Monday, September 19, 2016

Why Did They Leave Money on the Table?

At an Ohio engineering firm, the consulting engineers were told that 30% of their year-end bonus would depend on extending their contracts for additional work with current clients.  These engineers – 35 of them – were on-site every day at client locations.  How many engineers would you guess got this part of their bonus?

The answer?  Three!  That’s right!  Only 3 out of 35.

At another engineering firm, the Director of Marketing bought a fistful of tickets for a basketball playoff game and roamed around the firm trying to get engineers to call clients or prospects and treat themselves and their guests to a night out at the big game.  Any takers?  Nary a one.

Your engineers (or CPA, or attorneys, or consultants) might not be what we call “natural networkers.”    But client development has become everybody’s business.  The careers of the engineers in the two examples above are in danger because they lack solid networking skills to help bring in the business.

These engineers don’t have to change their communications styles or their personalities to become capable, confident, and professional networkers.   They left money on the table because they didn’t see themselves as rainmakers and they didn’t have the skills we’ve identified in The 8 Competencies.  As one of our past training program participants said, “I didn’t know what I didn’t know!”

We encourage partners in all kinds of professional services firms to help employees learn how to go from hello to goodbye and make business networking artful, not arduous!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Six Things We Know About Organizations and Employees

By Anne Baber and Lynne Waymon

1.    Most organizations encourage their employees to see electronic networking as the most efficient tool for connecting and collaborating.  Employees think that being plugged in is the same as being connected.  They think that they can affect the bottom line, create new ideas, gather business intelligence, and stay engaged sitting at their computers.

     Yet, a study by Dr. Alex Pentland of MIT shows that “Employees with the most extensive digital networks were 7% more productive, while employees with the most cohesive face-to-face networks were 30% more productive." (Harvard Business Review)   

2.    Organizations are information networks.  To attract and develop the best people, forward-thinking organizations must consciously foster a positive networking culture of inclusiveness and inquiry, both within the organization and with outside contacts. 

     Yet, many organizations, both subtly and overtly, have a culture that discourages networking, or only think of it as merely a “job-finding tool.”  

3.    As many as 60% of your employees feel shy and uncomfortable in a variety of business and social situations. (see research by Dr. Lynne Henderson and Dr. Phillip Zimbardo of The Shyness Institute, Stanford University.)
          Yet, many organizations fail to provide the networking skills training that builds the competence and confidence of their employees and therefore miss out on the benefits that could be accrued.  
4.    Developing networks based on reciprocity, including displays of generosity, is the best way to affect the bottom line and the best way to get ahead. (see Robert Cialdini, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.)
          Yet, many managers see networking as “not working.”  

5.    Networks determine which ideas become breakthroughs by delivering 3 unique advantages: access to private information, to diverse skill sets, and to power and influence. (see Harvard Business Review, December 2005 “How to Build Your Network” by Brian Uzzi and Shannon Dunlap)

          Yet, in most organizations the influencers/stakeholders (HR, Training, Business Development, Sales, Diversity, Corporate Communications, Leadership Initiatives, etc.) have not come together in a horizontal team to take joint actions that consciously foster a positive networking culture and teach the skills to employees.

6.    Most organizations spend thousands of dollars and many employee hours on so-called networking activities (such as memberships, professional dues and events, clubs, receptions, conferences, sponsorships, trade shows, sports events, luncheons, etc.)

          Yet, most organizations do not have one person or department that “owns” and tracks all of these expenditures.  Outcomes are not tied to performance reviews. No one is accountable. The ROI is not measured. Time and money are often wasted.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Get Out of a Rut: Build Four Kinds of Networks


In the movie Groundhog Day, a weatherman played by Bill Murray lives the same day over and over again. For some of us, each day can seem like that.  Same old. Same old.  Why not shake things up a bit?  Today is the perfect day for fresh goals and new tools. A good place to start is by taking stock of your professional networks and cultivating new contacts.

Think of it this way:  You have 4 Nets:

Your WorkNet helps you to get the job done. It includes everyone you work with directly, day-by-day, or periodically, to complete your own priority projects. It also includes clients/customers, partners, and vendors.

Your OrgNet helps you stay in touch with the big picture and contribute to the overall success of your organization. Your OrgNet is created by you.  It’s made up of people in other divisions, departments, and business units of the organization. This is an important Net because the network you create is far more complex, diverse, and useful than any organization chart.

