NETWORKS: We all want a strong network, but most of us hate networking. Jamie Millar of SkyBridge shares tips for building a strong network, options for how to curate your LinkedIn connections, and why we should distinguish between networks and networking.
NETWORKING vs. NETWORKS
- As Jamie emphasizes, no one likes networking (the verb). And certainly, no one likes to be networked. On the other hand, most of us value our network – the noun.
- NETWORKING – the verb –
- All too often, networking means going to boring conferences and collecting business cards. Maybe suggesting lunch but rarely doing it.
- Many people also equate Networking with transactions, an ask, a sales job.
- NETWORK – the noun –
- A network is a community of supportive, trusted, kindred sprits
- Networks provides two main things: community and access
- access – Jamie talked a lot about providing value in terms of introducing people providing access to people, making connections with kindred spirits. This is about being a bridge (the bridge metaphor)
- community – A trusted group of kindred spirits. A supportive community that shares insights, ideas, collaborates, listens, and pays attention.
- As Jamie says, what we really want from a network is “a community of people who like and trust and respect each other, who are taking the long view.” Trust is an imperative for strong networks.
TIPS FOR BUILDING A STRONG NETWORK
- Be generous. Add value to your network.
- It’s not easy to cultivate or maintain a network, but it’s worth the effort
- Tactics for building a strong network:
- congratulating people on their promotions
- meeting up and touching base
- providing access to your extended network for others, making introductions
- listening, paying attention
- share insights, ideas, advice
- Consider the opportunity to create a network. For example, set-up quarterly dinners or Zoom calls for folks who want to establish/maintain connections and learn from each other.
BE INTENTIONAL ABOUT YOUR LINKEDIN CONNECTIONS
- Be conscious or strategic about your network. This is Jamie’s point about INTENTION.
- There is a difference between your network and your social media followers.
- For your “network,” focus on quality, meaningful relationships
- Social media is an efficient way to stay connected and learn news about your extended network.
- There are several legitimate ways to think about your LinkedIn connections, depending on your business, your objectives and even on your personality. For example:
- Do you want to connect with people who are otherwise strangers?
- Jamie’s LinkedIn connection strategy is to say yes to almost anyone who wants to connect, but only if they’ll agree to a short phone call. He wants to know every person he’s connected to on LinkedIn.
- Years ago, I only connected with people whom I knew previously.
- Nowadays I say YES to 95% of the people who send me a LinkedIn connection request. The only ones who I decline are the ones who declare (typically in their title or their headline) that they’re going to try to sell me their services.
- LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/jamie-millar-3033/
- SkyBridge & Associates – https://skybridge.associates/
- Newsletter Recommendations:
Networking Episodes with Sharon Mah-Gin
- #45: NETWORKING – https://www.talkabouttalk.com/45-networking/
- #67: ONLINE NETWORKING – https://www.talkabouttalk.com/67-online-networking-with-sharon-mah-gin/
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- LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/andreawojnicki/
“…the biggest mistake is thinking of networking in transactional terms. If one goes to a networking event, the goal isn’t to collect business cards. The goal is to find people who are kindred spirits who you want to build a longer-term relationship with. The biggest mistake people make is seeking networking opportunities as opposed to focusing on building a network.”
Greetings and welcome to Talk About Talk. I’m your communication coach, Dr. Andrea Wojnicki (please call me Andrea!).
Today we’re focusing on The Power of Networks. I promise you’ll be thinking about networking – and networks – and yes, there’s an important difference between those two terms, after you hear my conversation with Jamie Millar.
At Talk About Talk, we focus on communication-skills to help ambitious executives catapult their careers. We’re talking topics like communicating with confidence, personal branding, and yes, networking. You can access Talk About Talk across a variety of media or resources. There’s online corporate workshops, 1-on-1 coaching with me, online courses, the free weekly communication-skills newsletter, and, of course, this bi-weekly podcast. You can choose what works for you ! And you can find it all on the talkabouttalk.com website.
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OK – Welcome to Talk About Talk episode number 92! The Power of Networks with Jamie Millar.
This episode perfectly compliments two previous TalkAboutTalk on networking, if I do say so myself. The first is focused on Networking in general and the second focuses on Online networking. In both I interview executive recruiter Sharon Mah-Gin. Sharon offers incredibly valuable advice – principles, I would say – about what’s important to network effectively. So I encourage you to take a listen to those episodes as well. I’ll leave links to those episodes in the shownotes.
In this episode right now, #92, you’ll learn how to think about networks and networking strategically. Specifically, you’ll learn :
- Why it’s important to distinguish between networking and networks
- Tips for building a strong, valuable network,
- PLUS Various options for how you can curate your LinkedIn connections
Let’s get into this interview right now. I’m going to briefly introduce Jamie, and then we’ll get into our conversation. Then at the end, I’ll summarize the key learnings.
