Walking in the open door: Our choice, or not

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Networking can be effective for business development, but we aren’t all made the same and some of us find formal networking events to be awkward experiences.

Yesterday evening at the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association (GOHBA) annual “meet and greet” meet event I reverted to form: “I’m an introvert. I hate these social networking functions in large groups. I’ll leave early.” I had a few brief conversations, took some photos for the association’s internal newsletter, and left early.

Opportunities lost? Well, despite contributing and being a member of the association for more than 20 years, frankly, I didn’t know most of the people in the room. I’m quite sure some of the 100 or so guests would have had useful ideas and worthy observations and perhaps one or two or more of them could find reason to do business with our organization.

Add these points to consideration: Over the years, I’ve blogged several observations about effective networking, and certainly understand the ability to listen, be genuinely helpful to others, and share rather than sell. And a few years ago, I discovered the perfect (and legitimate) ice-breaking tool — the camera. It also allows me to collect as many business cards as I want, by asking for the cards to verify names for photo captions.

Still, I did none of these things. I reverted to form and went back into my introverted comfort zone and left early.

Why?

The answer here may trouble anyone who buys into concepts of change, ambition, and opportunity. Sure, we can work our way out of our comfort zones — sometimes far from them — and often with great perseverance and effort, change our fundamental frameworks, but underneath it, many of our beliefs, values and character traits are quite well-baked in to our souls.

Change is hard, especially if it goes against the grain of our internal make-up.

We need to respect this fact, especially if we are judging others — and consider the implications when we are co-ordinating our teams, responses and methodologies.

Examples:

He’s a great thinker, but makes stupid errors on the details (especially with RFP compliance)

Have someone else on the team who cares about the details to check everything over. Better, have two or more people do this work. Have written checklists and policy guidelines for everyone to review and mandate that they check the boxes they’ve read everything.

She designs really well, and certainly can see opportunities, but doesn’t really enjoy hanging out and socializing with the clients, especially the ones who can bring us more work.

Perhaps she doesn’t need to be in the large group social settings to be effective and should be excused from these tasks. (If she doesn’t have it) maybe you could share some resources such as Tim Klabunde’s brief book: Network like an introvert. Are other team members ready to step in and be the socializers at the evening event? (This was the case for me last night — and I respectively stayed out-of-the-way of my business partner doing his networking thing; I’ll see him today for a smaller meeting.)

He’s a self-serving, manipulative idiot, who only takes, takes, takes.

First, in evaluating others negatively, it is helpful to do a reality check — are you seeing an echo of yourself in the story (often you are). But often you can pick up the vibes and confirm the your less-than-enthusiastic perspectives from the people around you. Then you have the choice: Ditch the person, limit your time, or set your contextual and personal boundaries. (He may be a close relative or family member, but you can still decline to spend hours with him during working hours — and your personal vacations.)

Sure, I could consider yesterday evening to be a failure on the networking equation. Equally, however, I know I’ll see the important people in my life from yesterday’s event today in smaller group, action-related settings, contributing worthy ideas and listening and helping out in practical ways.

How do you handle/respond to your character traits, strengths and weaknesses with others. You can comment here, or send an email to me at  buckshon@constructionmarketingideas.com.

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