. She talks about how really it’s a year of being in someone’s community and adding value and so on before you should even dream of asking for something, which I think is really interesting and a great reframe. Right now, at the other end of the spectrum, we can get to a place where we’re too generous and too giving, and all we do is give free stuff, I happen to think that we can’t be too generous. But if you’re finding that you’re just, for example, coaching people for free, giving your friends free advice and so on, and you don’t have a thriving business where you’re monetizing your services, that’s a problem. And when I’m talking about being generous and so on, it’s not about giving your services for free, but it’s about coming from a place from really, how can I help in the best way? And that best way may be by having them in a paid programme, or it may just be to give them some little tidbit or connect with them with someone or send them a resource or something. But again, it comes from a place of generosity, trust. You’re not exploiting these relationships. It shouldn’t be one sided, unfortunately.

I guess the reality of it is that some relationships will be more skewed to one side than the other. But the hope and the aim is that either you can pay that back later and or you can pay that forward to other people. Right? So I will help people generously who don’t necessarily help me back, but they will go forwards and help others in their turn. Or I do help people who maybe will never work with me and pay me and so on, but they’re really generous in writing reviews on my books and podcasts, referring me to other people. I have people who I’ve never worked with, and yet they’re some of the biggest ambassadors for my business. So those are people who are really valuable in your network. And I suppose you can think of it as sort of concentric circles, as the people who you really know and trust. You could pick up the phone, chat with them, they would do anything you asked and you do anything for them.

Then there’s sort of the more professional network outside of that. Then there’s the people you’ve just met. Then there’s the cold audience of people. And I think we tended marketing at least, and I come from a marketing background to focus so much on getting in front of those cold people, the cold audience and new people and so on, which of course is important to grow. But we’re sort of neglecting the fact that, hey, I’ve got 10,000 people on my LinkedIn who know me now, that I’ve not got a close relationship with them, but a lot of them have been following me for some time, right? I’ve got x number of people on my email list. I’ve got so many people that I’ve worked with in my corporate career, in my corporate consulting contracts and so on, not to mention friends and family. If you look at sort of your friends, your partner’s friends and so on, I think you may well find someone who’s working at that dream company where you want to apply or offer your services on. So in terms of leveraging your network, start closer to home, of course, be respectful, especially if it’s someone you know when they’re putting kind of their reputation on the line and referring you and connecting you.

And then I suppose finally really show gratitude. The least you can do after someone’s given you a free chat or something is to say thank you so much. Again, if there is something you can do to return the favour, to write a review, but really just a thank you can go so far. Right? So I encourage you to think about that. I hope this has given you a little bit of an idea of how you can reframe networking. It’s not about going to those formal networking events, but it’s really about connecting, having conversations, getting to know people. So think about who do you already know? Where can you add value? How can you connect with more people, add more value? And above all, how then can you thank people and pay that back, or pay it forwards when there is that hopefully mutual and benefit that’s coming out of it? Thank you for listening and I’ll see you next week when we’re talking about creating job satisfaction. Whatever you happen to do so in any role, how can you be happy and love what you do? Whatever you happen to be doing right now? I’ll see you then.

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If you’re looking for one-to-one support to help you achieve your specific life and business goals, Anna has a limited number of spots for individual coaching and mentoring. onestepoutside.com/coaching

1:1 Coaching & Mentoring

If you’re looking for one-to-one support to help you achieve your specific life and business goals, Anna has a limited number of spots for individual coaching and mentoring.

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