So as always, you don’t need to take notes, because I summarize everything for you at the end of the episode. And you can always access the printable episode shownotes on the talkabouttalk.com website. So, while you’re listening, you can just keep doing whatever you’re doing – I need to come up with some news ones here. The great thing about listening to podcast sis that you can multitask while you’re listening, right? SO whether you’re driving or walking or doing housework, or hanging out on the couch, or LET ME SEE, maybe lifting weights or doing cardio, or taking a bath. Or putting away the groceries? Eating dinner? Whatever you’re doing, you don’t have to lift a finger to take notes because I do that for you. You’re welcome.
OK – let me introduce James Millar. Or Jamie. I’ve known Jamie for a few decades, in both Toronto and Boston. Jamie graduated with honors from the University of Toronto with a degree in Industrial Engineering, and he received his Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School. Yes, he’s a smart guy – no question.
Early in his career, Jamie worked at IntellectExchange, Fidelity Investments’ online brokerage, and Morgan Stanley. He also served as Chairman of the HBS MBA Admissions Board. THAT would be an interesting job. He then founded Bonfire Consulting, a firm specializing in the application of social network principles to strategic business opportunities. From there he became Partner at Tapestry Networks. In 2013, Jamie founded SkyBridge & Associates, to create invitation-only peer networks for leaders, where they offer timely, relevant and privileged conversations with a community of trusted peers. It’s about networks, not networking. Trust, not transactions. And conversations, not conferences.
Jamie is the author of Building Bridges: The Case for Executive Peer Networks. He also hosts the Building Bridges Podcast, which brings together small groups of professionals for lively discussions about the future of business.
And as I said, I promise you’ll think a little differently about networking after you’ve heard this conversation!
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Jamie, thank you so much for joining us here today to talk about the power of networks.
Well, it’s great to be here and I appreciate the invitation.
Let’s kick this off by starting with some vocabulary. I would love it if you’d start by sharing with the listeners, your take on the difference between networking, and networks.
Sure what I think this is a common misunderstanding. And I think that a lot of people confuse the noun and the verb, right? So the noun, network is very different from the verb networking. And I think, you know, if you think about networking, it’s it’s in many ways what we all hate. Right? There’s an element of superficiality is sort of transactional. There’s a whiff of desperation, oftentimes associated with networking, and you sort of want something from somebody, right? It’s a very pleasant experience. Nobody likes to do it. No one likes to be networked. That’s entirely different from the noun, a network. And I think everybody, certainly anyone had any amount of professional success would agree that a strong network is in many ways critical to their success. And so we all want a need a strong network, nobody wants to network, right? No one wants the verb everyone wants to noun. And really, I focus primarily in the work I do on the noun.
So you said, we don’t like to be networked. And it feels very transactional. But can you elaborate a little bit more on? Why do we hate networking?
I guess it comes back to no one wants to be sold, right? You know, it’s like everyone wants to buy something no one wants to be sold. And I think there’s an element with a lot of networking of, I’m going to interact with you because I want something from you, I want you to buy something from me, whether it’s financial transaction or some other kind of transaction, which I just think for a lot of people kind of puts their guard up, I think people miss trust it really a strong network is based on a foundation of trust. And in many ways, networking is the opposite. You know, what it’s saying is, you know, frankly, we’re gonna get married on the first date. I don’t know you at all. And yet, I want something from you, whether it’s your business card, or your phone number, let’s get lunch. And there’s sort of this air, like I said, of, you know, authenticity and kind of a transactional spirit that I think just most people find doesn’t really resonate. And and so I think that’s really the problem with networking and and how many people really want to go to a networking event, what people want is the end result of that. I think everybody wants a good network. And people, for variety reasons think that networking is the only way to develop a strong network. I’m not persuaded that’s true. Right? At least not interested in networking.
Yeah. Okay. So it’s not like networking is the antecedent to the output, or the result of having a big or a strong network, which actually relates to another question I wanted to ask. But I want to share this quote that I heard of yours, where you said, there’s a power of peer networks to serve as both a source of community as well as a distinctive way to engage with key stakeholders. Yeah, so is this community and this access, really the two main benefits of a network?
I think so this is not just a professional community in any community, right? This is the communities we live in. These are alumni communities we might belong to this is any community that we might belong to, I think it provides a sense of certainly trust, right, there’s a foundation of trust. And embedded in that I think there’s a sense of reciprocity, there’s information sharing, there’s a degree of sort of collaboration. You know, I think, ultimately, if you think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, where you’re after our safety and security needs are met, the next level is a sense of belonging, right, a sense of community. And I think that a good community can really provide that sense of belonging, it’s both a sense of belonging to a group of people with whom you feel some kinship, some sense of being kindred spirits. And that can be people who are peers of yours. These can also, by the way, be clients of yours, or suppliers of yours, right people in your professional ecosystem, to engage with them on a human level, not just on a professional transactional level. So I think that’s really what I what I talked about, there’s a lot of power in that. I think, frankly, people don’t often enjoy that benefit. Too many people are go through their day, with these transactional relationships without saying no, what I really need is to create this community of people who like and trust and respect each other who are taking a long view. And so that’s really what I’m talking about.
