Common Delusions About Referral Sourcesstring(39) "Common Delusions About Referral Sources"

If you want to create genuine connections and meaningful relationships to maximize your networking efforts, continue reading to learn about three common delusions that could hinder your effectiveness as a networker. In the dynamic landscape of business networking, steering clear of these pitfalls is crucial for sustained success.

Delusion No. 1: The On-the-Spot Referral Myth

One pervasive misconception revolves around the belief that securing a referral is contingent upon your physical presence in front of the referral source. However, if your strategy requires you to be present in order to get a referral, you are putting severe limitations on your potential business growth. Referrals happen when you are in front of the referral source only if your system is dependent on you asking for the referral and then getting it at the same time.

A fully functional referral system operates seamlessly even in your absence; most of the referral process happens when you are not there. Your referral partners should actively seek opportunities to refer you at all times, recognizing potential prospects and helping them to connect with you. If your network doesn’t think of you when you’re out of sight, it’s an indication that there’s room for improvement in how you’ve educated and presented yourself to your referral partners.

To counter this delusion, it is imperative to equip your referral partners with information about you that can be easily communicated to prospective customers. Motivate them to refer people to you even when you’re not around, fostering a proactive mindset within your network. Implement a tracking system to monitor and analyze referral activities that occurred in your absence.

Delusion No. 2: The Networking Nomad Fallacy

Another misconception is the notion that consistently changing networking groups enhances your chances of receiving quality referrals. This mindset, often termed “burning bridges” networking, is as unwelcoming as it sounds. The bridge-burner networker, someone who is driven solely by the pursuit of new business, tends to overlook relationship-building in favor of immediate gains. They represent the absolute worst in networking.

This approach is the complete opposite of effective networking strategies. Constantly shifting between groups, the bridge-burning networker fails to establish roots or meaningful relationships. Unsatisfied with the quantity and quality of referrals, they perpetually move on, engaging in often inappropriate networking tactics.

Successful networkers, in contrast, understand the necessity of time and effort in cultivating mature and mutually beneficial relationships. The adage “Time equals money” holds particularly true in the realm of referral-networking groups. The longer you are committed to investing your time in purposeful networking activities to build mutually beneficial relationships, the greater the results you and your business will experience.

Delusion No. 3: Clients are the Best Source of Referrals

A commonly held belief is that customers are the best source of referrals. The reason people often fall into this delusion is that they’ve been trained to believe it and have never pursued any other source of referrals. The only referrals they’ve ever received are from their clients.

While it’s true that customers and clients can be valuable sources, relying solely on them can be a limiting delusion. Many businesses, particularly larger corporations, often overlook the referral opportunities from other sources.

Clients, although readily available, are not necessarily the best or steadiest sources of high-quality referrals. The best sources in the long run are likely to be the people you refer business to. When you help another businessperson build his or her business, you’re cultivating a long-term relationship with someone who is motivated to return the favor by bringing business to you and who will work systematically with you for mutual benefit.

To thrive now and into the future, it is imperative to move beyond these delusions and adopt strategic approaches that prioritize long-term relationship building over immediate gains. You can’t move from one group to another at regular intervals and expect to get business. Get to know your referral sources and their businesses so you can help them. Then educate them on how to find potential clients for you whether you are with them or not.

The evolving dynamics of business networking call for an understanding of effective practices, ensuring your networking efforts stand the test of time and contribute to sustained professional success. Have you experienced any of these delusions about referral sources? Share in the comments below.

Toxic Competition Can Destroy Your Business. Here’s How to Build a Culture of Co-Creation.string(96) "Toxic Competition Can Destroy Your Business. Here’s How to Build a Culture of Co-Creation."

“The Third Paradigm: A Radical Shift to Greater Success” is the new book I co-wrote with Dr. Heidi Scott Giusto and Dawa Tarchin Phillips that shows the evolution from mere cooperation to the emergence of co-creation to achieve organizational goals.

Our book uses data from a survey of thousands of people, interviews with many experts, research from scholars, the coauthors’ personal experiences, and a case study to help shape the concept of co-creation in the future. As the book hit the shelves, Entrepreneur Media spoke with us to further explain the concept and delve deeper into how co-creation can impact entrepreneurship and the world. Here are some highlights from that conversation:

Entrepreneur: What inspired you to write this book?

Dawa Tarchin Phillips: When Ivan and I first started talking about the idea for this book, I was involved in several major co-creative projects and experienced both the benefits and challenges of working co-creatively first-hand. These are challenging times for a lot of people, and the approaches of the 1st and 2nd Paradigms of competition and cooperation, while proven to yield certain outcomes, simply do not solve many of the major challenges that we are currently facing and that require new, innovative, and disruptive solutions, whether in the United States or around the world.

