I spend a great deal of time talking to people about what they aspire to achieve. This is often related to their professional or personal lives, (sometimes it is both) and how they can leverage and optimize their networks to aide them.
Usually the person speaking with me would define him or herself as a professional by background and experience. Many call themselves corporate managers; leaders of people; entrepreneurs; non-profit employees; or share that they hold governmental positions. They also usually tell me that they are thinking of making an important change in their lives. Usually how they describe or define themselves based on their position, title, level of responsibility or even reporting relationship doesn’t matter to me. What does matter and what I am usually focused on is that they are communicating to me that they are (or currently in the process of) making a significant change their life either professional and/or personal.
The conversation usually sounds something like this:
“You know (whispering voice) I’m planning on doing something different.”
“Oh, (leaning closer, looking to both sides), I’ve haven’t told anyone.”
“My plan is to make (insert idea) happen, like in the next few months.”
“So Francine, what are your thoughts about this?”
Now most people would say, “Wow!” with an engaging smile. They would offer congratulations to that person on being bold and courageous. They would acknowledge that what the person has shared is great. Great that they will be living life to its fullest or whatever inspirational sound-bite makes sense at the time.
However, my response is usually a little different:
“Whoa there!” “Let me understand a few things.”
See the red bells in my head are usually going off at that moment. I am now envisioning a huge warning sign standing right beside that person along with me. To provide a little more context, I am usually speaking to an individual that is attending a meeting or event that I am leading in which their company may be hosting. We are at a break. Oftentimes their colleagues are attending and sometimes even their manager. Many people are walking around that should not know just quite yet what this person’s intentions are.
Trust me, I get it. I am safe. They may never see me again and who am I going to tell? Why would I tell? I am not trying to ruin my opportunity to return. More importantly, it is not my place to share their plans when right now according to them; I am one of the few that knows. That’s their responsibility, not mine.
I do understand them as I have been in their shoes. We are kindred spirit as they heard my story when I introduced myself. So talking to me makes sense. Additionally, it is hard to keep a good secret especially when “the good” is about you doing something that is meaningful and oftentimes life changing, especially to someone who would understand.
So I acknowledge what they want to achieve, but I ask them if they have really thought about everything that they need to accomplish their goal? Is there something that would cause them to fail? Their response is usually such things as not having a robust business plan; not having enough money to tide them over while they are switching careers; not being able to find the right resources to work for them; or not quite having the right skills to land the new job. I listen diligently, but I never hear what I am looking for.
Then I go further by asking does anyone else have ownership in their goal? Have they thought through whom else is capable of helping them in achieving their goal beyond just themselves? They usually look at me with a little bewilderment. After all, it is their goal? Who else owns it? If they own it, it’s it theirs to make happen, right?
I explain that they are correct in that overall assumption. However, I share that I haven’t met a person that has ever achieved any goal (even if they own it to its fullest) solely on their own. Someone has always played the part of assisting, whether it being a minor or major role. Sometimes the role has even been to lead when needed. I explain that we often forget this and head at warp speed toward our mission. Then we often times struggle or even fail wondering why we didn’t achieve what we set out to do. We wonder what really happened. We oftentimes just didn’t think through how we could have enrolled others to help us which could have avoided this disappointment and helped us achieve our goal. More importantly we fail to realize that others are often the key to our success. Those others are usually our professional or personal networks.
I continue to explain that you don’t have to tell anyone as that comes when you are ready. But what you do have to do before you began executing on achieving your goal, is to do the appropriate due diligence by looking at your current network. It is important to reaffirm what those individuals actually do offer in your network. How could they assist you?
Since we are short on time and our break is about to end, I usually ask them to think the following questions. I tell them to focus on the end goal in mind first by asking themselves:
– How would I describe the type of network I will need to help me achieve my new goals – their capabilities, skills or connections?
– What type of profiles (members) would or should my new network be comprised of to help me achieve my new goals? What type of skills should they possess; connections they should have, etc.
– What is the current make up of my network? How would I describe the current profiles (not individuals or names) in my current network?
– Is my current network going to help me in the achievement of my new goals?
Most people don’t think about their network.
I tell them that they can have all the business ideas fully thought through; business plans almost already completed; know the job or function that they want to transfer to; or have taken all the right classes to prepare them skill-wise. In summary, they have checked off everything on their list. But if they have not considered their network, they are missing a huge piece. Most importantly if they haven’t taken the time to determine the makeup of their future network against what their current network and what it offers to help them in achieving their goal, then they missed out on a huge component to their success.
So before we get back to work as the break has ended, my parting words are don’t let “YOU” be the person who is getting in the way of achieving your new goal or endeavor because “YOU” haven’t enrolled the right network of individuals to assist “YOU”.
Yes, it does come down to you, but let others also assist you in getting crossing the finish line. Don’t forget your network as a part of your overall success. Again, no achieves anything solely by themselves.
I am Francine Parham. I focus on professional and leadership development. I help individuals develop the critical skills they need in their careers to be successful and achieve their professional goals. I have an expertise in professional networks and networking. I am the creator of a program named Maximizing Your Network™, which instructs you on how to build, interact with and maintain your professional network. My online instructor led series of “Maximizing Your Network”™ is being launched February 5, 2015. Please connect with me on francineparham.com