Every Big Opportunity Starts With A Little Conversation
the words of Stefan Thomas at Content Marketing Academy Live 17 or CMA Live17. Stefan also makes this statement in his book, Instant Networking.
The subtitle to this article is:
What Can Leaders Learn From Networking?
This is the third of my articles taken from the talks given by keynote speakers at CMA Live17. I promised six and this is number three, we’re half way there!
For those of you who have read my 2016 CMA articles and the previous two from this year you’ll know I see so many similarities between content marketing and leadership. So when I heard Stefan was speaking I didn’t think I’d choose his talk to write about. How wrong was I! I soon realised that leadership communication can be influenced by networking principles.
As author of two networking books, Business Networking for Dummies and Instant Networking, someone who regularly speaks to large audiences and an ex-Director of a national networking forum, we can assume he knows his stuff. He certainly gave food for thought when talking to us about making connections, nurturing relationships and investing time and energy in being visible, creating that top of mind awareness as – the go to person – the expert – specialist – whatever term you’d like to use!
He creates a structure for this in his book:
Although the conference theme, courtesy of Chris Ducker, seemed to vary this to:
For the purpose of leadership I think Stefan’s original meet, like, know fits the bill perfectly.
As leaders we need to be visible. In small organisations that is easier than larger multi site organisations. Nevertheless, being visible is important. So how do you meet all of your employees? What do we mean by meet? Initially unless you’ve been directly involved in the recruitment process, new recruits aren’t going to meet you in person. Unless you have ways of making people feel as if they’ve met you, you’re relying on what people say about you, your reputation.
How do you get a reputation or talked about? The answer to that is by being visible, clear in your vision and views. On the downside so invisible, inaccessible, that people make up their own mind through rumour and speculation! That rumour and speculation spreads so it becomes reality – your reputation! No one wants a negative reputation, unless it’s true of course!
Your take away from this:
lack of investment in meeting your people leads equals creation of Myth and Legend!
So how do we make people feel as though they’ve met us? Some tips for you to develop further.
- Write your own personal message for recruitment material. Even better, have video messages on your home (or if you’re a department / regional leader, on your function page) and careers pages. Speak to the people seeking to join your organisation. Help them self select. Taking our lesson from Stefan, this is the time when people decide if there is a connection they’d like to explore further. We tend to self select based on our impressions of the person in front of us.
- Blog or Vlog. Last year in response to Mark Schaefer’s talk at CMA16 I wrote about how leaders could use social media in communication. I still stand by this. Blog a weekly round up. People are nosy. How many times in your early career did you speculate about what the boss had been doing all week? You tell them. Don’t wait for them to speculate. Show your human and business sides. Even better than blogging, vlog – video blog.
- Ask for feedback on proposals, change, initiatives, projects etc. If you have the technology use the live video on your intranet. Facebook live (make sure it’s the company private group!) or other social media platforms can be used. Set up a company YouTube channel. Be creative. Live video creates immediacy of messaging. Employees feel involved and valued, and the message comes from you.
- Meet in person at least four times during the year. Think about it, that’s once every three months. Schedule sessions in. We all have at least fifteen minutes at the start or end of meetings when we are available if you need to do this as drop ins. Otherwise schedule quarterly group or office sessions.
There’s no substitute for a face to face. People trust the opinions they’ve formed once they’ve met you in the flesh! Attend induction events. If your organisation has high levels of recruitment then make sure you have a welcome video, and schedule in as many sessions as you can to attend in person.
First impressions create an opinion. To establish an accurate impression. Turn up! Be visible! Meet people!
If what you’ve just read turns your stomach, think about whether you should be a leader or people manager. Or maybe read on for more tips!
I can already hear some of you saying:
I’m not here to be liked, I’m here to get things done, to make a difference!
Can you get things done alone? Command and control or management through fear only takes you so far and has limited success.
I’m not advocating being bosom buddies or drinking pals. I guess like in this sense I’ve taken as a sense of connectedness. Connected to your vision, values and someone they can learn from. How many management events have you been to where you were asked:
“Who was the greatest influence on you?” Or “Think of a person who helped share your career.”
