What the hell has networking become?

Just yesterday I came across a great article on the Pin Striped Suit blog (authored by Matt) that spoke about why networking is a dirty word: http://thepinstripedsuit.com/2012/05/13/networking-is-a-dirty-word/. This article struck a chord with me and I thought I would put my own little spin on it.

Networking is about making RELATIONSHIPS it is not about getting the all mighty cards to add to your rolodex of people you may or may not ever contact (more likely never). I mean think about it and look around you probably have a stack of cards lying around somewhere, here is an exercise: flip through them, pull out every single card that has a name on it that you really know and that you would invite for a drink or for a catch up; When you have made that pile of people you really know and would spend some time getting to know then DO IT! Invite them out, chat about their work and who they are. Then the other pile, most likely the bigger pile, throw it OUT! You will never contact them.

Networking is more than getting 1000 “friends” or “likes” on Facebook and certainly is more than finding yourself swimming in Twitter followers. I was hosting a seminar only a week or two ago about Social Media and one of the participants asked how many followers is a really “good” number to have. My advice was quite simple, make sure that you have a network that when you reach out to them they respond. Of course this network can be small or it can be big but the only real value in a network is when it responds when you post, when you ask a question, when you seek advice. If you have a network that is engaged I argue it doesn’t matter how big or how small it is but rather how often you can interact with it. If you can interact with it and there is value in the network for everyone then most likely the network will grow.

Again networking is about building relationships so don’t ever forget that your network goes TWO ways. You can’t simply continue to ask questions, seek advice, and/or sell stuff all the time but rather sometimes you must also be willing to help out, respond to others request, speak up when someone takes the time to put themselves out there. Keep the conversation going and your networks (notice the ‘s’ yes you can have multiple) will thrive.

I really like that in Matt’s post about networking he wrote “find ways to create value for your contacts.” This is perhaps one of the most important steps that almost everyone usually forgets. If those people in your network are happy and you are finding ways to help make and keep them happy then believe me they will want to reciprocate, don’t you think?

When you are physically at an event and someone approaches you for the all important CARD SWAP, next time why don’t you stop them and ask them some questions. Play a small game with them see if they really want to get to know you or if they are just handing out cards. Be cautious with your cards-you don’t have to throw cards at everyone you meet hoping that they will be able to BUY from you or pass on your information to someone really important. Instead take the time to get to know them and see if you have a connection. A general rule that has often worked is that if I see that I could invite that person to my dinner table for a conversation then they are definitely getting a business card. Don’t be afraid to laugh at a few jokes or even talk about things that are not directly related to work.

One last point that needs to be reiterated from Matt’s great post on his blog: be consistent in staying in touch. When you find that you haven’t heard from someone in a little while one of the best ways to reconnect is just send them a quick email or a give them a quick call and see what they are working on these days. Ask them a few questions, try and remember what you talked about last and what they were up to. You can even cheat a little bit sometimes, I use social media and I keep a bit of a database that helps me make up some questions before I get back in touch with a long lost contact.

Finally this wouldn’t be a good ass kicking post if I didn’t talk about getting over your fears when networking. If you want to meet someone then there are a MILLIONS ways to get in touch with them now so reach out, don’t be afraid. For goodness sakes any contact you want to make is just another person like you. Remember the contact you are looking to make (famous, important, or not) was most likely exactly where you are now so reach out, tell them your story, and invite them on a skype chat or if they are close enough invite to get them a coffee, a beer, or even buy them a lunch.

Bottom line is: build relationships, get to know people, offer them some value and your network will thrive.

*cautionary note: this post does not by any means suggest to say that you have to LOVE every single person in your network and that you need to invite them over all the time and be best friends but if you want your network to thrive then you have to want to at least know a few things about each of your contacts.

Copyright and the battle of MINE

A few times over the last few weeks I have been asked what I do with all the material I develop, do I copyright it? Do I protect it with all kinds of legalese? My answer is simple, no, absolutely not. I live and work in the training industry and many would say my answer is crazy that if I don’t protect what I have then what happens if someone steals it?

Well my answer is simple (shit I really am a simple guy aren’t I?) once again, the material I create is nothing Earth shattering. The material I am developing is coming from people I work with, books I read, articles that come across my computer screen. I don’t actually really think anybody anywhere is creating anything completely NEW. I honestly believe that every interaction we have sparks ideas, whether they are acted on now or later or never our brain is constantly making connections and constantly processing information.

I don’t believe it is so much the material as it is the way in which we present material that gets people noticed and why people come to different seminars. Information is power, there is no question about that, but information is only as powerful as it is when we can get others to truly understand it.

One story that comes to my mind is from a presentation I heard at an Arts conference where one of the keynote speakers spoke about a student of hers. The speaker was talking to the crowd about a particular instance where one of her students came to her door to show her a painting. This painting was a gift for the professor (the speaker). Only the speaker was not very happy with it because she said it looked too much like her own pieces. The speaker then went on to say how the student standing before her told her it was a piece she did in honour of her (the speaker) and that she had inspired her so much that she wanted to dedicate a piece to her. My reaction was, “wow, how sweet and how powerful.” Only this was a reaction not shared by the professor (the speaker). Instead the speaker went a rant about stealing other people’s work and protecting your ideas and your work.

I was shocked and saddened by the speakers response. I was especially saddened because of the delicate relationship a professor, a teacher, a mentor, a coach has with any student. Any leader is set in place to inspire and to motivate action. I find it incredibly flattering when someone mimics something I do. Again I go back to the whole, how I do it and how I deliver it will never be the same so if someone puts a spin on something I do I’m flattered and honoured. I also take that as a compliment and a challenge. The challenge becomes to stay on my toes and to continue to self-develop so that the student does not become the teacher.

I will end this post with one person and one story in mind (and hopefully with something for you to think about): Hugh MacLeod (author of Ignore Everybody and 39 Other Keys to Creativity) is one of my heroes. Hugh speaks of how he often gets asked if he is worried about his simple graphics on business cards being ripped off (visit this link and go to Chapter 3: Put the hours in). To this question of being ripped off Hugh generally responds by saying, “Only if they can draw more of them than me, bet­ter than me“.

I think this is incredible, he is not worried about anyone ripping him off because he is too busy creating and moving forward. He has often said he already have 10,000 drawings more so if someone wants to catch him they have a lot of work ahead of them and hopefully by the time they catch him he would of course have done 10,000 more as well only helping keep him ahead.

So with all of this said, where do you stand on Copyright? Is our world becoming more collaborative and evolving too quick for Copyright? Who will win in the next few years the collaborators? The protectors? Both? Neither? or someone else completely different?

The real reason behind why I wanted to write this article was because I really wanted to tell people to get their shit out there. Just produce, produce like a fiend. If you are worried about copyright and someone stealing your stuff then you aren’t producing enough. Take the words of Hugh MacLeod (yes I am making that joke) and produce more and better. Don’t protect everything you write, produce, or create, because guess what, it probably isn’t that friggin’ Earth shattering anyway so just get it out there so others can experience it and so that you and all of us can grow together.