Friday, June 1, 2018

The High Cost of Poor Social Skills

How many prospects and clients has your firm lost due to lack of social acumen skills?  
How many chances to collaborate were lost because people missed the cues?
What is social acumen?  Skill in

  • Tuning into another person's perspective or way of seeing things,
  • Building relationships with a wide variety of people,
  • Responding appropriately in many different business and social settings.
Ram Charan’s book, Leaders at All Levels, reports that as people develop their social acumen, their networks often extend beyond the business to include customers, suppliers, regulators, politicians, and various interest groups. The relationships tend to be durable because they are built on trust.  That trust allows information to flow both ways, exposing people to new ideas and different ways of seeing things.

At Contacts Count LLC our training programs teach skills in The 8 Networking Competencies needed by almost everyone in almost every job type at almost every level. 

Participants learn skills like these – focused on bringing in the business and working cross-functionally to get the job done:

  • Pay attention!  Disappear your phone and listen for conversational cues and opportunities to address needs and commonalities.  (Competency # 5)
  • Tell stories that show expertise . . . without bragging!  (Competency #7)
  • Ask questions that uncover opportunities and build trust. (Competency #6)

Wonder how to measure the skills of your staff?  Call Lynne Waymon at 301-589-8633 to “test-drive” a complimentary on-line Networking Competency Assessment.  The NCA measure skills in the 8 Competency Areas, takes about 20 minutes to do, and gives you a report on each of the 40 items.   Call Lynne at 301-589-8633 to set up Assessments for your group. 

Monday, January 22, 2018

What Do Your Youngest Workers Need?

What do your youngest workers crave?  

A sense of community at work.  Yet, according to researcher Sara Konrath, they haven’t yet developed the skills that will help them build lasting relationships. She reports

“. . . a 40% drop in empathy among college students in the
past 20 years, as measured by standard psychological tests.”

What’s the evidence?

Konrath is with the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research.  She collated data from 72 studies.  She attributes the decline in empathy to young people being so digitally-oriented that they haven’t developed skill in building face-to-face relationships.

"Taking on another person's thoughts and identifying with their emotions are two habits at the core of empathy. Empathy is a delicate cocktail, blending assorted elements of inborn aptitude, social conditioning, personal history, and practice and motivation. The ability to empathize is like a muscle – it’s capable of growth.”

What does that mean for people in Training & Development?

That “soft skills,” (too often relegated to last place in the training calendar and budget!) must come front and center.   It means that teaching practical relationship building skills can have a positive effect on your employee engagement scores and productivity.
Can people really be taught to empathize, engage, connect?

Yes. We’ve seen it happen with our clients, whose employees are in many different functional roles.   Relationships don’t just happen. The ability to trust, engage in give and take, appreciate each other, celebrate and commiserate together, ask good questions, listen, collaborate, and express liking and be likable . . . are all LEARNED skills.   

What’s the next step?

Review your programs in Orientation, Mentoring, Diversity, Leadership, Business Development, and Professional Development.  Do they include the practical, how-to’s for connecting, conversing, and collaborating that we identify in The 8 Networking Competencies.  If something’s missing, give us a call. We’ll put our heads together and come up with a plan.  

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Ideas Belong to Everyone and to No One

In a Fast Company article, author Leo Babauta describes the process of idea generation at Pixar Animation Studios.  “When Pixar artists create characters, it’s not a matter of one artist sketching out how he thinks a character should look. They all sit around a table, each drawing ideas, putting them in the middle, and others taking those ideas and riffing off them. Dozens and dozens of sketches come out from this process, until they find the one that works best. Everyone’s creativity builds on the creativity of everyone else.  Even if you don’t have a bunch of other geniuses to work with – find others who are creating cool things, and riff off them, and share your riffs.”  


This is a good description of how The Network-Oriented Workplace™ works, too.  Whether you’re trying to streamline the hiring process, invent new ways to work with vendors, or revamping your process of attracting new clients, it’s smart adopt the belief that ideas are abundant and spring up faster when you connect, converse, and collaborate with others.