Inevitably we think of teachers, lecturers, and as we progress to the second question, we remember inspirational leaders or managers who took an interest to nurture our talent by sharing knowledge, giving opportunities and stretching us. They liked our enthusiasm and eagerness to progress.
The more we are visible, meet people the more connected to us they become. They begin to like us enough to want to get to know what we stand for so they can join in.
That leads me nicely on to feeling they know you. Again, not in the sense they know all your intimate personal secrets, but know you enough to feel secure. Secure to take decisions, secure in the fact that they will learn, secure because they know and buy into your vision and business philosophy.
So if you think back to all the tips I gave under meet, I hear some of you saying:
They’ll never get the real me on video
And that’s true, at first they won’t, you may be a little awkward. You’ll improve. Think back to the first presentation you ever did! First, speaking to people, second, (if you’re as old as me) changing the acetates, then progressing to PowerPoint, remembering to click the slides at the right time! I bet you were crap! But you became slick!
I bet you Skype, video conference, if you’re young SnapChat, or Instagram live! What’s the difference?!
Tips we can take from Stefan to practice over and over – don’t just wing it:
- Stand up and breathe.
- Stand away from the chair and don’t lean on it. To me that means get the right position that makes you approachable and the audience feel you are speaking to them.
- Stand firmly on both legs, don’t cross them.
- Don’t cross your arms.
- Try to make eye contact with everyone in the room, specifically the people you’d like to talk to.
- Prepare your talk content. You have 30 to 40 seconds to make an impact.
- Be clear about your call to action. Tell people what they need to do to take the relationship to the next level.
- Breathe, smile and sit down.
He then goes on to talk about accepting requests to connect and to be responsive to questions and comments.
Although Stefan is talking about preparation for networking, he is also talking about making a connection and getting your message across. Look at his tips and think about them in your preparation to becoming a confident, engaging speaker, either on video or in person.
Stefan tells us it’s easy to start a conversation, “just talk about stuff!”. Perhaps you or they have travelled, talk about journeys, traffic. Us British love talking about the weather too! If you’re attending a conference talk about the speakers. Ask what they’re most looking forward to. If you’ve spoken, ask for feedback!
Make sure you follow up after the talk too. Any questions or ideas shared by staff need a timely response to ensure they feel connected and valued.
Building Trust Through Leadership Communication
If you follow my articles you’ll know I write a lot about trust. In short my message is:
Be you. Be human.
Humans don’t have all the answers. We stop being human when we pretend, and hold on to our insecurities. Honesty brings with it confidence. By being honest with ourselves we’ll be confident in our relationships and leadership of others.
If you don’t get the response you expect from people or feel people just don’t get what you’re trying to convey, I suggest you seek coaching to explore what you’re experiencing.
If you follow these steps and make sure communication is part of your routine not just at the annual conference or when something goes wrong. If you ask for help or involvement you become accessible and in turn people grow to trust you.
Be consistent, be clear, be visible, and respond.
Finally a dinner table chat between my two sons.
Son 1 (student at the Etihad Stadium home of Manchester City) – “that player (he named but I’m not familiar) he’s a great guy, a lovely person.”
Son 2 (younger brother) – “how do you know him?”
Son 1 – “where am I based!”
Son 2 – “I know but you don’t know him. You’ve not spoken to him.”
Son 1 – “I’ve watched him in training, and with the fans, and how he responds to the manager. Along side some others I’ve observed he’s always the same. I can see he’s a lovely guy. It’s about the team and the game for him, on and off the pitch.”
Even when you don’t know someone, you can’t be sure they’re not forming an opinion. Impressions become reality especially if enough people get a similar impression. Be sure it’s the right one. Be sure you give them the opportunity to:
Meet – like – know – trust you!
You never know who is watching you, expecting to learn, interested in doing business or to join your organisation.
If you’re struggling with organisation communication why not connect and let’s share some thoughts and ideas. If you want to make a greater impact in your organisation, let’s have a coffee and chat!
Join me on www.thelaunchpadacademy.co.uk next week for article number four.