Why Aren’t You Achieving Your Goals…Is It Only About You?

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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.

Now…

– 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

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Is Anyone Listening: Three Essentials for Your Networking Conversation

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It is not, “How May I Help You?”, nor your elevator speech.

The first rule of thumb in networking is figuring out how to engage someone. It is not to share with them everything that you know or better yet, you want them to know about you. Many times we get wrapped up in this because we feel that it is what is expected of us. Additionally we want to do this as quickly as possible because we think that we may not have the opportunity again with that person. Well, that could be true simply because we don’t create the right future opportunities.

Networking is initially about engaging someone in a conversation that leads to future conversations. So, why do you want to share everything about you or that you know in five minutes or less? You are not at a business pitch contest.

I can’t tell you how many people have walked up to me and given me what I call the “My Everything Speech”, that goes something like this…

Networker: “Hi (they never acknowledge my name).”

Networker: I am (insert name).”

Networker: “I am a/the (insert title, role, etc.).”

Networker: “I do (they tell me about their job, company, function or business).”

Networker: “I am so excited to be here because (insignificant reasons shared).”

Networker: “So tell me about you (now it is my turn, I get to talk).”

Francine: “Well, I’m Francine Parham (I also talk. I usually say nothing of substance either. Remember you introduced yourself to me. Right now, I am really wondering why we are talking.)…”

Networker: “Oh, your (insert whatever I mentioned) sounds great.” “Tell me more.” “So, can I help you with anything?”

Francine: “Nothing that I can think of, but thank you for asking.” (I’m thinking to myself, I don’t even know you and we’ve just met each other for the first time. I’m just trying to figure you out.)

Many of you may be thinking that I am over simplifying this, but I am not. This type of dialog occurs way too many times. This is because we just haven’t thought through how we want to engage someone to actually help us before we talk to them. More importantly, we haven’t really thought beforehand what we want to achieve (i.e. our goals) prior to even having any type of conversation. Also we haven’t usually thought of what we actually could offer that is of value to someone else. So, taking a few moments before you go to your next networking event, whether within your company; at professional networking event outside your company; or at a conference with hundreds, is a good idea.

There isn’t a standard speech when you meet someone as there never is one nor should there be one. Your conversations often depend on many factors. However, there are elements that you should always think about including to engage the person you are networking with. Remember you want to involve them in an initial conversation that will hopefully be the first of many more. At this juncture, you are connecting with them not the other way around.

Below are three essential elements in my networking introductions that I ensure I have ready. These work for me whether I am trying to invite someone to join my network or just want to leave a memorable impression. As we know, you never know when you are going to meet that same person later. Memorable impressions can be just as important.

Try these essentials in your next networking conversation:

Sharing your “Signature Introduction”: As I demonstrated in the above conversation, we focus so much on telling the obvious (name, job title, company, what we do) that we sometimes forget to share something that will make us memorable. Put yourself in the shoes of the person on the receiving end of your introduction. If you sound like everyone else, they will remember you in the “group of everyone else”. We will never get away from some of the standard introduction stuff, but what are you adding to that that is of substance? Is there something that you want to be known for or you are already known for? If so, then share it. I spend a lot of time talking about the topic of building your network, not just networking. Most people think that it is one in the same, which it is not. This is a part of my signature introduction when I’m asked (or share) what I do.

Communicate what you are trying to achieve: Many times we think that we must have a long engaging conversation and then get to this. Yes, this isn’t the first thing someone wants to hear and tact is important. But share what your goals are. For example, if you are attending a professional work conference and have a goal of meeting a certain leader that has a job opening, then communicate your interest in a tactful manner. Tell the person that you want to learn more about their function and how a background such as yours could fit into their group. If not, what would they recommend you do? Are you working on something that you’ve received great feedback on and think would be relevant to their team? Ask to share the project and the lessons you learned over a cup of coffee or tea later on because you’d like to get their feedback as well. These are just a few ideas as there are a multitude of approaches if you are creative. However, before you share anything, just remember to please have really given some robust thought to what are really trying to achieve. Don’t waste their time nor yours if you aren’t clear.

Close the conversation with meaningful follow-up: Once you engage someone, you now own following up with them. This can be as simple as a thank you at the end of the chat to you scheduling the next meeting. Think about what would make someone want to connect with you again beyond that initial meeting. I personally ask myself this all the time. Many times it is something that you offer; that you know that you can do; or a skill that you have. Create your inventory of things you can offer, once again beforehand. Then as you are listening to the other person, see if you do indeed have something that you can mention that you do well. This is not offering to help them, but simply sharing. Wait to offer when you really understand what the person really needs. Hopefully at the next meeting the two of you have.

