Create a simple networking strategy
I was invited recently to a corporate sponsored (this is important) golf outing as a guest for the social only, clearly being expected to play to my strengths! My short game is somewhat longer than it should be.
As I waited at the bar in the club house for my host, I observed the players coming off the course and circulating. Here are two almost verbatim accounts of conversations between 2 pairs of golfers I overheard at the 19th hole:
Maria : Hi I’m Maria J. Pleased to meet you. Are you a member here?
Jane: Jane P. Yes I’ve been a member for 10 years Which club do you belong to?
Maria: Sunny Golf Club, I joined in 2000
Jane: That’s a nice course too. I did look at it when I first started playing, but the traffic is really bad on the A123, especially on a Friday. Where are you driving from?
Maria: Well, I work on Business Street, Brussels but live in Very Nice Suburb. On the weekends – it’s only 20 minutes by car.
Jane: Very Nice Suburb? That’s a great area. But quite far from Business Street.
Maria: I know – the kids go to X School and we wanted to be close to there. Even now I feel as if I spend my entire life in the car! Do you have kids? (in response to nod) Where do they go to school?
Jane : They’re only in the local primary school – but I still spend too much time in traffic!
(Conversation continued about best school runs, school curricula, summer programmes …)
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Tom: Tom X. Pleased to meet you
Joe– Joe Y… likewise. How did you get on today? Great course –I haven’t played here for years
Tom – 10 over. More bogies than birdies as they say. You?
Joe – played to my handicap
Tom : what are you at?
Joe: 22 and you?
Tom : 16, just dropped last year. Where do you play?
Joe : Sunny Golf Club –been a member for 10 years
Tom: Good course. Played there with Peter X of Better Products last summer. He smashed that 9th hole, the one with the dog-leg to the green. Do you know him?
Joe: That’s true the 9th is tough–I know Pete X well – we should play together sometime. Let’s set something up maybe in October? We have a roll-up competition ( Pulls card out of wallet)
(Conversation continued about business and golf courses, people they had in common and game set up)
I recounted this story to lunch buddy Silvana Delatte who challenged me to create an acronym to help women network.
This is what I came up with B.A.S.I.C.
- #B = Wear your business hat first at a professional and corporate event. Be strategic and inquisitive professionally. Identify some business basics and have networking goals! It’s OK!
- #A = Assess the situation. Ask Socratic questions (who, what where, why and how?) to find out more about the person. Ask for card and contact details. Give yours. Avoid Mumspeak and private over sharing too early in this conversation. At a school parents’ evening it would be different. This can actually upset women without children, as much as diluting a woman’s professional presence.
- #S = Synergy what and who do you have in common? Be strategic! Suggest connecting on an online platform. You are then connected not just to them but also able to tap into their networks.
- #I = show interest and interact professionally as well as personally. Implement your strategy.
- #C = Now is the time to Chat and Create relationships. People do business with individuals they like and trust. This is where women excel, social beings that we are.
Research by Monica Stallings of The Wharton School, suggests that both men and women show a preference for multi-plex networking, that is, they network with people they like and trust. But it’s men’s willingness to be more instrumental and strategic, that puts them ahead of the networking game. We all wear many hats in our daily lives. We wouldn’t wear a fascinator to the office or a business suit to the gym. Leaving our parenting hat in the cupboard at a corporate event is no different, until it’s an appropriate time to share.
Neither Jane or Maria had brought cards to the event. Jane’s company shortly afterwards announced major cuts in the workforce. Maria is the HR Director of a company in a loosely related sector. Would being aware of each other’s professional identities have made a difference? They’ll never know!
What acronym can you create to prompt women (and men) to become more effective networkers?
Wonderful example of the go-to subject matter for so many women. And if one of the women doesn’t have chlldren, it can be off-putting to the other. More importantly, as you point out, professional networking opportunities ought to keep goals in mind, which is presenting and sharing what is relevant in a professional context, or common interests that may lead to more connections.
And while discussing children (or relationships) may provide common ground, it immediately pulls you out of the conference room and into carpool line, hauling 10-year-olds in a mini-van.
Thanks Debra – agree. I recently ran a 3Plus Mini-Mentoring Event in London and I asked the room if anyone would rather stay at home and wax their legs than go to a networking event. The response was surprising and unusual – very few admited they would. Yet privately during and after the event, women told me that they had been embarassed to put their hands up! Talking about kids and family is a way to connect- but it’s a comfort zone which we do need to leave! Women don’t want to be defined professionally as mothers when the y have other success stroies to share.
Great acronym that you broke down on how to use for women in networking. The points made above about not being afraid to leave your parenting hat in the cuppoard at a corporate event is a great one. I think women hold that one so near and dear to them that this is a very hard thing to do but so often, and as you can see from your great examples, men do not have an issue doing this and are able to make furthering business connections much more efficiently due to this. I intend to use this acronym many times from here on, thanks!
Thanks Lacee. I use the hat metaphor in workshops I run – how we engage in any situation is like choosing a hat which is occasion relevant. Connecting with someone at a school function as a parent is entirely appropriate-in fact in this occasion it would be inappropriate to go into biz mode straight away. It’s not about disowning our roles as mothers, just about timing of the release of information.
Dorothy – great post!
What always strikes me is women’s reluctance to share their professional success. May be because it feels like boasting – when it is really about communicating your credibility and giving others a clear message about what you offer in business.
A big part of this is how you express yourself – one example is the way women tend to use more “qualifiers” in the way they describe their skills and experience – this not only dilutes the message but communicates a lack of confidence.
A key element in all of this is that first women need to recognise their value and their strengths in business and the workplace, in order to communicate it to others.
Hi Sonia – thank you! You have of course nailed it. It’s about the ability an confidecne to identify and articulate success stories which many struggle with – but especially women!
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