Oh, my goodness, Jamie, first of all, I love your term, professional ecosystem as thinking about not just your direct peers, it’s people in different industries, functions and roles, right. So your, your clients, your customers, your suppliers, everybody,
everybody, everybody, right, you know, other thought leaders, experts, mentors, right? You know, we all if you’re at all curious, and you’re at all interested in people, you kind of collect people that you want to stay in touch with, not because you want something from them, not because they want something from you, but rather because you give something to each other right, just through your being through your interactions through your conversations. And so really, that’s what we’re talking about is building that group, that network of people that you can go to Even if you haven’t talked to them for 10 years, there’s a trust. And you know, they’re glad to hear from you. You’re glad to hear from them. Yeah. So
So one of the things I’m hearing from you in a couple of different contexts here is the significance of the short term versus the long term view. And usually, yeah, when you were describing networking versus networks, I was thinking about communal versus reciprocal relationships, right? From social psychology. And one of the, there is some debate still, whether communal relationships actually exist at all. And something that some academics have said, perhaps it’s just a longer term reciprocity, like you always assume that you’re gonna you’re gonna get get back what you give, and you’re, you’re not keeping score today.
I think you’re exactly right, you know, someone who’s purely giving, giving, giving, is ultimately going to find that that relationship isn’t very fulfilling, right? I think there is an expectation that you’re going to get something now what you get may be different from what you give, right? It’s not like, Hey, I’m gonna give you this lead, you give me that lead. It might be, you know, you’re gonna give me an idea, or you’re gonna, you’re gonna give me your attention. There’s any number of things we can give people, which aren’t financial in nature. But, you know, again, just it’s part of being human that that, you know, there’s an expectation that we are going to reciprocate. But But I don’t think, again, I don’t think that has to feel transactional, right, I think that can actually feel very authentic and supportive,
supportive. That’s a great word to so. So you said the currencies could be things like ideas, things like attention. And we’re in your in the quote that I shared previously, there was also access, can you talk a little bit about access access to what?
Again, it comes back to trust? You know, I think we all assumed, I think it’s access to a few things, one it’s access to, to a person’s authentic thoughts and perspectives, right? I think a lot of times, when you talk to someone, they initially won’t tell you what they really think. And, and, and over time, as you build trust, as as, as you build a relationship, you gain more, you gain more access to a person’s real beliefs, real opinions, real experiences. And so I think you certainly gain that type of access. I think, you know, and again, this is gonna sound transactional, and it’s not, but I think you also gain access to their extended network, you know, we only know the people we know. And yet the people that we know, know, a lot of other people and and to the extent that that those second and third order relationships are valuable, and I would, I would assert that they are, if you’re trying to do anything important, you know, you need access to people you don’t already know. But I think having that pre existing trust and relationship built up to say, you know, I’m, you know, would you introduce me to such and such, you know, I’d like to and and doing the same in return, you know, offering to make introductions in return. Again, not not because you expect something in return, but because it’s the right thing to do, right. Yeah. Hey, there’s someone I know, that could help you. Let me put you in touch. Yeah. I think that creating that there’s a degree of an element of karma involved, right. Like, I think, you know, if you do if you do well by other people, they will in most cases do well, by you. Yeah, it’s that access, it’s access to everything that a person has, right. their knowledge, their, their relationships, their network, their, their experience.
Yeah. So you mentioned karma. And I was thinking, personally, I can tell you so many times of when I’ve introduced or connected to people, the satisfaction that I derive from that when they say, Hey, thank you so much for that introduction. And guess what happened? Blah, blah, blah? And I’m like, yes.
Look, it’s great when the connection bears fruit, obviously, you know, and you wouldn’t make the connection. If you didn’t think the people had had something, it doesn’t have to be an end result. It could just be, hey, had a great conversation. I really liked this person. Right. And I think it’s actually a great signal for the two people that you introduce, because it also provides an opportunity for you to express the way you feel about them. Right. You know, you know, you know, it’s like, you know, John, I’m introducing you to Andrew, because I think that you two would really enjoy getting to know each other, right, you know, that type of thing, and which shows that that, you know, obviously someone that I respect, I’m introducing someone else I respect and, and, and just the ability to, to kind of put that, that respect and admiration into the world is a good is a good thing. It feels good to do. And I think it you know, it builds trust.
So we’re, we’re dancing all around transitivity theory here too, right? So if I know John and I know Andrea, then chances are they’re going to like each other. And by the way, that is how I met my husband.
Yes. Exactly. Well, I look, I think a lot of people do meet their spouses. That’s the best kind of job search as well, right? The network job search, you know, this notion that we’re going to go online and find a job, you know, one or 210 times it might work work. Right. But you know, you apply for a job online, there’s 400 people for that same job. Right? Yeah. 1400 4000 people. And so it’s, it’s like buying a lottery ticket versus using a network approach and and saying, and again, it’s not about being transactional, but building trust and saying, This is a person I would like to introduce to somebody else, because I think they may be able to help each other.
Brilliant, brilliant. Yeah. So I have a question for you relating to, you know, growing our network through the networks of others. Is a bigger network always better?