Please share any other tips or ideas that you use as a part of the networking conversation with me. I always seek to learn more.

FlickrPhoto: Malte

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, 2015. Please connect with me on francineparham.com

Breaking Up with Your Network: Hard To Do But Maybe You Should

 

 

 

 

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Unless you live alone in a remote cave with no one to speak or interact with, you have some type of network. It may be comprised of individuals that are very similar to you or different from you. The size of your network maybe large or small. Your network may be primarily focused on your professional connections but you may also have one that is strictly for your personal interactions and interests. Irrespective of the composition or the intention of your network the one commonality that all should have is that your networks should be effective in aiding you in the achievement of your current goals and desired outcomes.

In order for this to happen, you must be able to assess and decide if you have a network that can help you or not. If it cannot, then you must move forward, developing one that does. Also let’s not forget you as a member of any network. You also must ensure that you bring a value proposition to your network that is current and relevant. Networking relationships should be partnerships so continuous assessment of what you offer is just as important.

However we often do neither. We don’t take stock of our networks as often as we should or the relationships that we have with those members in our networks. Nor do we take stock of what our current skills and capabilities are or connections that we can offer. What tends to happen is that we hang onto a network that offers no value proposition because there is a level of comfort, familiarity or strong association with its members. And we sure don’t take the time to really ask those in our networks how we can be relevant to them. We just become content with ourselves and them. Oftentimes, it is easier to keep what we have versus working on establishing new relationships and often the toughest part, maintaining those new relationships. We don’t truly ask ourselves if our networks are effective or how could we be effective in helping those in our networks succeed.

I have done this and I am sure some of you have as well. You have been caught in the mindset that somewhere within your network there will be someone that can assist with your goals if not currently, then definitely one day. However when that day arises you unfortunately find out that your network is not capable or nor equipped for the task that you need their assistance on. I’ve been there and not too long ago. Simply stated, we haven’t been paying attention. What sometimes becomes even more unfortunate is that when we discover that our current goals and our network don’t match, we still continue to hold onto to that network and nurture those relationships. We just won’t let go when we should instead be seeking profiles of individuals that are aligned to our current goals and what we want to achieve now.

I am not saying that you need to drop or begin anew every time your goals don’t match your network. If you are like me, you have spent time developing and hopefully nurturing those relationships over time. More importantly you don’t establish relationships or develop your network with the sole purpose of what you can get out of it. So, you may choose to keep each and every one of your relationships that you have developed over time. However, you need to be a realist and think through the profiles or individual you need that would be helpful to you based upon your current goals. And if there is no one equipped in your network to do so or there isn’t quite a match, then you should move forward in developing a network or specifically seeking individuals that are a match and can help you. But before you do, again figure out what you can offer that is pertinent to those you are seeking.

Finally as a reminder, new connections do not need to be deep connections to assist you. I have experienced that my new or “loose connections” have often been more effective in helping me than the relationships I have had for many years in my network. It often seems to work that way and a discussion for another post.

So what should you be doing to keep on top of this and to avoid having a network that isn’t able to assist you or that you aren’t able to add value to? Answer some of these questions to get you started:

  • “Has anything changed in my professional or personal life that requires me to have a new or different network?”

 

  • “When was the last time I added individuals to my network or is it comprised of the same types of individuals, professions or groups that I have had for years?”

 

  • “What have I truly done to nurture and maintain the relationships in my network(s)?”

 

  • “For the types of networks that I have, do I offer the skills and resources they need?” “Are my skills relevant?”

 

  • “Have any of any of the individuals in my network actually helped me recently in achieving my goals or desired outcomes?”

 

  • “Have I recently helped any of the individuals in my network achieve their goals or desired outcomes?”

 

This obviously is not an all-inclusive list, but it should cause you to pause and guide you in what you do need to do with your network. I encourage you to constantly ask yourself these questions to help you take action before you need to. At a minimum increase your awareness about what you need to do, whether it is keeping the network you have or moving onto to creating new relationships. Don’t just wait until you have a true need or someone comes to you in your network and they now need you. Comfort is easy. Change can be hard, but often it’s needed. Your network is no different.

