Tag Archives: Client relationships
Is there anything I could help you with?

You probably despise networking. You think of networking as wasting time and you don’t like to go to events with no direct outcome. Are you appalled by “coffee meetings” with people who never plan to support you but happily take your free advice? Know that feeling?

You probably heard me say this before: For me, time has an immense value and since I started my business I’ve come to the conclusion that I have three major priorities: 1) My health, 2) My time and 3) My support group (including my family and partner). Without these you cannot run a successful company of one.

In order to use my time effectively and to the best possible outcome, I am constantly reviewing my “networking” strategy and have become very strategic about building connections in a way that suits me but also generates business. At the same time with recent health challenges, working from home and restrictions on events I had to think of other ways to “network the network”. The term “working the net” already indicates that there is work involved in building and maintaining mutually beneficial business relationships. AND while this comes natural to expats and other people from more relationship-based cultures, it requires energy for people from strictly task-based cultures.

The secret to making peace with “networking” as I often explain in my talks and workshops such as “#Networking4Nerds” is to treat your business relationships similar to other friendships and to be a giver.

Here are my five recipes for working your net:

1) Connect those who would not meet

A big benefit of being a networking queen or king is that you can organize connections. Think about who would need to know whom in your network in order to move ahead one step with one of their issues. Maybe a friend needs a new job or a business contact wants a new client or needs to solve an immediate problem at hand. Risk a little discomfort. Set them up for a “Professional Blind Date”. Trust your judgement and see what happens.

Over the last few years I have made several professional introductions. Mainly I helped my clients to find jobs that they would otherwise not even know. I also benefit from introductions so I try to keep the karma of connections spinning. 

2) Accept that Relationships require work

As in a good marriage you want to keep the relationship alive by making it beneficial for both parties. Once you know too many people you might just react once you are asked but even a small advice to a junior colleague might help them to move ahead in their career or move out of a job where they have stopped to learn.

A lot of professionals I know have lost the ability to trust their managers and colleagues. Being a mentor for a more junior professional in your industry can be really motivating for this person.

3) Share your knowledge and expertise graciously

There has never been a time where too much knowledge was hurtful. It’s also impossible to shock people with well-written report summaries or other insights you have about your industry. Start posting on LinkedIn. Tell people what you know and how you view the trends. In a worst-case scenario you get a negative comment. Be bold and bring in your unique perspective to the world.

4) Help others and increase your self-esteem

It sounds like a boy/girl-scout value but “a good deed a day keeps the shrink away”. When you help your contacts then you will feel more self-respect and wake up with a smile on your face. It always makes me so happy when a client tells me they found a job they love or that a connection was really helpful.

It’s even more fun to just support people in your network (for FREE). Give them likes, +1, endorsements, retweets and hearts when you are not paid for it. It’s a great way to give people appreciation and we all could get a bit more of that especially in the corporate world.

5) Challenge yourself and treat networking as a game

I often ask my clients to set a networking target. That includes that they must give before they take. It could be a small weekly challenge such as meeting a person you never met for a coffee. You could also offer to connect someone to someone else because you know they share a theme, hobby or interest.

These connections really seem to bring out most amazing collaborations. You obviously want to ask permission before sharing details. You could implement a score card on your whiteboard and whenever you helped a connection you add a smiley there. Imagine how that will make YOU feel.

 