No, I don’t think so. I think first of all, we have to define what better means, right? Because I think a network has two benefits, I think there is a sort of a functional benefit. In terms of all the things I said, Right. There’s a practical limit to how many people we can stay in touch with sort of maintain trust with and so you know, if you had 100,000 people in your network, is that going to be good? No, because you’re not going to know most of them. You they probably wouldn’t even know if you pass them in the street. And so, so no, I don’t think so. You know, there are people on LinkedIn who will just randomly invite people to be part of their “network,” which I think is complete nonsense. That to me is not a network. That’s just a collection of names. It’s like a mailing list effectively. So to me, a mailing list of 1000s of people on LinkedIn is not a network a network are people that you could, you could send them an email, you could call them up, and they’d be like, hey, Andrew, it’s great to hear from you, you know, thanks for the call, right? And so I think it needs to be the size it needs to be. And it has to be authentic, you know, this idea that a person can I do believe a person can can try to grow their network. And I think they’re, you know, within reason, there’s goodness in more connections. But they have to be for the right reason, right? It has to be legitimately interested in you, I legitimately want to build a relationship with you build a relationship based on trust, with you. And so I don’t think that just clicking and having 1000s and 1000s of like, random kind of loose acquaintances. That’s not what I look at as a network.
It’s not, it’s not social media followers.
It’s not social media followers at all. Now, you know, at the end, there are there are stronger and weaker ties, obviously, you know, there’s lots of people that I would consider to be part of my network, for instance, people I might have worked with in the past, you know, people I worked with, you know, 10 or 15 years ago, clearly in my network, and if I was to call them up today, they would probably be glad to hear from me and vice versa. You know, that’s different from people that I interact with, on a daily basis. And I think you need both, you know, I think I think you know, you need to be you know, and that’s that is I will say one of the great things about link a tool, like a link like LinkedIn is that it doesn’t, I wouldn’t say it builds network, what it allows you to do is to stay in to be mindful of what these weak ties are doing, right? You know, someone that you work with a decade ago, you don’t, you’re not in regular contact anymore. But you can, you can see where they’re working, you see what they’re doing, and it kind of creates an opening, sometimes you just send them a note, say, Hey, I saw that you took this such and such a job really interesting. You know, I’d love to learn more, you know, so it does take work keeping the network active, it’s not a passive thing. You have to actively care about people, not for your own sake, because you’re legitimately interested in them. And, you know, hey, so you took this new job, I know somebody that works in that industry, as well would you know, I’d love to love to put you in touch if you thought would be helpful, or those sorts of
Yeah, I’m just in my mind, I’m thinking about the different types of connections that I have even just on LinkedIn, nevermind just generally, but on LinkedIn, right? There’s the people that I really only know their name. And I’ve maybe seen some posts, and I’ve been impressed with what they’ve done, but I’ve never reached out to them. And then there’s somewhere like you said, when they take a new job, or you congratulate them and you and it’s it is an efficient way of keeping tabs on people that you’ve worked with, and even connected with in your past. But I’ve also, I’ve also met some incredible people that I’ve ended up, for example, interviewing for this podcast, on LinkedIn. And it’s, it’s from seeing them, you know, make comments that are related to what my audience is interested in, in a way that I thought was really smart. And then I get to know them a little bit and boom, and now they’re, I would call get trusted colleague. So
I will, I will sometimes as I think we all do get inbound requests, right to connect with people on LinkedIn. And I don’t know if this is a good thing or not. But I will rarely accept one of those requests without also having a conversation. Right. So normally, what I’ll do is if someone sends me a request, I’ll send the person a note, either through LinkedIn or if I can find their email, I’ll send it to their email, and just say, I saw you wanted to connect with me. I don’t usually accept these without chatting. I think it’s a missed opportunity, frankly, to not have a conversation. If someone’s taking the time and is interested in you and what you do. It’s a missed opportunity to not learn more about them and to have that connection. So so I will generally require that they commit to a call and if they won’t commit to a call, then why am I going to click Accept Right, it seems like such a small thing, you know, if you’re not willing to, to engage on a human level, so yeah, it’s kind of a weird quirk. Yeah. So
you’ve very beautifully articulated the significance for you of quality over quantity.
Right? Absolutely. Yes. Right. So to your question, is it you know, is bigger better? Not necessarily. I think that, you know, having the network of people that you like, and trust and who feel the same about you, is the most important thing. And by the way, there are a lot of those people, right? So you don’t have to limit yourself. It’s not like, well, we have 10 people that I like to trust. It’s like, Nah, it’s nonsense. We all could find 1000 people, we like contrast, if we, if we tried hard enough.
Exactly. So so how do we try? What strategies do you think are effective for us to grow a Quality Network?
Well, so first of all, I think it’s, again, friends of friends are always the best way, you know, if you’re, if you are, depending on whatever you do, you know, if if you’re talking with someone, you know, make it known that you you know, you want to introduce your friends to other people, and they tend to do the same in return. So I think a part of it is just getting in that habit of thinking about who you know, and how you can connect them with each other, which, which again, then just creates the environment in which other people then start to connect you with their friends. So I think that’s a part of it, I think, curiosity and is a big part of it and asking questions, right? It actually just happened yesterday I was there’s a person I didn’t don’t know them. That came up in conversation, one of our, a member of one of our networks, had mentioned somebody, and who was actually a friend of a friend. And so I contacted my friend and say, hey, you know, I hear really great things about this person, you know, I’d love to have a chat at some point, not because I want to sell them anything. But just because they they operate in kind of this adjacent space. I thought we might have some things to share with each other right? Connections, insights, experiences that might be of interest. And, you know, if you feel open to it, I’d love to love to get to know this person. And he said, Yeah, happy to introduce you.
