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What is the secret to networking? Make it about them.

Networking is hard! It is daunting, time consuming, and often confusing — especially if you aren’t a natural. In fact, it can be down-right scary. You probably already know how valuable networking can be; it can help you get your day-to-day work done, advance your career, lead to a new job, or open new social groups. Networking has brought me several job opportunities and is how I met my wife (friends of friends, bar crawl, long story).

What is the first step?

There are 1000 and 1 things you can do to be a good networker, but let’s distill how you should start to a single item: pick one person this week to meet for lunch, grab a coffee with, or have an afterwork drink. It is that simple! Pick someone who you know, but not well — an acquaintance who you want to know better. Think about why you want to know them better:

  • Are they someone who is great to know for business or your career?
  • Are they someone you met at a party and would just like to know better because you think they are cool?
  • Are they someone who you use to be close with, but have lost touch?

Just ask them would they like to grab a coffee or drink after work. If you are accommodating (a convenient time and place for them), they will likely say YES!

What do we talk about?

Them. You talk about them!

If you don’t believe me, go ahead and check out the classic Dale Carnegie book How to Make Friends and Influence People. In the book, he describes going to a dinner party and having a long conversation with another guest. They only spoke about the guest’s life and concerns — Carnegie asking question after question, but the guest not once asking about Carnegie. The guest ended up thinking Carnegie was the greatest person in the world, even though the guest knew nothing about Carnegie. The guest, who happened to be an influential person, became a lasting member of Carnegie’s network because he did something for him — Carnegie made him feel special.

Make it about them.

Tales like this abound: “One of the many intriguing things about Richard Branson is that he has this laser-focus eye contact. When he is talking to you, he’s not looking to his left, looking to his right, or anywhere else other than directly at you–he gives you his full attention”, says Ivan Misner. Branson makes you feel special and as if you are the only person in the world. He makes you feel important.

In other words, make it about them. Ask yourself: How can you help them, what can you do for them, how can you make their life/job easier? If you can bring value to the other person, you’ve made a strong network connection that can benefit you in the future. If you go in looking what they can do for you, well, you’ll probably get little or nothing.

But be sure to have a real conversation. Be interested in them — for real. People can always tell when someone is just being a sycophant. Find out what they are passionate about (sports, technology, lawns) and delve deep into that.

Followup

It is important you keep your network alive and active. After the meeting, build the relationship further by sending them a quick note via email, text, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Snapchat thanking them for the great conversation. In a few weeks, but no longer than a month or two, follow up with another get-together. Also, when LinkedIn notifies you of their anniversary or change of jobs, use that opportunity to contact them again. Don’t allow your network you’ve built to atrophy.

But that’s just the start. Make a personal goal of meeting with a different acquaintance every week — and track who you meet and when you meet. Check out MeetUp to find some networking events. Once you become comfortable with a weekly meetup, increase your networking to two different people a week and eventually make habitual contact with at least three different people a week. You’ll be amazed how easily you’ll get into a regular routine and how quickly you’ve strengthened and expanded your network!

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Why You Should Let Your Best Employee Join Another Team

Team Management

Imagine a fantastic software engineer who’s been working for the same team on the same system for a few years. Before long, she gets promoted. Her colleagues and direct reports love her, but despite getting more responsibilities, she’s growing tired of the same set of technical challenges.

A team is being put together elsewhere in the company in order to build a new system, and she has her eye on that. So she decides to approach her manager about it.

WHY INTERNAL TRANSFERS ARE SO RARE

At many companies, this type of request isn’t greeted too enthusiastically. Plenty of organizations have official policies on internal transfers, but they’re seldom utilized as much as they could be. I once had a manager who would say that a team member of theirs “quit” when they transferred, and actually tried to prevent that from happening. A colleague of mine says he once got scolded by a manager who found out he was using the internal jobs site, and was then “forgiven.” In these situations, company culture undermines company policy.

PLENTY OF ORGANIZATIONS HAVE OFFICIAL POLICIES ON INTERNAL TRANSFERS, BUT THEY’RE SELDOM UTILIZED AS MUCH AS THEY COULD BE.

Explicitly or implicitly, when the opportunity to apply your skills in a different part of the company is discouraged, you’re more likely to jump ship altogether.

For managers, though, it comes down to weighing the costs and benefits. If you discourage or outright reject the transfer request and keep that team member on board, you will:

  • Have a demotivated and unhappy employee on your hands.
  • Deliver a clear message to the rest of your team that there’s no leaving this group; there’s only leaving the company.
  • Eventually—usually within six months—be handed a resignation letter.

If you say yes, you’ll no longer have the great employee on your team, but will:

  • Have the opportunity to negotiate when they can transfer (e.g. one or two months, which is far better than two weeks’ notice), so you’ll have enough time to recruit the right replacement and bring them fully up to speed.
  • Deliver a clear message to the rest of your team that you can have a career here and not just a job.
  • Retain a talented and happy employee who keeps using their expertise on behalf of the company.

GIVE THE GIFT OF GROWTH

Some companies actually excel at letting their top employees move around within the organization in order to develop their skills. GE, for instance, has been known to approach top performers who’ve been in their roles for around one-and-a-half to two years and ask about their next position in the company. The point is to get the best people to stick with GE for the long haul and develop a career there.

For employees, the question is when, whether, and how to ask managers about the possibility of transferring to another team. Some companies don’t require you to do that, but some do. Regardless, those conversations should happen, and managers should encourage them. The ideal manager should be a partner to employees, not someone to hide from. Interest in working elsewhere within the company should never be a dirty secret or interpreted as a critique of a manager’s leadership style.

EMPLOYEES WHOSE CAREERS YOU’VE HELPED ADVANCE WILL REMEMBER THAT

Personally, I’ve had two people approach me about transferring to other groups during the past six months. One person wanted to increase the breadth of their experience, and the other wanted to be in the group focused on services (back end is their passion). Both of those employees brought a lot to my team. But after talking it out with them individually, I said yes to both. I knew they’d be able to grow and follow their passions, and it was my job to encourage that.

Sometimes managers are in a tough spot. What should you do if you’d like to help your employees grow in a different part of the company, but the organization frowns on that? Some managers’ judgment will be questioned if they let top performers leave. That risk is real, but it’s better to err on the side of doing right by your employees.

If you do, you’ll ultimately be doing right by your company, too—even if it isn’t exactly seen that way. The reality is that people now change their employers more often than ever, so minimizing that churn can be a good thing. What’s more, employees whose careers you’ve helped advance will remember that. You may be losing someone great now, but they might come back into your professional life sooner than you’d expect.

Post originally appeared in Fast Company.