Flickr Photo: Stefanie

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, 2015. Please connect with me on francineparham.com

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Leaving the Conference with the Right Network Connections

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It starts with being signed in by someone behind a table. You give your name and they look for your badge in a sea of others that are in alpha order until yours is found. You put it on. Then you are handed a bag filled with items deemed important for you to have (or be reminded of) as you navigate throughout the day about the conference and its sponsors. You are then directed to a general session in a large room. If you are at a nice event there will be something that you can grab for breakfast as your walking to your table.

So, with hands full and bags on shoulders, you then sit down to listen to someone tell you that you are headed for an outstanding day of:

1) Learning

2) Listening

3) Networking

Sound familiar? Often the challenge in any conference whether large or small is never the first two. If you are like me you come to learn and you do. You’re in control of that item. Also you listen, with intent because the speakers (whether good or bad) always share something like a tip about what to do or not to do or a lesson they learned. Hopefully their tips or insights cause you think about something important to you in a different way.

However, where the challenge often lies and conferences can fall short is the third objective – networking. It is no one’s fault (yours nor the conference organizers), as it is just the nature of what a conference is about – groups of people often large, getting together. So, introducing yourself to others at your table or to someone standing in line with you at a coffee/tea break just doesn’t quite make you feel (or maybe it’s just me) that networking has occurred. What has occurred is a general conversation between two people that happen to be in close proximity to one another at an event that they had a mutual interest in attending.

And if you are like me, one of the main reasons that you attend conferences is to make connections with others to help you achieve your goals. I am always open to helping others, but like many of you I think of myself first as I usually paid for the ticket to attend. So building my network is one of the most critical factors in helping me achieve my professional and business goals. Conferences serve as venues to aide me.

It is not that you don’t meet awesome people or don’t make fantastic connections at conferences. The inherent challenge is that it is so random in nature. So you meeting that awesome connection is more by chance among several hundreds or even thousands of attendees. So how can you increase your chances of networking successfully and ultimately building your network beyond the conference? How can you increase your chances of success? Jot down a few of these tips:

Ensure you are clear on what you want to achieve beforehand.

Ensure you understand and have thought through (before you even register) what you are trying to accomplish from a networking perspective by attending say, a particular conference. Ask yourself the following question: “I am networking to do what?” Are you networking at the conference to ensure as many people know who you are because you are trying to establish yourself as an expert or brand? Are you attending the conference to network with the sponsors of the event itself to have them consider your product or service? It is important to know your purpose as it lays the foundation for all of your interactions at any conference you select to attend.

Make your conversations count.

Networking is a web of connections as we know. You start with one person and they point you or connect you with another and so on. At a conference you will naturally engage in casual conversations. Many of the conversations will be brief in nature as well since time is usually of the essence. So maximize that time by sharing what you are trying to achieve up front. Acknowledge that you both don’t have a lot of time and then get your point across quickly. Ask if they have any ideas or know of someone or a business that they would recommend for you. Then you in return do the same. So what that means is that you have in your arsenal people or ideas to share before you come to the conference. Just please make sure that what you would recommend is meaningful and real.

Make the conference agenda work for you.

Look at the agenda as soon as it becomes public. Become strategic and create your own agenda within the established agenda. Decide where it is important for you to be in order to increase your chances of connecting with the person or that group of individuals. Remember, if networking is your primary goal then figure out how to manage your time most effectively. At times it has been more important for me to be outside networking with someone versus being inside when a session is going on. I have also figured out that often it is more important for me to attend a certain session because of the types of individuals that will be in the room and I need to hear their insights or comments. Don’t just wait for the official networking breaks or follow the formal agenda. Make the agenda your agenda.

Don’t just talk to the conference participants.

At a conference there are many people who make a conference successful. Some are more obvious than others. Take the time at the conference to observe the individuals that are less obvious. Take a few moments to watch who they interact with and what they do. Introduce yourself to them. They are often great resources of information, knowledge and more importantly often serve as gatekeepers to who you may want to meet or network with. Leverage their expertise and connections to assist you. Never underestimate their power and influence. Talk to them and share what you are trying to achieve.

Conferences are great places to meet many people. They have the ability to gather large groups of people that you normally would not have to opportunity to be with in the same room. It is just finding that right person(s) you are looking for amongst many. Not always easy but definitely achievable if you are savvy in your actions and interactions.

If anyone has other secrets or tips to successful networking at conferences, please share. I’d love to hear how you navigate!

Flickr Photo: Simply CVR

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

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