So when your answer there, Jamie, you said in one of my networks, can you share with us a little bit about what your organization does?
Sure. So I think the simplest way to think about what we do is that we effectively create private clubs. For senior executives, it’s really, really opportunities for people to have conversations they should be having with a group of people they should be talking to, and for a variety of reasons, just don’t, I think it’s one of these one of these sort of ironies of life where, you know, as you when you start in any job, any any kind of early in your career, and you got lots of people around, you kind of see the world the same way you do, right, you’re in an entry level job, you got peers, you got colleagues, everybody kind of sees. And what happens is, as you get more and more senior, you know, it’s like climbing a mountain, right, there are fewer and fewer people at your level, and the air becomes a little thinner. And what you find when you get to a certain point, you don’t have to be the CEO, if you don’t, even if you’re a functional leader, you find that there really aren’t people within the organization who see the world the way you do, you know, you’re you’ve kind of risen to this mountain peak, and you’re just sort of looking at over a landscape, that’s very different from what most other people are seeing, not better or worse, it’s just different. And and you don’t have people that you can talk to you don’t have those connections. Internally, and it’s honestly, it’s lonely. You know, it’s a cliche to say that it’s lonely at the top. And yet, the number of executives we speak with who say exactly that, I lost track up. So, you know, what we do basically, is we create these little groups of about 20 to 25 people who meet on a regular basis, usually three or four times a year, to have conversations with each other, that they again, that they should be having, and just aren’t, you know, there’s a lot of structural barriers that make it difficult for senior people to get together. You know, there’s conferences, there’s all sorts of events, but senior people rarely go to those, you know, and if they do go, they’re going to speak and they kind of they they do their thing, and then they split. And so there just aren’t a lot of chances, frankly, for senior people from different organizations to get together and have the kinds of conversations they crave.
So I have heard from some of my friends and colleagues who are CEOs or as you said in the C suite that this is very true for them that actually is very lonely in the UK. But the other thing that I hear from them is that the people that are reaching out to them, they sometimes question whether they should trust these people. Right? So you’re you’re providing these network members with a trusted network? Are they peers that are indirect competitors, direct competitors? Or do you somehow make sure that they are not competing at
all, there’s many ways you can slice a peer network, you know, you can slice it by role, you can slice it by industry, you can slice it by age, you can slice it by a geography we generally do networks that are either around a particular role and or around a particular industry.
Okay, so how do you encourage these people in the same discipline and or the same industry to build trust?
In most jobs, there is strategic competitive information They’re not going to share. And they shouldn’t share, right? If they’re if you’re in a public company, for instance, you shouldn’t share nonpublic information, right? With anyone forget about your competitor, you shouldn’t share with anybody. And so yes, there’s certain things that are gonna be off balance, no question. There’s generally three types of topics that that we talked about in our groups, I would say. So the first are issues that are external to people’s organizations. These are industry trends. You know, this could be regulation, you know, any number of things that are happening in the world. And, and so the question, there isn’t so much what’s happening, you know, everyone’s up to speed. These are sophisticated people we work with, but it’s really more that it’s not. So it’s not the what, it’s the sowhat. And the, you know, how does this matter? You know, why is this happening? What does this mean? And there’s enormous amount of value in that, right, that’s not really competitive. It is, I guess, a little bit on the margin. But, you know, ultimately, most, the basis of most competition is to be execution anyway, right? So, so saying, hey, there’s a new regulation that’s being proposed, what does that mean? How do we think about it? Is this good or bad? You know, what are the long term consequences? Those are great conversations that people want to have with other sophisticated people who are kind of looking at the issues in the same way. And so so that’s one type of topic. The second set of topics are generally around matters that are internal to an organization, policies, practices, procedures, you know, how do we do what we do? And well, and we’re not proposing that there’s a better or worse, right? We’re not saying this is best practice. Every organization has a different history, different culture, different geographic footprint. And so the topics tend to really be more around the assumptions that people are make, which is fascinating. Again, just understanding other people’s assumptions is really an incredibly enlightening takeaway. You know, sometimes it confirms that people are doing things right. You know, hey, we’re all doing things kind of the same way. We all have a, you know, we all have a marketing department. Isn’t that interesting? Right? But if someone says, No, we’ve done away with our marketing department. Oh, that’s fascinating. Tell me more, right? You want to learn more about why and kind of what the assumptions were behind that? So So that’s the second set of topics are these internal matters? And then the third set of topics tend to be more personal, you know, how can you become a better leader? How do you balance successful professional life with a rewarding personal life? How do you learn to manage stress?
I would love to be a fly on the wall, especially for the third topic that you said the personal and professional, the leadership, the communication skills? Are that all that stuff? Fascinating. Yeah.
