One of the keys to successful networking is to focus on your network rather than just expect your network to focus on you. That is easily said but to do so takes a degree of thought and effort rather than just good intent.
An excellent tool to help you develop stronger relationships with your network is Paul McGee's new book, 'How to Succeed With People'. Over the course of two chapters of the book McGee demonstrates 'How to Make People Feel Special' and the master of acronyms shares a seven step process derived from the word 'special' to make his ideas sticky.
The ideas shared in the book are golden nuggets for anyone looking to develop a successful network and here is my take on McGee's seven points to make people feel special.
I've often talked about the importance of taking yourself out of the equation when speaking with other people and focusing on what their needs are rather than your own. McGee takes a similar view.
"You see, rather than believe that the world revolves solely around us and the only away to achieving happiness is to do all we can to get our goals met, we should in fact look at what we can do to meet the needs and goals of others."
It's a difficult concept for many people to understand in a very short-term, goals oriented culture. But the more you look to serve other people's needs then the greater the chance that others will find it a pleasure to offer you help when you need it.
"Go on, admit it", challenges McGee, "which would you prefer - a gift voucher or a present that has been bought with you in mind? A valentine card with your name on it or one that says, 'To whom it may concern'?"
It always concerns me how many bottles of whiskey and wine are given away as thank you gifts and Christmas presents in business....to people who may be teetotal. Or who may just not like whiskey or wine.
Get to know your network individually and make gestures that show you have paid attention to them. Whether gifts or simply sending them articles that you feel they may be interested in, making connections based on something they have said in the past or a personalised note thanking someone for the faith they've shown in you or help that they've offered.
Think about a big challenge you've faced in your business or career lately. What difference did support from your network make? And if it was lacking, did you notice or did you fall short of the challenge because of a lack of confidence?
How do you perceive the people in your network who offer you the most support?
Understand what the people in your network are trying to achieve and be the rock they need to help them achieve their goals. Whether it is someone close to you to whom you offer a genuine shoulder to cry on and a pep talk when needed; or a client or newer contact whom you encourage by showing an interest and offering your congratulations...be there for them.
As McGee states, "No one has ever said the following:
"'You know my problem? I've had too much encouragement.'"
Put very succinctly by McGee, "Try being rude and discourteous to people and see how helpful and cooperative they become".
Whatever people's perceived importance to you and position in respect of yours, treat them with respect. Apart from the fact that it's the right thing to do anyway, you don't know who people know and who they influence. Treat the PA as a minion and they may well convince the CEO that you are not the right person to do business with.
Very often it's with small and simple things that we let ourselves down. In his book McGee talks about turning up for meetings on time, responding to emails and calls when you say you will and choosing not to text when someone is in conversation with you.
Put on the page, in this context, this seems like obvious advice. But how often have we all let ourselves down in this respect?
This is something on which I've written extensively and is so important. As Dale Carnegie said, "People are interested in people who are interested in them." How often do you start a conversation or a communication with 'I' rather than 'You' or a simple question?
McGee emphasises that it must be a genuine interest. People will quickly spot when you are faking it and that's probably worse than showing no interest at all.
"If you're going to ask a question", says McGee, "be prepared to listen to the answer. Ideally don't just listen but also try and remember some salient points of what they've said."
I kicked myself late last week. One of my favourite authors of my teenage years, Tom Sharpe, passed away. In response I posted on my Facebook Wall, saying 'RIP Tom Sharpe...thank you for many hours of laughter in my teenage years and again more recently.'
A day or so later I reflected that I said thank you to Sharpe indirectly, to my friends on Facebook, and not to him. Whenever I have received feedback from readers of my books, blogs or audience members at my talks, it has meant everything to me. But how often have I written to authors and speakers thanking them for their work? Not often enough.
It doesn't take much to demonstrate appreciation. A call, a text, a thank you note. What is needed is to remember to do it, to recognise its importance.
As McGee says, "Start showing that you value the people around you and show some appreciation. Make appreciating others part of your core values and not an add-on to your to-do list."
Who can you thank today? No, that should read 'who should you thank today'.
Another of my all time favourites! For years I've been complaining that we should be listening for the people around us, rather than simply listening to them. Too often we are already constructing our response while people are speaking to us. I know that this is one of my biggest weaknesses.
According to McGee, "Sometimes being a person of influence is knowing when to stop talking and when to start listening. I think we can be captivated by a great speaker but we're often helped by a great listener."
Next time you're in conversation with someone in your network, try harder to give them a good listening to. Pause before you respond rather than finishing their sentences for them. Ask questions when they've finished speaking, inviting them to elaborate, rather than offering your solution. Indeed, have they even asked for your opinion or did they simply want to share?
McGee's advice is absolutely spot on. Seek to Serve the people in your network by making your response Personal, Encouraging them, showing them Courtesy, being willing to show a genuine Interest in them, being Appreciative and Listening to what they have to say.
That way you'll make them feel SPECIAL and you'll have a network who want to help you whenever they can.