Friday, December 31, 2010

Reflection and Direction

As 2010 comes to a close, it is important to take time to reflect on the past twelve months.   Make note of the things you did well, and ponder those things you wish you could have done better.  Your reflection should set the stage for thinking about how you are going to approach the new year and how you will face the new challenges and opportunities the future holds.
Whether 2010 was a good year for you or a year worthy of improvement, the time you spend in reflection and the attitude with which you approach 2011 will set the tone for your success in the coming year.  Think about what you will do differently in 2011.  How will you be more effective?  How will you deal differently with people?  What will you contribute to your business, to the community, to your family and your friends?

Think too about the baggage you need to leave behind.  Negative energy detracts from the positive gains you might make in the coming year.  Don't waste time fretting the past.  You cannot change what has happened, you can only impact your future.  Your attitude as you enter the new year will set the tone for your success.  My favorite message on the power of attitude is by writer and clergyman Charles R. Swindol, which he concludes by saying:  
"I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.  And so it is with you...we are in charge of our ATTITUDES."
Keep this in mind as you prepare for 2011.

Finally, to help ensure your goals become reality, share them with someone close to you.  This will transform your goals from thoughts or words on paper to a shared commitment, written with the ink of your integrity.  

I wish you all the best in 2011.  Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Play the Face Card

I've become a big believer in social media.  In fact, I love it!  Our business Knicava could never have positioned itself as it has without the incredible connectivity the social media world facilitates.  Our friend and social media mentor Mark Schaefer has even posted a great story about our success in this area.   Our total investment has been no more than a tutorial by Mark and a bit of time every day connecting to others through FacebookTwitter, Linked-In and our daily blog-reader.

That said, and with no disrespect to the social media world, allow me to now move to the real premise of this post.  NOTHING can replace the value of face-to-face meetings and communication.  Social media is great; its connectivity is endless.  E-mail allows for expedient written communication and the phone still serves as a valuable tool for personalizing contact between two people.  But face-to-face is where the deal gets done.

The challenge with electronic media is that they are one-dimensional; two if you are on the phone, and perhaps 2-1/2 on a video call.  Each missing dimension leaves a void to be filled in by the receiving party, which means what you intended to say may not be what the person on the other end "hears".   That comical tone running through your head as you typed may not match the angry tone your reader saw, despite the :) smiley face.  Even on the phone, the missing dimension of visual cues can mean the difference between closing a deal or walking away from it because you didn't see them blink.  

By personalizing a relationship through a face-to-face meeting, obstacles can be easily overcome and goals more readily accomplished.  From the initial handshake at introduction to eye contact, voice inflection, body language and the general warmth associated with human interaction a personal meeting helps create an environment of cooperation and one-mindedness, which can often be missed in electronic interactions.

So post and tweet away.  Build your base and initiate targeted relationships through social media and other electronic means.  But when the chips are on the table and it's time to close the deal, play the face card and increase  your chances of success.

For more detail on the effect of body language in business situations, read the linked blog by Martin Zwilling.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

How Powerful is Your Network?

Your network is one of the most powerful business tools in your toolbox.  But the network isn't just about numbers.  You must build quality into your networking process.

It is true that more connections will increase the probability that somebody in your network aligns with your needs, but managing your network strictly to the numbers will give you a false sense of security.  Anyone can accumulate numbers, but the best of you will build a powerful network of quality connections.

Here are five keys to building and maintaining a powerful business network:
  1. Treat every introduction as an opportunity to add to your network.  One mistake I see people frequently make is filtering relationship opportunities before they have the chance to assess them for potential.  Everybody you meet has the possibility of adding value to your network.  Just because you work in transportation and the person you just met is a jewelry designer doesn't mean you can't find business value in the relationship.  Get to know the other person, help them get to know you and...
  2. Assess every networking opportunity for shared potential.  Your network isn't only about how others can help you.  It is equally about how you can help others.  In fact, the best networks are built on the premise of helping first before asking for help.  Be prepared to approach new network prospects with your value proposition and probe for ways that you can help them.  If you are seen as a person who can solve problems for others, people will line up to help you when you need it most.
  3. Actively manage your network.  Your network is a living organism.  Therefore, it requires constant feeding and nurturing.  Think of it like managing a sales territory.  A good sales person is always in touch with their customers, regardless of where they are in the sales cycle.  You need to do the same with your network.  It may help you to categorize your network connections, giving them a relative priority and to evaluate the priority on a regular basis.  That way you can make sure  you are focusing your time and attention on the relationships that are most likely to align with your current activities and needs.
  4. Don't rely on formal organization relationships for your network.  Many times, particularly with younger people, I have seen a tremendous dependency on the formal organization for their network.  Don't just network within your daily operating sphere.  The best networks are built outside your day to day activities.  Those are the people who will still be there if your current job or company change - for whatever reason.
  5. Help others build their network.  One of the best things you can do for others is to help them build their networks.  Every time you make a new connection,  you should try to introduce that person to two new contacts.  This is a great way to quickly establish the shared potential of your new relationship, and it will ultimately lead to expansion of your own network.
To some, having an overt plan to manage your network may seem a bit mercenary.  However, a powerful network is critical to long term success and your network will ultimately be the foundation of your career.  If you plan and manage it well and if you put the time into developing quality two-way relationships, your network will pay you back many times over.