So the idea is, we create these groups, and then we run them, you know, for years and years and years and years. And, you know, what you find in the early meetings is this sort of low hanging fruit and people are feeling each other out a little bit that trust hasn’t yet built? Yeah. And so people are reluctant to be very vulnerable, or sort of really show their their weaknesses, everything’s, you know, sunshine and unicorns. And then what you find is it by by about the third or fourth or fifth meeting, people start to become more vulnerable. And that’s when those those more personal topics really come to the fore, willing to say, I’m really having a hard time with this, or I’m wondering how to, you know, I know, I’m wondering how to have more influence in my organization, you know, I feel like I’m doing a great job. And yet, I’m not really being taken as seriously as I should be. How can I how can I be more effective? What are things other people have done to build that that authority that?
So I think a key theme here is trust, just based on this entire conversation, and based on the whole phenomenon of networks and networking? And speaking of themes, your firm is called sky bridge associates. And your book, which I read a couple of years ago, is building bridges. So can you talk about the bridge metaphor as it relates to networks?
Absolutely. The bridge metaphor is really important to me, if you just think about what a bridge does, right? A bridge takes you from where you are, where you want to be, generally over some sort of danger, whether it’s road or river or something, right, so you’re trying to get from one place to another and get over something dangerous. And so that’s really what this is, to me, it’s a mechanism to go on this journey. Again, I often will use the mountain metaphor as well, where you know, you’re standing on top of the mountain. In order to get to the top of another mountain, normally, you would have to go down your mountain along the road up the other mountain, and there’s a lot of friction there, right. Whereas if you build a bridge, because there’s virtual bridge in the sky, connecting the mountaintops, that allows people much more easily to interact with each other. And so that’s really the the origin of the sky bridge metaphor, bridging people, bridging ideas, bridging relationships,
beautiful. So before we get into the five rapid fire questions, Jamie, I just wanted to ask you a couple of more sort of tactical questions. The first one is, what mistakes do you see people making the most common mistakes you see people making when they’re networking?
Well, I think the biggest mistake is thinking of networking in transactional terms. If one does go to a networking event, the goal isn’t to collect business cards. I think the goal is to find people who are kindred spirits who you want to build a longer term relationship with, right and and so I think that’s the biggest mistake people make is that they actually seek out networking opportunities as opposed to focus on building a network. For a strong, high quality, the wrong high quality, which by the way takes time. It takes effort. It takes authenticity. It takes goodwill, it has to come from a spirit of generosity. I think the people who have great networks, I don’t mean just these are people who are generous people. Yeah,
you very much remind me of my friend, Sharon Mah-Gin, who I interviewed about networking for a previous episode. And she’s all about being generous adding value, and definitely certainly not expecting anything in return.
Sounds like Sharon and I should meet each other. Yeah, yeah. You should you also network. This is a networking opportunity. Andrea,
can I connect to you, Jamie? Would love to? Yeah, of course.
Like I said, I always love love to be kindred spirits. They push me to think
yeah, Sharon does that for me? And so do you. So there we go. transitivity theory in action. Perfect. My last question is probably the most tactical. But do you have any suggestions for online networking? In particular,
I don’t think online or offline makes any difference. Honestly, you know, a lot of it comes down to being somewhat intentional, knowing the kinds of people you want to get to know. And knowing the kinds of people that you do know that you want to introduce to others. It’s not about being in person. But being in the office, frankly, some of the best networks are those outside your own organization. I don’t think there’s anything different. I don’t think COVID has changed anything in terms of the tactics of building a strong network. I really don’t think of anything that’s made it easier. I think, frankly, the prevalence of zoom is actually made it easier to build a network, I think it allows people to build trust much more quickly than they might have previously. Yeah,
I agree. Actually. 100% I wasn’t expecting you to say that. But I agree. And I love your answer, though. It’s really about your intention. And when it comes to the intention, the medium through which you’re communicating, whether you’re at a cocktail party downtown in a big hotel, right, or, yeah, whether you’re on a Zoom meeting with two people or with 20 people, it’s about your intention.
It’s about your intention. Right. And and you know, the problem with it with the cocktail party downtown, I’m first of all, I avoid those like the plague. But usually, it’s such a scattered group of people, you know, you kind of look around you like, how did I get in this room? Like, you know, who are these people? I don’t I end up in this room, you know, you’re looking around, and everyone’s kind of checking their phone, because they want to seem like they’re incredibly busy, right? Because they feel like a loser that and so there’s just pathetic element to it. And eventually, like someone comes up to you, and you just pray that someone who’s remotely interesting, right, and 10% of the time they are, versus like I said, I’m more what I would argue is a more authentic way of, quote, networking, or building a network, which is, you know, the old fashioned way, you know, I got a friend that I think you might like, or I’ve seen something you’ve read, I’d love to chat with you, I think we might have some common interest, or I’d like to introduce you to someone I know, right, which is a much and weirdly, a much more authentic way you think that the in person kind of all together in the same room would be would be more authentic. It’s actually not it’s a very kind of weirdly inorganic way of meeting people. I can’t think of a single person that I’ve met at a quote, networking event that I could call this morning, and you know, they would know who I am.