Your ProNet helps you gain expertise and mastery in your chosen profession and provides   
opportunities to give back. Your ProNet is your network of professional contacts outside the organization you work for. 

Your LifeNet helps you create community, get the most out of life, and connect with, and contribute to, abundance for yourself and others. Your LifeNet is made up of all your friends, family, and leisure time contacts who bring you a wealth of information, support, and resources.

With these Nets, you can design new ways to expand your influence, find mentors, and get the job done.  Mix in your global ties and social media connections.  You can also build KeyNets, designed to help you with specific projects and goals. Whether you want to advance your career, or are looking for clients, or want more of a seat at the table in your organization, your connections can help you.  In today’s global and multi-faceted world, the possibilities are endless.

The Corporate Executive Board reports that almost 50% of an executives’ value to their organizations is now made up of their ability to use and contribute to the networks. So be strategic. Be intentional. Be persistent.  And be professional. 

—from Strategic Connections: The New Face of Networking in a Collaborative World (2015, AMACOM, NY) by Baber, Waymon, Alphonso, and Wylde, Principals at Contacts Count LLC, an international training firm that specializes in helping individuals and organizations put the tools of networking to work in the service of business and professional goals.  

Monday, February 1, 2016

Risky Business

                                                      Risky Business: 
                  How to Make Counting On Others Less Scary

                                        by Lynne Waymon

You count on Susan to get you the sales figures by the end of the quarter.  You count on Don to set up the training room and supply all the materials for your group of 30.  You count on Reza to get the project to the client on or before the due date.   Over and over, every day, workplace productivity depends on trusting people.  How is that trust earned?  How can you rest assured that Susan, Don, and Reza will get the job done?

The language we use reveals just how risky it is to decide to trust someone. We say things like:
  • “I’d go out on a limb for him.” (A limb might break off!)
  • “I don’t mind sticking my neck out for her.”  (You might lose your head!)
  • “I’d put my good name on the line for him.” (You might regret having signed on!)
  • “I’d go to bat for her.”  (She might end up striking out!)
So, when you trust someone, you’ve made an emotional decision.  You’ve overcome all kinds of reluctance.  How does that kind of trust develop?  To look at that, let’s explore at how people learn to count on you.  How can you teach people to believe in your character and competence

After 25 years of listening closely to clients from a wide variety of professions and industries, we have determined that people believe in your Character when you
  • Do what you say you will do.
  • Meet deadlines.
  • Go for the win/win solution.
  • Treat everyone you meet fairly.
  • Are unfailingly reliable.
  • Speak well of people even when they are not present.
  • Come from a position of abundance, not scarcity.
  • Move from competition to collaboration.
  • Compensate generously for your mistake and make it right when something goes wrong.
  • Go the extra mile.
  • Respect other people’s time and possessions.
  • Say, “Thank you!”

And people will believe in your Competence when you
  • Earn the proper credentials.
  • Win praise and awards from your peers.
  • Take life-long learning seriously.
  • Are cited as an expert in the trade press or in the mass media.
  • Teach or mentor others.
  • Consult with others to share your expertise.
  • Write for publications or speak in public.
  • Do the job right – the first time.
  • Happily discuss your procedures and processes with clients and customers.
  • Handle “the little stuff” with care.
  • Follow through to be sure that your work meets – or exceeds – expectations.
  • Stay at the leading edge of your profession.

Trust happens as you teach others about your Character and Competence and learn about theirs.  This teaching process takes time.  Our Contacts Count research shows that it takes six to eight conversations in which you show you can be trusted and take note of what contacts do and say to decide if you can trust them.

It’s a big order.   Conversation by conversation, action by action, your confidence in each other grows and the work gets done.   As trust develops, risk recedes.  The risk you’re willing to take and the value you derive are both determined by the degree of trust you’ve earned.  Pouring your energy into developing trusting relationships makes counting on each other much more comfortable.

* * * * *

Lynne Waymon is a co-founder and principal at Contacts Count LLC, the international training firm that specializes in teaching business and professional networking skills.  The firm’s clients during the last 25 years range from CPA firms to banks, from engineers to HR professionals, and from attorneys to Fortune 100 companies.