Friday, August 4, 2017

The 7 Myths About Teaching Business Networking Skills

by Lynne Waymon, CEO of Contacts Count LLC

You see it happening before your eyes.  The old “Command and Control” culture is disappearing.  In some organizations, it’s already a goner. 
But old ideas have a sneaky way of hanging on.  You may hear people around you give voice to one or more of the 7 talent development myths below.   But, you know, to stay in the game you need to speak up about new business strategies and the new skills people need to work together. 
Be on the lookout for these misconceptions at your organization and be ready to take a stand in support of the new Network-Oriented WorkplaceTM.  In this new environment people in every job type and at every level need skills to help them connect, converse, and collaborate –face to face –not just electronically!  That’s the way things get done, innovation happens, employees feel more engaged, and your business stays competitive.  
Myth #1: “Our people already know how to network.”
Really? I wouldn’t be so sure.  When 549 people from all walks of life took our Networking Competency Assessment, their employers were shocked. Only 32% said, “I know exactly who I need to have in my network.” Only 39% said, “I know the next step to take to make any relationship more useful.” Only 39% said, “I know questions to ask that will move the relationship forward.” And a paltry 41% said, “I tell stories that teach about my team’s or my organization’s capabilities.”
Myth #2: “Nobody can learn how to network. You either have it or you don’t.”
Not so. Networkers are made, not born. Contacts Count’s client research shows that only about 20% of people are “natural networkers.” We’ve identified 8 competencies that outline a multitude of skills for the other 80% to learn.  And the natural networkers also pick up new perspectives and tools.  Anyone can learn to put the tools of networking to work in the service of business goals.
Myth #3: “Everyone’s connected. Look at all the money we’ve spent on social media!”
Good! But, that’s like saying, “I have a phone, so I have lots of friends.” Having the ability to connect electronically is not the same as knowing how to build trust-based relationships that spark innovation, get things done, and bring in new clients.   Even in this electronic age, training programs need to focus on the face value of face-to-face contact whenever possible.  
Myth #4: “Networking is an expensive time waster.  All that socializing brings very little real value.”
Not so. Ben Waber a visiting scientist at MIT reports that, “Employees who ate at cafeteria tables designed for 12 were more productive than those at tables for four, thanks to more chance conversations and larger social networks.”  Imagine what happens when people are actually taught how to make conversations even more productive.  Value soars.  
Myth #5: “Collaboration and networking are the same thing.”
Not quite.  Networking skills are the tools and strategies people need to build the kind of trust that leads to collaboration.  When you trust someone, it means you’ve decided there’s very little risk in relating to them – and the work can get done.
Myth #6: “We’ve told all of our people to collaborate.”
Sorry! It’s takes more than a decree from above to create a culture of collaboration. Savvy organizations get rid of the disincentives and roadblocks. And they put into place the systems, policies, procedures, and training programs that will develop, encourage, and support collaboration. 
Myth #7: “You can’t expect our attorneys (product managers, software engineers, budget analysts, scientists, consultants, researchers, etc.) to develop business.  That’s why we have a marketing department.”  Time to give up that outdated idea!  In this competitive world, business development is everybody’s business, no matter what their function or level within the company.  As one CEO told us, “I want everybody who works here to be our ambassadors in casual conversations, at conferences and meetings, and even in their social circles! You can’t buy that kind of visibility in a million ads.” 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

No Time for Networking

by Lynne Waymon

Too busy to re-connect and follow up?  We often hear that from our clients. 
And yet making new connections and staying in touch is a priority whether you want to advance your career, bring in new business, or gather the best business intelligence to inform future decisions.     
So how can you fit the follow through into your already packed schedule?  Try these strategies:
1.      Do you exercise?  Invite someone to walk with you or enjoy a guest pass at your golf course.
2.     Do you eat lunch?  Invite 2 or 3 people who might like to know each other to join you.
3.     Do you belong to a professional organization, but find yourself too pressed to go to the monthly meetings?  To make sure  you go, invite a guest and enjoy re-connecting as you drive to the event and sit together.  Bonus: Be sure to introduce him to others there he might like to know. 
4.     Do you read a newspaper or business magazine?  Read with a couple of people in mind.  When you see something that would be interesting or useful, clip it and mail it with a short, “Thought you might be interested” note.
5.     Do you volunteer?  Ask a contact if she’d like to join you to whip up the lasagna and deliver it to homeless shelter or pick up a hammer for Habitat for Humanity.

