Monday, June 24, 2019

   Conversation Quiz: Do You Know the Best Response?

Good for you if you have a few “conversation starter” questions on the tip of your tongue.  But also, be quick with responses that will deepen the interaction, that will help you get to know people.  

Choose the best response to 4 typical comments below.  Choose ones that will lead to more conversation and create connection.  

Bill says, “I just moved here two months ago.”
You say,
A. “I’ve been here 10 years.”
B. “Where did you live before?”
C. “What’s it been like getting used to a new city?”

Sonia says, “I’m starting a new company.”
You say,
A. “I work for XYZ company.”
B. “What’s the name of your new company?”
C. “What kinds of people would you like to connect with to help you make a go of it?”

Raj says, “I just got back from vacation.”
You say,
A. “Boy, do I need one of those!”
B. “Where did you go?”
C. “What was your very favorite day like?”

Lou says, “I found what the speaker said so fascinating.” 
You say, 

A. “Me too.”
B. “Do you know the speaker?”
C. “Tell me more about what caught your attention.”       

The “A” responses turn the conversation back to you. The “B” responses elicit a short, factual answer. They show interest and add to your knowledge about your contact.  The “C” responses engage the other person, ask for evaluation and opinion, and lead you to commonalities and needs you can respond to. So choose “A” responses rarely.  Choose the “B” responses sometimes.  And choose the “C” responses, the ones that have the most potential to create connection, most often.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Banish Bureaucratic Bottlenecks (Alan did it in 5 minutes!)

Here’s a story that shows how Alan uncorked a bureaucratic bottleneck and got the project done.

“I was meeting with my co-worker, Tom, to go over progress on a project we were leading,” Alan, our past client said.   Tom complained, “For weeks I’ve been trying to get the info we need from the IT department – no luck.”  Alan said to Tom, “I'll be right back.” 

When he returned he said, with a smile,  “You’ll find the info you need in your email when you get back to your office."

Tom looked incredulous. “How did you do that???  And in 5 minutes!  I've been trying to get that out of them for weeks."

Alan said, "It didn’t take 5 minutes.  It took 5 years.  That's how long I've known Charlie – I worked with him on a project, and we make it a point to stay in touch."

Training by Contacts Count gives employees the skills to “stay in touch.”  To banish bureaucratic bottlenecks we teach practical, down-to-earth skills like Alan uses, such as how to:

  • Start a conversation and end a conversation
  • Make your value visible to others with stories and examples
  • Teach people what to come to you for, count on you for, recommend you for
  • Figure out a good next step when you want more of a relationship
  • Avoid asking for too much too soon . . . or too little too late
  • Be a “go-to” person whom people see as a resource
  • Mentor and support others to give their best
  • Show that you like other people (when choosing who to work with  others likeability is valued more than competence!!!) 
  • And Much More
We’ll help you come up with just the right program given your goals, time frames, audience, and budget.

Here’s what Kwame Ullman, a Medical Device Executive, said after attending a training at his workplace. “I was immediately taken by the applicability of Lynne’s advice.  She presented sound ideas on how to network.  I turn to Make Your Contacts Count when preparing for key industry events.  It’s filled with tools to build sustainable relationships. That training and the book were a professional turning point for me and changed how I think about nurturing relationships.”

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!