Angela Natividad's Live & Uncensored!

04 January 2007

More on Networking

A friend recently made a comment about what a dream it would be to get coddled, wined and dined on a company's tab. "It's not even work!" she snorted.

This topic gets a little touchy for me as people my age often make this generalization about the relationship management component of what I do, either in jest or in the spirit of deprecation.

Let me set the record straight.

It takes serious savvy to learn how to manage conversation's ebbs, flows and silences with people you hope to build meaningful relationships with - people you don't simply choose as friends.

That's the critical difference - these people aren't often friends you elected to make. You get together knowing full well you are meeting for a specific reason that has little to do, though perhaps this should change, with how much you like each other. In a few hours' time it is your dear goal to create a bond as intimate and trusting as an old boys' club, careful to keep silences warm and comfortable because if they veer into awkwardness then the liaison is dead.

Meanwhile you make the right jokes and say things that make you seem amply curious but not too pushy, ethical but not too uptight, witty but not scathing, playful and strong-willed all at once or depending, so people feel value not just in knowing you but in standing on your integrity as a ball-player. Finally, and this is going the extra mile, you have to create a setting so intimate they'll divulge critical details you couldn't otherwise learn from the outside.

It's fine work that takes a steady hand. I wrote an article called Ground Rules on Being a Team Player that elaborates on similar delicacies in an office environment.

Dealing with people gracefully and productively takes a demonstrated willingness to learn about them and stand your own ground. Some people, generally the ones most exposed to this type of relationship management work, grow fond of saying all the right things without investing a sense of sincerity in them. It is hard to trust these people with your ideas and your money.

It's easy to blow expense funds drinking with bullshit people, and it's easy to be a bullshit networker who brings nothing sincere to the table. Here's my more elaborated take on real networking. Obviously there's no clear science, because people are mutable and as many parts emotional as rational. But being sincere, warm and tough are running themes in my experiences.

Oh yeah, and the ability to not pick up the goddamn phone during an engagement. I can't think of anything more alienating than getting shut out all of a sudden by a douche who sticks a finger in my face and says "Hold that thought, I have to take this."

You're the face of your company, for crying out loud. Is that how you treat your customers too?

3 comments:

Nii A. said...

I can't think of anything more alienating than getting shut out all of a sudden by a douche who sticks a finger in my face and says "Hold that thought, I have to take this.

Is it ok if you do it over hamburgers?
=)n

Angela Natividad said...

Those better be some good hamburgers. They better fall apart in my mouth and fill me with a sense of carnivorous well-being and love for all mankind.

Tony Chung said...

hahaha nii and angela, you two crack me up :)

your posts on networking are always so ...good.

...it's easy to blow business money having fun with bullshit people, and it's easy to be a bullshit networker who brings nothing sincere to the table.

great point.