Rosemary Flaaten, M.A.
The successful networkers I know, the ones receiving tons of referrals and feeling truly happy about themselves, continually put the other person’s need ahead of their own.1
You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are–no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
Matthew 5:5 The Message
I walked into the elaborately-decorated room certain that the only person I would know was the client who had invited me. This event had been billed as an excellent networking opportunity, and so I eagerly accepted her invitation. I have never been one to shy away from situations where I do not know other people, but have relished the opportunity to expand my circle of acquaintances. Who knows, maybe I’ll even meet my next best friend.
As I mingled alongside my client, I quickly observed how well connected she was within this group of exceptional women in powerful positions. I shrugged off the little voice in my head that screamed that I didn’t fit into this crowd and instead set out to meet as many people as I could that evening. My goal was not simply to be introduced to one woman after another but to be as friendly as possible and to have some meaningful conversations. From experience I have learned that if I am genuinely interested in and curious about the person to whom I am talking, networking occurs. Conversely, if my goal is simply to promote myself and get as many people as possible to hear about me and what I do, people quickly turn away and the networking opportunity is lost.
Over the span of that two-hour reception, I met women from all walks of life– lawyers, administrative assistants, entrepreneurs, engineers, and CEOs. Most of the conversations were of the cocktail variety, but I left that evening amazed at the truth of the theory of six degrees of separation, which purports that everyone in the world is no more than six acquaintances from knowing anyone else. The statement “a friend of a friend” played itself out time and again with unpredictable connections.
During the chitchat at that influential cocktail party almost every person I met was connected to someone else I knew. We discovered mutual colleagues, a friend of a friend and even distant relatives and former neighbors. As is so often the case, most people were connected by four or five degrees. By just showing a genuine interest in them, the other person started to ask questions about what I did, which opened the door to talking about my coaching business and the benefits clients realize through coaching. This led to an exchange of business cards. Through follow up, a number of those women have become clients or have recommended me to people in their network.
Coaching the Coach:
Marketing can be one of the more stressful aspects of having your own business. We often feel awkward about promoting ourselves as coaches and, as Christians, we may feel that we’re guilty of pride when we tell others of the benefits of our services. But if we strongly believe in the value of being coached, then we need to get past our discomfort of self-marketing.
The way I have done this is to shift my thinking from marketing to networking. I have the God-given gift of the gab. I am a people person and strongly enjoy meeting new contacts. I consider it a personal challenge to out-do my own level of friendliness. I realize that there are many other types of personalities that are not as people oriented as I am. But I believe that if my attitude shifts from marketing to networking, my goal will no longer be just to promote my own work but to create networks where opportunities exist for many to benefit.
When I network, one of my goals is to help the people I talk to become better connected than they were when we first met. This might translate into my being able to talk about my coaching services, but it could also mean that I am able to connect them with a colleague who deals more specifically with their needs. When I approach conversations with this other-centered attitude, I am not just looking out for myself but rather making the other person’s needs paramount. Saying such things as “Have you ever heard about…?” or “I met someone the other day who was speaking about the same thing and they mentioned….” When we enter into conversations with this mind-set, people don’t feel like we are self-promoting. Instead, they feel heard and believe that we care about them.
Our coaching skills give us the ability to ask good questions and draw out of people their dreams and values. Let’s use these same skills to make connections and network with the people we encounter. In the long run we will all benefit.
Little gives me more pleasure than to help two strangers connect in a meaningful way that becomes a fruitful relationship, a strategic business contact, or a step towards significant life change. Just as in coaching, we don’t create change. Rather, we become partners in effecting change. It’s the same in networking. We help make connections that have the potential to effect change in their life and in ours.
1http://www.sdpnonline.com/SDPN%20-%20Goals.htm accessed on September 5, 2012.
Rosemary Flaaten, M.A., is a life coach, spiritual director, author, speaker, workshop presenter and Adjunct Professor at Rocky Mountain College. She specializes in personal development and relationship coaching, as well as career, transition and leadership coaching. Rosemary is widely published including her bestseller book “A Woman and Her Relationships” and “A Woman and Her Workplace”. Her breadth of experience and education makes her an internationally sought after speaker by secular and Christian organizations, including the American Association of Christian Counselors.
Georgia Shaffer, M.A., is a professional speaker, certified Life Coach and the author of four books including Coaching the Coach: Lessons from Christian Coaches. She is is a regular columnist for Christian Coaching Today and a board member of the International Christian Coaches Association (ICCA). Georgia is on the teaching team of AACC’s Professional Life Coaching Training. She specializes in coaching coaches, women and communicators To find out more, visit www.GeorgiaShaffer.com.