Right now, I have three main goals:
- I want to meet leaders, in person.
- Once again, this refers back to the “Know” Principle, Christopher Barrat identified when talking about how to network. My original end-goal was to find work. Now, I feel like the networking itself will lead to provision in time, but without any expectations, I’d just like to get to know people-and in turn, maybe be known by them.
- I want to discover their stories.
- It’s as I’ve said previously, I am looking to learn from accomplished people. I’m also listening for their needs, and seeing if perhaps I might be able to connect them with someone else, or help them myself in some way.
- I want to stay in touch.
- Even if only once every other month or so. This will become more challenging as I develop more contacts, which means there needs to be some way to prioritize my time.
In other words, if my overarching goal is to network, making contacts is how I can be productive. This week, however, I started getting that nagging feeling again-that feeling of restlessness. Right now, I’m invited onto two leadership teams, I’ve met and befriended leaders of great accomplishment, and I’m volunteering my time toward greater causes. I believed I was being active.
“What does your day look like,” asked AJ.
“Well, I watch a TED talk, then I play a computer game, I listen to an Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast, then I watch a YouTube video for a movie review, I blog, then I go volunteer at the Ministry on Sunday night.”
“What I’m hearing is that you’re not that busy.”
The words sunk into my soul like an anchor.
“Production over Maintenance, Cris,” he said.
You see, in the opinion of my oldest and most esteemed mentor, if I am doing things like blogging, reading leadership tomes, watching videos on leadership-all of these are good things, but none of them involve networking. The blog, yes, minimally-it’s a tool toward networking in addition to a record of my journey and an attempt to help others. But his point: if making new contacts isn’t in there somewhere, I’m not really being productive. And if I’m not being productive, restlessness will set in. Maintenance is very important, but if you aren’t maintaining for the sake of your best form of production, it’s pointless.
Of course, he didn’t even mention the entertainment that I’d thrown in there. Although a little of that is a good thing, I should have seen the excess as a sign.
AJ has been there before. What is happening to me, has happened to him. The bottom line? Real networking is a challenge. It’s always tempting to ask ourselves: “What if I’m rejected?”, “What if they won’t talk to me?”, “What if they are ‘too big’ to talk to me?”, “What if I’m bothering them simply by introducing myself?”, “What if I alienate a leader by breathing wrong?” If we are not carefully paying attention, we might begin to listen to those voices, stop to count our successes, and fail to move forward without ever noticing it.
As AJ puts it: “If there is no potential for embarrassment, it’s probably not production.”
That’s not an excuse not to come into any situation with a leader as prepared as possible, but there are some things you can only learn by doing them over and over again. When growing a network, numbers are a key to success. So is the success, versatile abilities, and other leaders your contact has connections with.
I want to conclude with some thoughts about just how I’ve started collecting stories. For some leaders, the best way to find out who they are and how they got there is to hang around. Some others like the idea of a blog and are interested in being formally interviewed for it-I’m beginning to casually reference Tenets once in awhile, just to see if anyone might be willing to give it a go. Still others, I’ve found, are most comfortable talking about their journey in their office hours, and you’ll want to make a formal appointment. I’m thrilled to have discovered multiple avenues, but I’m still figuring out how to discern which leaders might go for which option.
If you have any positively-oriented thoughts about this or other blog posts, or even if you just want to say “hi”, I’d love to hear from you-feel free to leave me a comment anytime.