Interesting. Well, you haven’t met Sharon yet?
No, no, but but but the point is, I’m gonna meet sure in a different way, I’m going to meet you because you’re going to introduce me to share, which is very different from going to an event that those never lead to anything they sometimes in the moment they lead to a pleasant conversation, you might learn something, hey, I met a really interesting person. I was nice, you know, let’s get coffee. And then 99% of the time you never get coffee. I’m not opposed to social graces. But I don’t think that it’s really a very effective way of getting to know people.
So all hail zoom networking opportunity. I’d love to move on now to the five rapid fire questions that I asked every guest. Are you ready?
I’m ready. Question number one.
What are your pet peeves? I have many. I have many and I have few. I’m a pretty tolerant guy. I love I think professionally. My pet peeves. I have two with regard to LinkedIn. We’ve talked about that. The one is and I think this is I’m probably not the only person to say this. I hate when people say that they are humbled by something. You know, if you have won a Nobel Prize, I think you have the right to be humbled. I think if you have taken a job in a mid level position at a at a mid level company to say you’re humbled to take that job is insane. And so I can’t stand it when people say they’re humbled, maybe proud you may be Yeah, whatever. But so I hate the word humbled in that context, unless you want a Nobel Prize, and I also can’t stand LinkedIn is increasing prevalence of the polls that people are putting up. To me it is the online equivalent of clickbait. I find it to be you know, people ask questions as though they actually care about the answer, which I don’t think they do.
Yeah. Question number two, what type of learner Are you?
I love to read. So I definitely you know, and visual in that regard. I find that I tend to do pretty well listening you know, I enjoy it. I listen to people all day. And so I learned a lot from that. Honestly, though, the way I take all of us I have read and listened to and make sense of it is by talking. As you can probably figure from this podcast, I am not afraid to talk and I would describe myself as a verbal learner. Nothing really gets loaded into memory long term memory unless I have said it out loud.
So you learn by talking. I’ve heard I’ve heard learn by teaching. I haven’t heard learn by talking. That’s a good one
Yeah, no, it’s a real thing is verbal learning.
So Jamie, I just have to say, Welcome to talk about talk.
There you go.
Okay, question number three, introvert or extrovert?
extrovert? Yeah, I’m extrovert, I get a lot of energy from other people, which I would you know, I enjoy solitary time, too. I’m not afraid of being by myself. But I get a lot of energy by being around other people.
Ditto. Okay, question number four communication preference for personal conversations, what media do you like to use?
And what kind of conversation you know, if it’s quick, transactional stuff, and text is good. I mean, I think primarily phones, zoom right are going to be the best. You know, most of the time, in a personal conversation. There’s some amount of nuance, I can’t stand long text or, you know, email chains. I think it’s sometimes it’s easier just to pick up the phone and talk about something.
All right, last question. Is there a podcast or a blog, or an email newsletter that you find yourself recommending,
in terms of blogs, the ones I really like, there’s a daily blog that Seth Godin does, which I think is fantastic. Seven out of 10 are good one out of 10 is genius. There’s very few that are bad. Scott Galloway love his email, which sort of always tease things up in a provocative way with graphics and a whole bunch of cool stuff. And then there’s a third one that I really like. And again, it’s not for everybody. But there’s this fellow Ryan Craig, who’s actually Canadian, who has something called the gap letter. He’s a higher ed expert, and has a venture capital firm called University ventures, which is really looking at the future of higher ed. And and Ryan is an unbelievable writer, just unbelievable. Whether or not you’re interested in the topic, he always makes you think. And so I love I love his newsletter.
Well, I’m also a fan of Seth Godin, and a big fan of Scott Galloway, and Ryan, Craig, I hadn’t heard of, I’m going to leave links for all of those in the show notes. Before I let you go, is there anything else you want to share about the power of networks,
the one thing I would say about the power of networks is that, you know, one of the most powerful things you can do is to actually not just be in a network yourself, but to create a network and support a network for your clients recognizing that they probably need this and probably don’t have it, creating these networks, being in the room as they talk with each other, you obviously build relationships, true, true, authentic relationships, right? Not transactional, you gain insights into the market needs, you would never, you would never understand, you know, the beauty of sponsoring a network is that you get access to those insights of what your clients are dealing with, you’d never hear otherwise. And then the third is that it just it creates a branding opportunity to show that you care, right? So hard in life, to show that you care about people and that you’re committed to their success. And so that’s the other thing I guess I would say is that built that is not just about being in a network, it’s also providing and supporting and fostering a network for other people. Very well
put in as you’re saying that, Jamie, I was thinking this is the segue to maybe part two of this conversation at some point where we talk about the power of communities, and it’s just a little bit different. It’s subtly different from the power of a network. Right. And, and I was thinking maybe someday I’ll be able to sponsor one of your, your networks. And I’ll be no sponsored by talk about talk.
