Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast #62: Ten Strategies For Becoming A World-Class Networker
As leaders, we can often become lazy when it comes to networking. In Episode #62 of our Executive Leadership Podcast, Chris and Perry give 10 tips for connecting with others that will make you a world-class networker.
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Welcome to the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast, where our goal is to help you increase your reputation as a leader, increase your ability to influence others, and increase your ability to fully engage your team to deliver remarkable results. Hi, I’m Perry Holley, a John Maxwell facilitator and coach, and I’m Chris Goede, Vice President with the John Maxwell Company. Welcome, and thank you for joining. As a reminder, if you would like to learn more about the 5 Levels of Leadership or perhaps bring one of us in for a 5 Levels private workshop for your organization, we would love to do that! Please go to johnmaxwellcompany.com/podcast, and you can leave a comment or a question for Perry and me on that site. We would love to hear from you.
Today’s topic is titled “10 Strategies For Becoming a World-Class Networker.” I was talking with my friend Jim recently. Jim is a highly effective leader in my book. When we spoke, Jim was in the middle of a job search, and he was interviewing with several companies. He presented himself to each company as a candidate, and he listened, asked questions about their strategy, and looked for ways to add value to their organization, as you should in a job interview. He received plenty of interest, got some offers, and chose one of the. You would think that would kind of be the end of it, right? Not for Jim, the world-class networker. He went back and offered to connect several of the people he’d met from the different companies to help them gain something. He took the time to build good relationships, and gained several connections out of the interview process. He didn’t just get a new job; he got a new strategy for helping his employer gain connections. When Jim told me this story, I thought, “Who does this?” But really, we should all do some variation of this! We’ve got to be intentional about how we connect with people, not just those we work with, but everyone. We can all work on networking better.
That is a great story. I think we become complacent. You get into a rhythm of how you network. As I sat here listening to that story, I was thinking, “I don’t know that I would’ve done that.” But great networkers do things like that. What Jim did for his interviewers and his new employer is the core basis of what we do around here, which is add value to people. This is probably not why he did it, and it shouldn’t be why we network, but what’s nice about what Jim did is that his network was strengthened, which may just help with further on down the road.
I thought I was pretty good at connecting and networking, but what I’m being reminded of is that it requires a very intentional mindset and skillset. With that being said, we have 10 tips we’d like to go through to help our listeners improve their networking skills.
Our number one tip is to put yourself in a position to network everywhere you go, whether for business or just out and about in our neighborhood—there’s always opportunities to connect with other people to network. Going back to the comment I just made about being complacent—I don’t know about our listeners, but we travel a lot. We’re in different hotels, different restaurants, you name it—and sometimes I just want to just get where I’m going, right? As soon as I get into my seat on the airplane, I just want to put my headphones on and zone out. We’ve got to be conscious of that.
It’s up to us to put ourselves in networking positions. We’ve got to be willing to connect and network with people if we want to add value to them, whatever that might look like. By the way, let’s address the difference between connecting and networking. Connecting is such a Level 2 skill. There’s depth there. Networking is more of a surface-level connection with people, but you can still use it to add value to people. When you’re in networking environments, make sure you have the right question in mind, which is “How can I help this person?” If you’re going into every situation, whether you’re sitting down at dinner or you’re on a plane, and you have the question in mind of “Hey, how could I add value to a someone else? How can I help them?” then you’ll be a much better networker.
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Don’t worry, we’re not going to spend 10 minutes on each one of these. That would be way too long a podcast for us. We’re going to move through these quickly. Here’s our second piece of advice: do your homework. If you have a meeting planned with someone, take some time beforehand to learn about them. If you’re going to an event, learn about the organization, figure out what their purpose is. This will help set you up to make a great first impression and to connect with people. There are so many resources at our fingertips to be able to do this right, so there’s no reason for you not to do it!
