In her TV show Project Runway, Heidi Klum's catch-phrase is "You're either In, or you're Out". For the first few years of my consulting career, networking appeared to me to be just that - a zero-sum game. I thought it was all or nothing - your either got a referral or you didn't. I had a lot to learn.
A few years later I found myself in the orbit of some very successful and influential business people. Many of these women and men were Polished Pros. Many were quite effective in using their networking resources to generate referrals. After spending quite a bit of time in these rooms I realized that my zero-sum assumption was dead-wrong. Generating referrals was more complicated, more subtle than I'd thought! I was starting to understand the playbook that Polished Pros follow, and I started putting their moves into play for myself.
We're all capable of adding value. We all have something to share. But the difference between how an Entrepre-nerd shares and how Polished Pros share is that the E-nerd is shotgunning it. The Pro adds value that is appropriate to where they're operating in a given moment. They consider each networking situation to be unique, and they share appropriately.
If you've read Part 1 and Part 2 of this blog then you're starting to see how a properly segmented network saves Polished Pros time, money, and energy. Today we'll re-visit that segmenting chart to fill-in the fifth column, "Share".
Take Care and Avoid
I'm the generous-type, so I always have one ear open for how to support my Pals, my Allies, and my Intimates. But back when I was an Entrepre-nerd, one mistake I made pretty regularly was that I was often innappropriately generous.
One example: A client was looking to fill a vacant seat on their board of directors. I'd had lunch the previous week with a transactional attorney who told me that he was looking for the opportunity to sit on the board of a tech company. Easy match, right? I made the referral. The problem was that this fellow turned out to be a real shark, someone that, today, I would definitely not allow into my sphere of intimates. And while he solved the client's most pressing problem (an issue with cross-state sales over the internet), he also created a few new ones. He was opinionated and abrasive. He was eventually dismissed and I went on working with the client, knowing that my referral had been a bit of a wash for them. Ouch.
My key takeaway from that misadventure? Keep sharing, but do so appropriately.
Concepts into Action
Keep sharing, but do so share appropriately (where have you heard that one before?)
Look at the the SHARE column on the chart below. Those are my own tactics for keeping my network shares in the 'appropriate' range.
- I Chat with people in my Don't Know Well sphere, and spend time getting to know them.
- I share Information with my "Pals".
- I share Knowledge, Referrals, Experience, and Wisdom with my Allies.
- And I share Opportunity (like an introduction to the CEO of a fast-growing tech company looking to fill a board seat) with my "Intimates" (and occasionally, carefully-considered Allies).
See you there!