Business Networking: Is It Really A Waste Of Time?
Or, how to keep working whilst you're talking ...
POSTED BY JACKY SHERMAN ON 26/08/2015 @ 8:00AM
I had an early lesson in time management when I was a student nurse in the RAF that I suspect lots of us had with our first jobs. For many years, it stopped me from doing what was important ...
Some people I speak to think talking is a waste of time. I can assure you that the conversations you have out business networking most certainly are not!
As student nurses in the 1970s, we were the workforce on the hospital wards. We did everything from cleaning the loos to starting cardiac resuscitation if a patient collapsed.
In the School of Nursing we were taught that the most important thing was to get to know our patients by talking to them. However, all too frequently, if we were found by Sister standing around talking to the patients we would be chivvied up with the phrase "haven't you got any work to do?" from across the ward, "go and tidy up the linen room!"
We learnt two lessons from this. The strongest being that work was defined as doing something physical and just talking was a complete wasting time. The other lesson (which took longer to learn) was to multi-task, which meant we could talk to patients whilst undertaking another task.
"It's fair to say that many of us never
really learnt that!"
It became easier to hide behind the mundane and metaphorically spend our work lives tidying up the linen cupboard. And all the time Sister's words rolled around in the back of our heads making us feel virtuous. We had stopped talking and were getting on with the work.
In so far that work is physical and talking is time wasting that still niggles away at me to this day. Thank you so much Sister, you taught me well.
I now spend entire days talking to people; after all, that is a great part of my job as a consultant and trainer in business networking, but at the end of the day my first thought is still 'oh no, I've achieved nothing today!'
I find that, when they let me delve deep enough, many people who say business networking is a waste of time have the equivalent of Sister rolling around the back of their heads too.
So here's my tips on how to banish your inner Sister that really work for me:
Remember that you're the boss, so give yourself permission to take time to talk with people. The quote by Michael Altshuler helps me. Actually it's better to listen more than you speak (a blog in itself, I think).
Talking (and listening) is a physical activity, it uses muscles and glucose and oxygen to fuel it. So, if Sister is whispering in your inner ear, sternly tell yourself this is work. (I bet you wish you had the courage to tell your boss that when you were 18!).
Have clear objectives of what you want to achieve from the conversation. It's not just talk, it has a purpose. This might be as simple as getting to know someone and deciding whether to take the relationship further, or as complex as a strategy meeting to plan out how to help each other.
Diary time for your conversations within your working week. If you're the boss then talking to people is your work, it's not something to do after hours.
Multi-task where possible. I'm always cautious about advising this as the evidence is that multi-tasking is less efficient than being focused. However every interaction you have is business networking so why not use it for more than one objective? You may have met with your client to talk about your project with them and then spot an opportunity to introduce them to someone else you know.
Measure your success daily. Did you decide whether to take the relationship further with someone you just met? Did you come away from the meeting with a clear plan on how you will help each other? It will stop that "I've achieved nothing feeling" you sometimes get.
Hone your networking skills. If you were learning a physical task like using a piece of machinery and made a botch of it, would you take the time to learn how to do it properly? It will save you time in the long run.
Lastly find someone else to tidy the linen cupboard.
If you'd like some help getting rid of your inner Sister, come and ask my advice at a business networking event (yes it's still work) or call me on 07970 638857 and let's arrange a coffee and we can 'work' through your issues.
Until next time ...
More about Jacky Sherman ...
I help people build and maintain productive working relationships both with their work colleagues and with a wider network to win more business. I do this by combining my skills in coaching, mediation and training with my extensive experience in senior management.
What I love most about my work is when my clients get those a-ha moments because I know they have seen for themselves the way that they want to move forward. Then they will achieve their ambitions.
Helping people who are having challenges with their working relationships gives me enormous pleasure. It was my privilege when working in health care to see how people working together can make the impossible seem easy and accomplish miracles as a result.
So helping people build or restore strong relationship with their colleagues makes even the hardest work easier, alleviates distress for the individual and reduces problems for the whole organisation.
In all this work trust is an essential ingredient to winning business so most of my work comes through referrals. Referrals come through strong business relationships so it was a natural extension for me to work with Ascentiv and train others in how to get consistent and predictable referrals from their network.
What a fantastic way to earn a living!