Maureen Leif, President and Founder of Grays Peak Strategies
Recently I attended a function for my husband’s President’s Club trip. He had told me the number of C level Executives that were going to be there and he had mentioned a few names, but I had not really given it too much thought. He got me a drink, introduced me to a few people and then said he would be back shortly. I started talking to one group of woman and we just hit it off. We talked about our kids, our need to exercise more, the fashion of the night, and our plans for the week and before long it was like we had all known each other forever. We said goodbye at the end of the night and they invited me to get together the next day. That night my husband said that he could not believe the number of connections I had made in one night and was surprised at how I had managed to meet so many Executives and their spouses. I laughed and said I had no idea who was who. I didn’t know that I was talking to the CFO or the wife of the CEO or any other high level executive, I was just having fun getting to know people. It got me to thinking, would I have been so comfortable if I had known all their titles? Part of me acknowledges that I might have been a tad bit more guarded, but for the most part the titles did not scare me. They were just really smart and interesting people that I wanted to know more about. This lead me to my conclusion of the week on networking. We need to let go of the fear.
Networking brings about fear of being rejected, fear of not being smart enough, or not having anything to say or being awkward. There is a lot to be afraid of I do not deny it, but if you let that go and concentrate on just being interested in someone as a person that will all go away. If you are genuinely interested in someone and ask them questions about themselves you will make a personal connection. I am a working mom, she is a working mom, I went to a college in the Midwest and so did she, our spouses are both in telecom, we both are not dealing well with hair in the humidity…. and wholah there it is.
I am by nature an extroverted person so I get my energy from people and I find people interesting and I love to ask questions. However, even if you are not an extreme extrovert like me, if you come into any situation with the right mindset, and a few pre-determined questions you can use as backup, anyone can be successful. Just keep tabs on yourself how much you are talking and how much they are talking, often times when people are nervous they talk too much. Slow it down and ask some good questions. How did you get into telecom, it is something that you were always were interested in, did you have hobbies outside of work, are you a parent, how it is raising all boys, and so on and so forth, and you got it.
Are you saying it is not that easy? Is there always one person who is put off or difficult? Take it on as a challenge. What is the worst that can happen? I had some preconceived ideas about one of the high level executive wives. When I had a chance to meet her one on one I asked her if she could go on strike for one thing this summer what would it be? She laughed and said making lunches. She literally turned from at first glance an icy presence to a warm and genuine person. This fear that we need to let go of exist in others that we are networking with as well, so if we help them dispel their own fear we can move towards a personal connection and maybe even a friendship. In my story, she even accepted my Facebook friend request at the end of the trip.