Empowering Your Network

At a recent seminar, the networking style of one particular person came up in conversations with people I knew.  I found it intriguing what they had to say.  The person had left a not so pleasant impression, came on too strong and left them questioning the real motives.  I was thus inspired to pick up this book titled Power Networking by Donna Fisher and Sandy Villas - well for this reason and ... 

because most of us in the KM community would probably swear by networking as an important knowledge management activity.  We know of its potency in enabling knowledge flows and hence, knowledge creation.  The thing is we analyse the network, identify opportunities for collaboration and even prescribe tools for networking.  Yet, we hardly talk about how people are to effectively network or what are some good networking practices. 

So, the book offers 59 secrets to powerfully set about networking.  Some ideas I found fairly common-sensical eg. having enough business cards with you at all times and returning phone calls promptly. Still, they serve as useful reminders.  There were, however, some new ideas that for me, served as food for thought.

One of them was the way we express the work we do.  When someone asks “What do you do?” the tendency as the book rightly points out is for us to say what we are eg. I am a lawyer or I am an architect.  What the authors suggest is to practice introducing yourself in a clear, concise and personable way that generates interest, sparing the buzzwords and jargon, using the right tone of voice and keeping it to 7-10 seconds. Here’s my humble shot at what I do – “I help organizations figure out how to best make use of information and knowledge, theirs and others, so that they can better achieve their objectives and realize their TRRRUE potential” (no typo error).

Another secret shared by the authors is with people you have met before, re-introduce yourself rather than wait for people to remember who you are.  Thankfully, this has become a habit of mine.  When I meet people I’ve met before, I try to put them out of that embarrassing spot by saying my name and where we met, if I remember it - I mean where we met and not my name.  If not, then it makes good topic for conversation to try to figure out together where we met each other.  Reintroducing myself also saves ME the embarrassment should they really not remember me! :(

One final secret I’ll share (to be fair to the authors) is the way you make requests of others.  They say no beating about the bush, make it clear, concise and non-demanding.  I find it amusing that someone I know goes to the other extreme of sounding almost unnecesarily apologetic.  He tends to begin his requests, even if it is just for someone to sign in their attendance, with the words “I am sorry but can I trouble you to …?” The negativity at the start of the request might make the other person believe it is really trouble and think “If it’s really trouble, then why ask?” I have done something quite similar honestly or so my sister points out. Sometimes I go “I don’t suppose you could…” and she would teasingly go “since you suppose not, you suppose right!” wink

So what do I think of these recommended 59 networking secrets? Well, like I say, some are good reminders and others offer food for thought.  I believe at the end of the day, we just have to be comfortable with who we are and that’s the person to appreciate, by us and by others.  No point being a social butterfly if you know you are going to fall flat on your belly - unless you really, really want that flight. No point collecting 30 name cards from a string of fleeting conversations than a few from people you have had genuine, mutually interesting conversations with.  And I guess it comes back to allowing others to be themselves as well, and appreciating the differences.  So, perhaps at a networking event, pick out the loneliest person you see in a crowd and start a conversation with him or her. That would be empowering your network.

5 Comments so far

Edgar Tan

I’m usually the loneliest person in a networking event. Any tips from the book on how to break free from being a wallflower to become a social butterfly? smile

Posted on December 12, 2006 at 05:12 PM | Comment permalink

Paolina Martin

Actually, there were several things that could be done towards moving away from the “Lone Ranger” mentality as they call it.

Among these were being conscious of what you have to offer in terms of expertise and this is usually difficult to do, being aware of the 5 biggest achievements you have made in your life, and so on.

Hope that encourages you to read the book.

Posted on December 13, 2006 at 08:24 AM | Comment permalink

Edgar Tan

Is the book in our corporate resource library? smile

Posted on December 13, 2006 at 02:03 PM | Comment permalink


Anything on networking style variation according to culture? American networking styles are very very different from Asian ones.

And anything to help figure out how not to “come on too strong” and leave people uncomfortable?

One of the key things I’ve learned is that when you are first building your relationships, I’ve always got to assume that I need to build trust - I can’t take it for granted. So for me, seeing how I can be helpful to a new contact is a very important starting point.

Posted on December 15, 2006 at 10:53 AM | Comment permalink

Paolina Martin

Nice try Edgar.

Patrick, there were no insights on adapting networking styles to different cultures but yes, I agree there are cultural differences that need to be considered.

The one that comes on too strong, the “networking mongrel” as they call it, is one who tries to make a sale at inappropriate times like at a wedding, or focuses on their agenda rather than being interested in gathering information or intrudes inappropriately and has short, superficial interactions with many people. So the message I guess is to not do those things.

Taking time to build rapport is important which begins with handling business cards with respect or offering to assist your host.  Understanding how you can be a resource to others is the essence to networking so I think you have it absolutely spot on there.

Posted on December 19, 2006 at 01:42 PM | Comment permalink

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