One of our clients used these strategies to re-connect with more than 12 key contacts in a month.   Step 1: Make a list of 12 people you’d like to reach out to.  Step 2: Invite them!  Step 3: Plan ahead to have questions and topics that will make conversation flow and help you uncover the kinds of commonalities and needs that result in relationships . . . and revenue!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Awkward Moments – How To Recover

In our training programs, these are the 4 Awkward Moments we get asked about most frequently.
  1. I can’t remember someone’s name? Say (with warmth), “I remember you! Tell me your name again.” (Then hang on to his name long enough to introduce him to someone else at the event. Whether it’s 3 minutes later or 3 hours later, that’s your job as a great connector!)
  2. I’d like to join that group of people who are talking together – but how to do it? Enter the circle, listen closely to what’s being said and react appropriately. When the person speaking has finished her point, you might say, “How do you all know each other?” Or say, “I’m new here. I’d love to know more about the group.” Or say, “What workshops did you all go to this morning?” Or say, “My name’s Joe, Joe Sanderson – like Anderson, but with an “S.” That will start the introductions and that will lead to conversation.
  3. I forgot to do something I promised to do. When you see the person say, “I really goofed. I promise to call you with Susan’s number and I didn’t. I’m so sorry. Would you still like to get in touch with her? How about if I arrange lunch for the 3 of us?” Here’s the Formula: Acknowledge the mistake. Say you’re sorry. Make amends in any way you can.
  4. I found myself talking with someone who was very dogmatic and opinionated. Say, “I’m not sure I agree with you. May I tell you how I see it?” 
Lynne Waymon,, 301-589-8633

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Why We Say “No” to Prospective Clients

When you have a tight deadline or you like what you hear about a training program we did for another organization, you might say, “Can you send me a proposal?”

Sorry.  We have to say, “No.”  

And then we say, “First I’d like to be in ‘Discovery’ with you. 

“Here’s why. Suppose you hear that John ordered a pair of shoes from us and that he REALLY likes them. So, you say, ‘Great, send me a pair.’   We send them and you’re sooooo disappointed. You wanted hiking boots; we sent dress shoes. What was right for John isn’t right for you.  A good thing about working with us is that we’re not an off-the-shelf kind of training firm.

“Here’s how we’ll work with you. Your project will have 4 distinct phases:  Discovery, Design, Delivery, and Debrief.  We want to hang out in the Discovery phase a little longer, so that when we do propose a training plan for your organization, you’re involved and it’s a perfect fit. 

“May I tell you a bit more about these 4 phases?”

Discovery – We engage in exploratory conversations with you and other stakeholders.  The goal is to develop a picture of your organization’s past, present, and future, so we can understand how you want to use the tools of networking and collaboration. 

Design – Taking into account what we’ve discovered, including your goals, possible formats, the number of people to be trained, length of time they can devote, the characteristics and learning styles of the audience, and your budget., Then we put our heads together to design the very best, customized training program you can imagine.  That’s when you’ll get that proposal! 

Delivery – We will select the very best, most experienced, professional instructor from our cadre of exceptional trainers. He/ she will provide state-of-the-art learning sessions that are upbeat, practical, interactive, and most of all customized to your specific needs.  

Debrief – We meet with you to assess the program outcomes, the audience feedback, the program’s impact on the initial need identified, and the next steps for skill development in the competencies of networking and collaboration.

If this kind of approach makes sense to you, give Lynne Waymon a call at 301-589-8633 (near Philadelphia).  But please don’t say, “Send me a proposal!”