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aggressionWhen your colleague Paul tells you he has get home at 6 pm to see his children he throws in that your boss asked for a report she needs to have on her desk at 7 AM tomorrow. You cringe and call your partner to tell him you will need another 30 minutes to finalize the report. Your stomach feels hot and red. You are angry. Your colleague manages to get away. Why does he not have a deliverable here? Why is this team effort on your shoulders now? You think you could test if the boss was serious about 7 AM but you know you won’t get away with it.
[tweetthis]You know your anger will not change anything but on your way home you are close to tears.[/tweetthis]
Another messed up night. Your partner will be angry too now. You strip out of your suit as soon as you get home. On nights like this after leaving the battle ground you just want to have a glass of wine and a bath. Your partner rattles with the car keys. It is his gym night. Dinner needs to be cooked, the kids want a story and your inner household monster tells you to clean up the wardrobe. At 10 pm when your partner gets home you just want to go to bed. You almost had a bottle of wine by now.
The next morning, you protect your feelings through professionalism. You meditate and go for a run to keep up a smile. You wear a mask. You put on your business persona together with your pin-striped business suit and when you ask your boss if the report was ok, she just shrugs
“I had other priorities this morning. Team meeting at 10. Will you book a room for us?”.
“Isn’t that Paul’s task?”
“Yes, but he got caught up at kindergarden and will only get here at 9.45 AM. Be a good colleague and get us some pretzels too.”
You smile your best smile and help out again. While men seem to handle office politics better, I often notice that women prefer to stay out of roles where they have to deal with conflicts all the time. If you are in a leadership role – no matter if you are male or female – you won’t stay out of the firing lines. Doing favors might be easy, but verbal and written attacks will be part of your day.
[tweetthis]#Aggressive behavior is integral to hierarchical #work environments. We want to learn to reduce it. [/tweetthis]
You might feel you are giving more than you should, you might even feel that some of your colleagues advance faster than you, make more money and aren’t even better at what they do than you are. The good news is: You don’t have to accept aggressive behavior at the workplace.

Five methods to reduce aggressive behavior at the workplace

1) Reduce Your Aggressive Tonality

You could be seen as aggressive by others. If you solve conflicts on your managerial level by escalating issues to the next level, this could be seen as conflict avoiding and aggressive. Maybe your intention is to highlight a flaw in the process or that the team is understaffed. Still, the effect could be different than what you intend.
You might underestimate your native language and cultural assumptions too. If you are for example a native Russian speaker you could come across as unfriendly and aggressive in English without intending it. Or if you are a native French speaker you might come across as long-winded and complicated in English. It is good to ask a native-speaker friend how they see you and what you could improve in your communication style.

2) Stop Giving Unsolicited Feedback

You might also be seen as passive aggressive as you feel the need to correct others and give them unsolicited feedback. I had a colleague who would do that. I know now, that he was just trying to help me to become more assertive but at the time it drove me crazy. The basic rule is that you only give feedback and tips if your colleagues explicitly ask you for it. If you are the boss you probably need to give advice but be sure that you tell your subordinate that. Otherwise they will feel scolded and like back in high school. Since I started a business it happened to me more than once that listeners in an audience wanted to help me “sell” my services better or gave me feedback on word plays they would not understand. I understand the intention but I would have remembered them in a different light if they had just asked me about my intentions before babbling their ideas out.

3) Become a Listener

With the current average attention span of 90 seconds your colleagues will love you if you manage to listen to them for a full length of a three minute story without interrupting. If you practice to be authentic and a compassionate listener you will be seen as a source of inspiration and wisdom. Try to understand where your colleague or manager stands at the moment, which issues they have to solve and maybe also what they are going through in their personal lives.

4) Communicate your Needs

In business conversations it is helpful to speak about your needs and expectations in the I-form. “I need quite space to be able to think…” instead of “Could you shut up please?”. Or “I expect you keep the deadline for your deliverables as you promised to help me on this report.” instead of “Once again, you have not delivered what you said you would in time.”

5) Improve your business relationships

As I mentioned several times in the “Seven Principles for Intercultural Effectiveness” improving your business relationships   is the key to success in this globalized world. Work on every single relationship that is important to you and become a giver. You will be rewarded with success and long-term friendships across the globe.
Even if we have become used to it in our hierarchical work cultures we can all work towards a more appreciative communication culture. I recommend you learn about Marshall B. Rosenberg’s concept of non-violent communication and read Adam M. Grant’s book “Give and Take” too. Let me know if these five methods worked for you and what you have experienced.
Schedule a meeting with me to discuss your career situation and any issues you face at work.