4 Tips for Making a Valuable Connection
Published 4 September, 2019
There’s no lack of advice out there about networking or finding a mentor. In fact, we read and share a lot of it around the office here at GXG. Check out Bill George’s book True North for guidance on how a peer group can keep you accountable to your personal leadership philosophy. Harvard Business Review recently published a piece about building learning ecosystems within organizations. Doug Stewart has a fun TEDx talk about his “5 ½ Mentors” which is really all about how to be mentored – to find the ability to learn from others within yourself. He also has this great line:
“…experience is the teacher of fools. Because it’s foolish to have to learn something through an experience that you can learn in other ways. We have volumes of opportunity to learn from [others].”
At GXG, our entire business is centered upon the inherent value of connecting two people for an intentional conversation in order to save one of them some of the pain and frustration of simply learning from experience.
We’ve all been there. Looking down the barrel of a new project thinking – “If only there was someone I could ask about how to do this, I could go so much faster.” Luckily, we’re here to help! These are our four steps that will help you identify and make an impactful connection with someone who has relevant knowledge and experience to share.
- Prepare with honesty. The first step is to take a candid, vulnerable look at your “flat sides” or knowledge gaps. What particular areas of this project are unfamiliar or challenging to you? Do some research to see if you can find any resources specific to your role or industry. Your goal is to narrow the scope of what you don’t know as much as possible. Instead of “how do I manage team performance?” focus in on “how do I implement OKRs for a mixed team of technical and business people?”
- Reach out specifically. When you’ve done your homework on a particular challenge, finding someone to talk to becomes a lot more fun! At GXG, we actually build profiles of our dream expert first, then go looking for real people with the skills to match. The key to getting someone’s time and attention is pointing to something specific and relevant you’ve read about their work. It makes it so much easier for them to agree to help. For business purposes, look for someone from a non-competitive but comparative company. For example, it sometimes surprises people but we find financial services and healthcare executives can have great conversations since they have a shared understanding of doing business in a heavily regulated environment.
- Help them help you. It’s likely you’ll have relatively limited time with the rockstar you found. Respect the valuable time they’re giving you by exchanging your bios, a little additional context on your problem, and your top three questions ahead of time. This makes a huge difference in how tangible their recommendations will be. This will also help you concentrate your note taking and stay engaged in the discussion.
- Look for opportunities to reciprocate. It’s possible there’s something you can offer to share with them in return, whether its work related or personal. However, more important than your ability to directly return the favor for your new connection is your general willingness to share with someone else. Spend some time thinking about where you might have a similar level of expertise to pay forward.
We hope these tips help create some awesome conversations! If you’re interested in more tips like these, be sure to join our monthly newsletter.