Right? Look, there are people that will hire us too, as a third party, which is fine, but you don’t have to hire a third party. People can do this on their own. Yeah, not everyone has the budget or so forth to justify that doesn’t mean you can’t still do it, right. Any person can offer, whether it’s a quarterly dinner, whether it’s a roundtable session, whatever, you know, that’s not focused on you presenting to them. So many of these things are like, let me you know, let’s get together. And I’m going to walk you through a PowerPoint deck on some topic of extra, no, don’t do that. Right. You get people together, and you run a conversation where they talk with each other and you just sit quietly and listen. And anyone can do that. You could do that. Anyone could do that. Create it just saying every quarter I’m going to organize a 60 minute zoom call with my biggest clients to have them talk to each other. It’s fantastic.
Thank you so much, Jamie, for sharing all your thoughts on the power of networks. This was a fantastic conversation. I’m thinking about networks and networking a little bit differently than I was before this conversation. So thank you.
You’re welcome. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you. Thank you, Andrea.
Well, I’m definitely thinking a little differently about networking now. Aren’t you? Jamie’s right. I HATE “being networked.’ And at the same time, I value my network very very much.
Thank you so much for this conversation, Jamie! I learned a lot!
You can find Jamie’s coordinates in the shownotes on the talkabouttalk.com website. As you heard, he’s a smart and generous guy. I encourage you to connect with Jamie on LinkedIn, but only if you’re up for a phone call to TRULY connect.
OK – As promised, I’m now going to summarize some of the key learnings. I categorize these learnings into three things:
- Networking vs networks
- Tips for building a strong, valuable network
- How to think about your network, and in particular your linkedin profile.
NETWORKING VS NETWORKS
As Jamie emphasizes, no one likes Networking. The verb. And certainly, no one likes to be networked. On the other hand, most of us value our network – the noun.
All too often, NETWORKING means going to boring conferences and collecting business cards. Maybe suggesting lunch but rarely doing it. Many people also equate Networking with transactions. An ask. A sales job. Networking, the verb? Ick.
A NETWORK, on the other hand, is a community of supportive, trusted, kindred sprits
Networks provides two main things: community and access
ACCESS – Jamie talked a lot about providing value in terms of introducing people , providing access to people, making connections with kindred spirits. This is about being a bridge. The bridge metaphor.
COMMUNITY – As in your group of kindred spirits. A supportive community that shares insights, ideas, collaborates, listens, even just pays attention. It’s authentic and supportive. A network is trust.
As Jamie says, what we really want from a network is “a community of people who like and trust and respect each other, who are taking the long view.” Trust is an imperative for strong networks.
TIPS FOR BUILDING A STRONG, VALUABLE NETWORK
Be generous. Add value. Executive recruiter Sharon Mah-Gin, whom I interviewed for 2 episodes also talks about this allot. Her line? How can I help YOU? Jamie also brought this up in terms of generosity.
It’s not easy to cultivate or maintain a network, but its worth it.
If you proactively maintain your network – congratulating people on their promotions, meeting up and touching base, providing access to your extended network for others, chances are at some point they may do the same, offering to make introductions in return
Also on terms of building a strong, valuable network At the end of our conversation, Jamie brought up the opportunity for each of us to create a network. This is what Jamie’s firm SkyBridge does, as a third party. But you could independently do the same thing, as he suggests. You could set up quarterly dinners or maybe Zoom calls for folks who want to establish or maintain connections and learn from each other. Imagine!
HOW TO THINK ABOUT YOUR NETWORK, IN PARTICULAR YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE
Jamie and I both advocate for focusing on quality meaningful relationships. Be conscious or strategic about your network. This is Jamie’s point about INTENTION.
For example, for your LinkedIn network, you need to decide whether you will connect with people who are otherwise strangers. There are many many ways to think about this, depending on your business, your objectives and even on your personality.
Jamie’s LinkedIn connection strategy is to say yes to almost anyone who wants to connect, but only if they’ll;; agree to a short phone call. He wants to know every person he’s connected to on LinkedIn.
Years ago, I only connected with people whom I knew previously. Nowadays I say YES to 95% of the people who send me a connection request. The only ones who I decline are the ones who declare the fact that they’re going to try to sell me their services right in their title or their headline. You know the ones: Usually their title is something like “helping coaches with lead generation, I promise to quadruple your sales – blah blah blah…” And if we do connect and they immediately go into sales mode? I usually ignore them Sometimes if I’m feeling snarky I’ll block them or even tell them to back off. But I digress.
Jamie made a great point that we should all keep in mind that’s relevant here for each of us on LinkedIn. There is a difference between your network and your social media followers. We need to decide what we want our LinkedIn network to be.
OK – there’s one last thought I’ll leave you with. Jamie mentioned that he doesn’t think it matters much whether you’re networking IRL or online. There’s not a lot of difference. If anything, it’s easier to network online. But regardless, it comes down to being intentional. Ask yourself – are you collecting business cards, or are you finding kindred spirits? Hmmm..
So that’s it, the difference between networking and networks, tips for building a strong, valuable network, and how to think about your network, particularly your LinkedIn network. Thanks again to Jamie for pushing us to think about networking a little differently.
And that’s it for this episode on The Power of Networks. Again, you can find the shownotes on the talkabouttalk.com website. Just click on the PODCAST tab and you’ll find it there.
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