Contacts Count’s training programs, keynotes, webinars, and train-the-trainer events help people put the tools of networking to work in the service of business goals.  Their Networking Competency Assessment measures skill in 8 competency areas.  Their new book, Strategic Connections: The New Face of Networking in a Collaborative World (January 2015) is available in bulk from the publisher and by single copy at

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Not too Pushy, Not Too Passive:
Choosing a Good Next Step When Networking

by Lynne Waymon co-author of Strategic Connections:
The New Face of Networking in a Collaborative World
(AMACOM, January 2015)

In our training programs, participants bring up worries about how to follow up and build relationships for long-term benefit.  They say:  “I’m afraid I’ll ask for too much too soon?”  And at the other end of the spectrum they worry, “Maybe I’m missing an opportunity if I don’t reconnect right away.”  

The answer lies in knowing how to assess the stage of trust you’ve earned with each of your important contacts.  There are appropriate – and inappropriate – things to do and say at each stage of the relationship-building process.

Take James, for instance.  He wants to move from his job in Personnel to Talent Development, so he needs to become known to people in TD.   He’s met a few people in that department, but wonders, “What’s a good next step for showing them my character and competence?  What can I do and say that will make them think of me when there’s an opening?” 

Here’s what we recommend to James – and anyone else who’s identified someone they’d like to have more of a relationship with.  Thinking of the person you’d like to start or rev up a relationship with, answer these 15 questions.  If you’re unsure of the answer to the question, then the answer is “no.”

Rate Your Relationships Quiz

Does my contact:

  • Demonstrate knowing my face and my name by coming up to me, saying hello, and introducing me accurately to others? 
  • Know me well enough to recognize me “out of context” in a new setting? 
  • Know several ways to contact me?
  • Recognize my name instantly when I call?
  • In conversation, explore commonalities and needs?
  • Accurately describe what I do?
  • Give vivid examples of what I do?
  • Know that I am good at what I do and can cite reasons why my work is superior?
  • Know of some independent verification of my expertise – an award, certification, third-party endorsement?
  • Respond quickly to requests from me?
  • Regularly send me valuable information and resources?
  • Know what kinds of people can use my expertise and is on the lookout for them?
  • Always speak well of me to others and pass my name along?
  • Tell me the truth, keep confidences, and have my best interests at heart?
  • Bring me into all areas of his/her life over a long period of time?

Use your answers to guide you to a good next step.  When did you begin to answer “No?”  Noticing that will help you decide what you want to be sure to tell – and ask – the next time you see this person.   For instance James noticed that Jeff, in Talent Development probably didn’t know that James had recently completed his Masters in Training and Development (Question #9).  So he decided the next time they were together at an interdepartmental meeting, he’d try to weave that into the conversation as a way to teach Jeff more about his character and competence.

As an intentional networker, you’ll be aware of what kinds of things you’d like to teach your contacts in each encounter.  These 15 questions highlight our finding that it often takes six or eight contacts with someone before she knows who you are, has learned what you do, and has the evidence she needs to begin to trust you. Once that trust is established, you might be in touch once a week or once a year – depending on your relationship.  You’ll know how to take a professional approach that’s not too pushy and not too passive.

Lynne Waymon is a co-founder and principal at Contacts Count LLC, the international training firm that specializes in teaching business and professional networking skills.  The firm’s clients during the last 25 years range from CPA firms to banks, from engineers to HR professionals, and from attorneys to Fortune 100 companies.
Contacts Count’s training programs, keynotes, webinars, and train-the-trainer events help people put the tools of networking to work in the service of business goals.  Their Networking Competency Assessment measures skill in 8 competency areas.  Their new book, Strategic Connections: The New Face of Networking in a Collaborative World (January 2015) is available in bulk from the publisher and by single copy at

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

More than a Souvenir and a Suntan: What Your Organization Expects You to BringBack from the Conference


More than a Souvenir and a Suntan:
What Your Organization Expects You to BringBack from the Conference

by Lynne Waymon, co-author of Strategic Connections:
The New Face of Networking in a Collaborative World
(AMACOM, 2015)

You spot an interesting looking conference, one that touts cutting edge tools and strategies and promises world renowned experts in your field. And it’s in Florida in January!  What could be better?

But when your boss sees your request, she thinks, “Hmmmmm.   Jake wants $4,568 and he’ll be gone for 4 days.  What’s that gonna get me?”  

The answer is BringBack.  Valuable business intelligence.  New contacts.  Fresh insights. Big ideas. Unique perspectives. Hot information. The latest trends. Renewed relationships with clients, peers in other companies, and valued vendors. 

But here’s the rub:  How can you collect the best BringBack and then disseminate all that good information to the right people in your organization – the ones who can really use it? 