Number three is to initiate conversation with others. This goes back to why you were laughing at me when I was talking about the airplane. Don’t have your head down, unwilling to talk, in every situation. Don’t get me wrong—I don’t want to be that guy on the plane that’s going to try to captivate you for the whole flight, but I am sure to speak to the person beside me on flights. Most people are very quiet today. To start the conversation, I just say “Hey, how are you?” and “Are you going home?” or “Are you going to bed?” Something from that will trigger a question that will continue the conversation. Then, at the proper time, we will usually put on our headphones, unless we make connection and the conversation continues. My point is that if you don’t start conversations, they may never get started, and you never know what you might be missing out on. So be the initiator and show interest in others.
Our fourth tip is to ask good questions. Avoid that temptation to talk about yourself. Someone might ask me, “Hey, what do you do?” and I can go into a 15-minute lecture about me. That’s really not a good strategy. So, ask good questions and don’t talk about yourself.
This leads into number five, which is, be a little more curious. Be curious about the person you are talking to, their background, their mission, their values. You and I talk frequently about the difference between being passionate and being curious. Not enough of us leaders, or really people in general, display curiosity in others. Curiosity in conversations increases our ability to help and add value to other people.
Here’s number six: listen with an intent to serve. Don’t just listen for information and to build your competence, but for ways you can serve the individual. We’re taught to listen with the intent to understand. What if we listen with the intent to serve? How can I add value to you?
This leads us to tip number seven, which is to look for synergies while you’re having a conversation. Ask yourself while you’re listening to someone, “Where do our worlds connect?” How can what they do and what you do be synergistic? What do we have in common? This, of course, will lead to a richer conversation and deeper connection.Number eight: once you find the synergies, ask yourself how you can add value to them, using your point of connection. Having synergy with someone and adding value to someone increases your level of influence with that person exponentially. They can relate to you and they know you care about them enough to help. On the point of adding value to others, this is something we take very seriously at the John Maxwell Company. It’s what we do! We add value to others. It’s a part of our common language.
Tip number nine is to exchange contact information—LinkedIn, social media handles, business cards, phone numbers, whatever it may be—so that you can easily get in contact again. In today’s age of social media, there’s so much free content out there, like podcasts and blogs, to where, if you have someone’s contact information, you can reach out to them and say, “Hey man, it was great connecting with you on the flight. The other day we were talking about this, and I saw this article on the same topic from Perry Holley—why don’t you take a look at this?” I once had an individual mail me a book with a little handwritten note that said “Hey, I enjoyed our conversation about X. I ran across this book, and I thought it might add value to you.” That goes back to our comment earlier—it makes you wonder, “Who does that kind of stuff?” Right?
I once met an author, Andy Andrews, on a flight. I’m a big fan of his. I’ve read all this stuff. I recognized his voice across the aisle from me, and I just introduced myself and thanked him for adding value to my life. When I got off the plane, he was waiting for me, and he said “Hey, let me give you a book.” It was so thoughtful. I thought, “I’m an author. Why don’t I carry books and give them out?” What a great thing to do that is. He connected with me that day, and I’ll never forget it.
Our final tip, number 10, is find a way to follow up. So, you’ve got that contact information. How do you follow up? A thank-you note never fails. I’ve gotten those many times. You can also reach out to somebody through LinkedIn and say, “Great meeting you on the plane!” Another quick story—I met a guy recently while I was just sitting in an airport. I’d just come off a 20-hour flight from Southeast Asia, and I was connecting for my final leg. This guy comes up to me, just wanting to talk about what I’d been through that day. He said he had also just came off a 20-hour flight from somewhere else. I thought, “Wow, here I was thinking it was all about me.” I instantly asked him to tell me about that. Five minutes later, we’re exchanging business cards. I come to find out he aspires to be a professional speaker. He found out I was one and asked for advice. We connected on LinkedIn and have been in contact for a while. I still send him advice and leads from time to time. It’s all because I got out of my own head, made that connection, and then found a way to follow up.
That’s awesome. If you didn’t get all 10 tips, they will be in the learning guide that you can download from a form at the top of this page. As always, just a reminder for our listeners: if you would like to know more about this topic or the 5 Levels of Leadership, perhaps even bring a 5 Levels workshop to your location, you can find more information at johnmaxwellcompany.com/podcasts. You’re welcome to leave a question for us there if you have one. We always love hearing from you, and we really appreciate you joining us on this journey. This has been the John Maxwell Executive Leadership Podcast.
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