Friday, February 22, 2008

Transformative Networking

Sunflower center variation II uploaded by fdecomite

At last night's Philadelphia LinkedIn Live event, I was having a great conversation with Bob Dean of Dean Consulting, an established merger and acquisition (M&A) consultant, and Carol Heiberger, a long-time consultant in product turnarounds. Carol, Bob, and I all agreed that there were some fundamental economic shifts at work in the U.S. today that are forcing us to reshape ourselves professionally. Industries that had been strong were seeing weakness, and industries that had been weak were seeing signs of strength and vitality. We all saw networking as a key part of our efforts to reshape ourselves and move our professional lives into new industries.

That was when we came up with the idea of "Transformative Networking."

How is Transformative Networking different than regular networking? Well, I would imagine that the process is much the same. You could go to the same networking events, make the same phone calls, meet the same people, and still not have a transformative experience.

I've written before about how successful networking involves three things, working together: people, ideas, and goals. Let me now change that statement to say Transformative Networking involves three things: people, ideas, and goals. It is the ideas and the goals that make it a transformative experience.

People. Obviously, you can't network without connecting with people. Breakthroughs are a social act, after all. So talking to people is the absolute foundation of networking. But what do you talk to them about? Toll collectors talk to people all day long, but nobody would consider that networking. That's where ideas and goals come in.

Ideas. Ideas bring energy to your networking, and they bring a way to connect with people. A great idea will open doors for you. It transforms you from ordinary "Fred Jones who just wants to talk" to "Fred Jones who has an idea that could change the world and who is asking for guidance to make it happen." People love to hear about great ideas, and they feel honored when you ask for their advice and guidance.

Let me say that again:

People will feel honored when you ask for their advice and guidance on making your great idea a reality.

The secret is passion. Come up with an idea you are passionate about, one that you think other people will feel passionate about as well. Start talking to people about it and asking for their help to make it happen, and watch what happens.

Note also that it doesn't have to be a "change the world" idea. It could be a "learn about this new methodology that everybody is talking about using in our industry" idea. Talk to enough people about how they are using this methodology in their company, and pretty soon you will become the industry expert on the methodology, because you know what every company in the industry is doing with this methodology! Talk about transformative.

Goals. Goals bring focus to your networking. Where do you want to go? What do you want to accomplish? Who do you need to know to do it? What do you need to know? Goals shouldn't be vague. "I want to have a job" is too vague to be useful. "I want to learn how to help executives, professionals, and smaller businesses make themselves more visible and able to attract more business through their social media networks " is more to the point. You can tell whether or not your networking is moving you towards that goal. Goals and ideas are inter-related. Think of ideas as the key that will help open the door to achieving your goal. Well, that's not quite right, because a really great idea will transform your goals.

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