Her are 3 tips for making your conference-going worth the time and money your boss spends on your January jaunt to Florida.

1.  Design your own session. Before the conference, contact, a speaker, a leader, and expert, or a counterpart in a similar organization.  Invite this person to a meal.  Jake wrote to one of the speaker’s on the program and suggested lunch the day after Jake was slated to speak.  Jake promised to bring 2 or 3 other “fans” – all people he thought the speaker would like to know to expand his network.

2.  Volunteer for a job. Helping out makes it easy to meet people, gain professional visibility, mingle with the leaders, and build a vast network.  Choose your job carefully so that it helps you, not hides you in a back room.  Tim volunteers to peic up the general session keynoter at the airport.  He had no idea that he’d be chauffeuring – and chatting with – Indra Nooyi, the CEO of PepsiCo.

3.  Agree to split up.  If others from your organization are going, decide in advance not to attend the same sessions and hang out with each other constantly.  Susan, Don, and Sumit covered as many sessions as they could, then planned how to present the best ideas to their colleagues when they got back home.    

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Accidents Happen

Are You Waiting for an Accident?

by Lynne Waymon, co-author of Strategic Connections:  The New Face of Networking in a Collaborative World (AMACOM, January, 2015)

It’s true. You just might accidentally bump into the very person you need to know.   And I suppose it’s possible that you’ll run across somebody who has a good idea about the best way to accomplish whatever it is you’re working on.  Maybe . . .  Could be . . . I hope . . . Sit tight and wait . . .

But why not make things happen?  Why not be a magnet for the very ideas and people you need to meet?  Google designed its new company headquarters to encourage “casual collisions” in the hope that people will come together in new ways and have informal conversations that spark innovative ideas.   But you don’t have to wait for your company to install comfortable sofas or strategically-placed coffee stations. 

Here are 3 ways to find the best resources and attract good ideas:

  1. Give up hope.   Stop hoping you’ll bump into the right person or happen onto a good idea.  Hope is not a networking strategy.  Making a list of what and who you’re looking for.  Nancy knew that she was looking for CPAs to hire.  John wanted information to help him and his wife adopt an infant from South America.  Once a need is on your list, valuable answers are only a conversation or two away.   
  2. Carlo’s boss asked him to evaluate several different delivery systems for some on line training the company was rolling out.  He’d already established a deep and wide network of people whom he trusted – and who trusted him – inside and outside the company.    A few phone calls and lunch conversations later, he was well on the way to supplying field-tested input that would guide his boss’s decision. 
  3. Give up talking.  Get rid of
  • “How are you?”
  • “Not bad. How are you?”
  • “Same old thing. Been working really hard. . . “
  • “Me too. . . “ 
  • “Great weather we’re having”
  • “Yeah, but rain’s coming tomorrow.”
Instead go for real conversation.   How do you get out of “Ho hum!” routines about the weather?  Be seriously curious.  Ask good questions.   Do your brain a favor and have a few on the tip of your tongue.   Jo likes to ask people, “What have you been working on lately?”  It’s her way of staying in touch with her colleagues’ latest projects.

Marina, who was writing a business case for expanding her company’s Diversity Groups, asked John, a friend in a different company, “What kind of metrics have you found are best for measuring the outcomes of your Diversity Programs?”  That conversation led to many others and the two eventually teamed up to present a session on that topic at a national convention.  

David was excited to be part of the team that was planning the design of the new training rooms at his company.  At the monthly luncheon of his peers, he posed this question to the whole table:  “What have been the best and worst features of all the training rooms you’ve ever used?”   Good questions energize conversations and build relationships.  Remember, you will be known by the questions you ask. 

Give up everything.  Are you focusing on constantly finding new networking opportunities and meeting new people?  Do you drop in on lots of different association events – swooping in for a quick conversation here or there, but never stopping long enough to become known and respected? 

Instead, settle in someplace.  Get active in the local chapter of our professional association, become a “fixture,” and find ways to show your character and competence.  When AriAnna committed her time and expertise to the chapter, she noticed that, over time, she’d created a cadre of colleagues who introduced her to new ideas and state-of-the-art strategies.    Her company benefitted from her BringBack – the best practices she introduced to get her own job done and help her colleagues.   AriAnna proved that the time and money she spent away from the office were more than worth it – not only to her team, but to the whole enterprise.  

So don’t wait for serendipity to surprise you.  Instead, be intentional.  Make networking an art . . . not an accident.