A few days ago, my twitter friend (How do we call this, a Twiend?) Lamazone, asked the question:
Vraagje aan de ondernemers: hoe netwerken jullie het vaakst en het liefst? RT= Q2*2! #dtv
— Sofie Verhalle (@lamazone) July 7, 2014
“Dear entrepreneurs , young and experienced, how do you network?”
She received some great answers, yet I noticed that I network in a different way. When I look at networking, I never see this as a way to find new customers. For me, networking is about connecting with people. Getting to know new people and learn from them. And in that sense, like Rosemie Callewaert wrote, you can’t do “no networking”.
On top, I think that networking happens differently for introverts and extroverts.
For clarity, the definition between introvert and extrovert that I use, is where do we get our energy from.
An extrovert, gets her energy from connecting with people. An introvert, gets her energy from being alone. It’s not that an introvert can’t connect with people. it’s that this costs her a lots of energy.
When I was in school I was 100% introvert, I spend most of my personal time alone reading books. Today, I have changed a bit in a sense that how I behave really depends on the context.
In some context, I will go back to my old behaviour and I need alone time to charge energy.
In another context, f ex an agile conference, with a lot of friends, I will spend hours talking, discussing etc… In contrast to a full introvert, at agile conferences, I will actually get energy from these discussions. Which is why I can hang around in a bar till 3 am, and get up at 7 am, full of energy. (the fact I don’t drink any alcohol helps too 😉 )
Another aspect that has a huge impact on how I network, is my personal situation:
As a father I want to spend a part of my time with my three children (2002,2004,2007). On top of that, my partner works with people who have autism and is doing that also at evenings and weekends. Since 1998, I have my own company, which means that next to networking, I also need to work for clients and run my own business.
Some of my friends say that work-life balance does not exist. And yes, I do believe that all aspects of my life are mingled. (Or fused as Jurgen Appelo calls it so nicely.)
And yet, I have to prioritise where I spend my time on. When my partner has an evening shift, I can’t put my kids in bed and be at evening event the same evening.
This means that integrating work-life has some limits for me (this might be different from you)
And thus I started looking for other ways to network. Either take my family with me, or find ways how I can do some of the networking at other moments, or from home.
This is the list I gave to Sofie. (I added some more since publishing this post)
A: At the clients I work, I have lunch with people. One on one conversations to build relations.
I go very far in that, I have lunch with people from my teams, yet also outside these teams. Most of the time I pay for these lunches. I learn something in most of the lunches.
B: lunch with a not so stranger: at least once a month, I have lunch with people I used to meet professionally. Having lunch during the day, is now working better than going to evening events. (I used to prefer these on the nights my partner was working late, now I take care of my kids these evenings.)
C: I follow a lot of courses, both in as outside my expertise. Partly to learn, partly to meet people with who I share an interest. (As Ine Matuvu Dehandschutter said)
D: I give a lot of presentations myself. After them people come to me. And they ask me things, makes it easier when I am in an introverted mood.
E: I give Free Life Time support on everything I do. That way I help people and my network grows.
F: When people ask me a question, I first wonder, who would be a better person to answer this question. When I find someone, I link these people. Even if I don’t know the person who I think could have a better answer. This way I make my network stronger and I delegate work. (Which is how I keep my own time under control) When the other person does not want to answer, I will still give an answer. yet that happens les then 20% of the time.
G: I’m active on mailing lists and other online groups, to answer questions from people.
H: Because of conferences and mailing lists, most of my network is outside Belgium. I stay connected with them using twitter. It’s not as good as having a coffee or lunch, yet it keeps a high trust relation with many people. (Even +10 years after having physically seen them)
I: When I read a book I like, I keep a log of things I don’t understand while reading. When thing are not answered at the end (which usually is, as I ‘m not the smartest person there is.) then I contact the author and ask her my questions. Using the author as an extended part of my brain.
J: When people do something I like: I thank them for that. When I can’t do that myself, because of time or place difficulties, I buy a book on amazon that I think they will like. I never tell them it’s coming, I just send it to their office. (If they like it, I ‘m asking them now to pay it forward and send a book to someone they think does something nice/great. ) And yes I even do that with people I have never met. (I’m much more careful with that lately as I don’t want to give people the impression I’m stalking them, so I prefer to send it to their office if I can)
K: After I had a conversation with someone, I connect with them on linkedin. (yet, I never connect with people I never met.)
L: lean coffee’s: either organise one when I’m at a conference or follow the once that get’s organised in the cities I am.
M: When someone I know, went to an event or training I could no go to, I ask what she learned there and we have a conversation about that. (Thank you Chris Matts for this powerful trick.)
N: When I meet someone new or see someone back, I try to ask them: what did you recently learn that you think I should learn.
O: I launch a lot of community events, where I actively look who can help me. Learning and connecting while doing still works best for me. In other words, I grow community builders.
P: I look what my problem is and then I ask for help to anyone I think that can help me. Even if that means contacting some famous (agile) person that I never met before on or offline. 80% of the people help me and a lot became friends. People sometimes tell me, for you it’s easy as you know all these people. No, I usually don’t know them before and NO it’s not easy. I have to overcome my own shininess all the time. (Thank god for e-mail & twitter which makes it easier…)
Q: when I read a book and I love the content and want to learn it better, I make a presentation about it. Explaining something from someone else, makes me understand it better. And it helps me connecting with new people. A huge thank you to Pascal Van Cauwenberghe for that.
R: I don’t look to create my own content, I prefer to work as a ThoughtJockey and promote idea’s of others.
S: when I go to a conference, when my family can’t join, I share a room with anyone. There is something magic about sharing a room (and if needed a bed..) (Yes I only do this with male people, to avoid some kind of stories)
T: I try to listen more then talking, which I don’t always succeed, as this post is a nice example of 😉
U: I also share my mistakes. Nothing creates more connection as being open about the failures in my life.
V: I create event types like CoachRetreat : where I look for other facilitators who take it around the world.
W: I created a serie of books about interesting people: who is agile
X: I also create a book called Tips from the agile trenches, this one gives 89 people a voice. yes some are rather famous in our small community, yet I on purpose look for a very diverse crowd, which enlarges everyones network. (51% of the tips came from women, tips came from people living in 28 countries. )
Y: I’m a regular guest on podcasts, that makes me connect to people outside my network.
Z: When international friends come to Belgium for a professional reason, I invite them to our house. That way we connect and my family gets to know some of my friends.
>> Yes that is a lot of ideas: where do I keep time? Simple, most of these things I can do either on a train or in the evening at home, when my family sleeps. It’s not that nice for my partner I don’t go to bed when she does, yet I do sleep at home most of the nights. That’s a lot more then some of my peer agile friends…. Oh I and I do all of this while walking on my walking desk, which gives me the energy to do this