Ivan Misner: I experienced firsthand the three paradigms while running my global organization. I knew early on in my career that the Competition Paradigm led, at best, to a win-lose outcome. At worst, everyone is lost under that paradigm. Cooperation was the paradigm that I trained under in graduate school. The idea of people working together as a team to solve problems was more effective and certainly provided a better work environment. However, during my career, I saw that something was missing from this approach. There needed to be more buy-in on really challenging problems in the organization. I discovered that the stakeholders were an incredible resource to co-create a solution to challenging problems. In 1986, I formed my first co-creative body in my company (BNI). This group was called the “board of advisors,” but the truth is they were more than advisors. I gave them almost complete authority to design, redesign, eliminate, or create new organizational policies that directly related to the clients (aka members) of the organization. It was crowdsourcing before the internet. It was a game changer for my company. Without them, I could not have scaled BNI into a global enterprise with more than 11,000 groups across the globe.

How have you engaged in co-creation?

Heidi Scott Giusto: As a writer and editor, I’ve learned that book writing is almost always a co-creative process because many people are involved. Take this book, for example. We had more than 4,000 people contribute to it by responding to our survey. That is above and beyond the work of the authors and publishing team. By offering their perspectives, the survey respondents contributed immensely to creating this book.

Dawa Tarchin Phillips: As a business and community leader, I have discovered that co-creation is at the heart of strong, values-driven, and highly entrepreneurial business cultures and communities. Today, my company is involved in several entrepreneurial and philanthropic undertakings that are powered by a co-creative approach. We have also focused specifically on following a co-creative process to writing this book, which we believe will further expose the reader to the diversity of ideas and solutions generated by a co-creative process.

Ivan Misner: Wouldn’t the world be a truly amazing place if people focused on solutions and not problems? Wouldn’t it be amazing if people could disagree without being totally disagreeable? Wouldn’t it be incredible if we could create together rather than tear things down? That’s what co-creation is all about. It gets people together for the singular purpose of holding a vision and not obsessing about the obstacles. It is possible to do these things. I’ve seen it, and I’ve been a party to it. We must start by having the desire and the will to do so. My greatest desire is for business to introduce this process to the world. Then maybe governments and bureaucracies might start to co-create solutions to the world’s problems as well.

How can or does co-creation shape successful entrepreneurship?

Dawa Tarchin Phillips: In many industries it has become best practice to operate leaner and closer to the customer and other stakeholders when creating products and services, shaping the value proposition, and building the company. This can lead to fewer products and services being launched that have no customer demand, which just wastes the company’s and investors’ time and money. Co-creation also tends to express less as just a strategy and more as an actual culture, and a culture of co-creation can be highly resilient, as more stakeholders have a sense of ownership, impact, and belonging. As Peter Drucker used to say, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”

Heidi Scott Giusto: Especially for small businesses where the owner wears numerous hats, co-creation can help distribute the intellectual demands for innovation and process improvement. By bringing in stakeholders to solve a problem or improve a process, small-business owners can engage in co-creation and give their business a competitive edge.

Ivan Misner: We opened this book by saying that “we live in an age of sweeping conflict, widespread skepticism, and intense anxiety.” That is true today. I don’t believe it is a statement of where we must go. I believe that “What’s in the way, becomes the way.” Conflict, skepticism, and anxiety can be the motivation to find a different way to communicate and create a better world. Co-creation can be that catalyst.

How do you recommend people get started?

Dawa Tarchin Phillips: The key to co-creation is involving other people. Our book provides a practical model and sequential process anyone can use to achieve results with co-creation, but the first thing is to talk to the people you want to engage in the process. The emphasis in co-creation is on “co.” So open up about your plans and start to include important stakeholders in your considerations. That is the biggest shift and most important transformation. You have to begin to see other people not as part of the problem but as a critical part of the solution.

Heidi Scott Giusto: Identify the problem you want to solve, and then use the Co-Creation Model we presented in the book to get started. The clock’s ticking!

Ivan Misner: There is a proverb that says: “When is the best time to plant an oak tree? Answer: 20 years ago. When is the second best time? Answer: today.” Start finding ways to implement co-creation within your organization. It won’t be easy. Most great things are difficult to achieve. If you look for excuses, you’ll find them. But if you look for solutions, you’ll find those instead. Start today and hold the vision not the obstacles.

I invite you to learn more in “The Third Paradigm”.

Seven Steps to Avoid Name-Nightmares at Networking Eventsstring(57) "Seven Steps to Avoid Name-Nightmares at Networking Events"

Most of us have experienced the anguish of forgetting someone’s name while they’re standing right in front of us! It’s like a mental game of hide-and-seek that you’re destined to lose. But there’s hope, I’ve got a strong, seven-step plan to turn your name-guessing game into a name-recalling masterpiece. Prepare to impress at social gatherings and business events, all while keeping your pride intact.

  1. Stop the Name-Shaming

Let’s break this vicious cycle of saying “I’m bad at remembering names.” If you keep telling yourself you’re bad at something, your brain is going to believe it and throw in the towel before the networking event even begins. So, let’s all raise our imaginary glasses and toast to a new mantra: “I’ve got this. I can be better at remembering names.”

  1. Repetition Repertoire

Imagine this: You’re introduced to someone, they say their name is Jamison, and you think, “Alright, Jamison, got it.” Fast forward five seconds, and it’s like your brain just performed a vanishing act. The solution? Repetition! Ask them to say their name one more time, like you’re savoring the sound. “Jamison”, then, if appropriate, say something relevant to the moment like: “that’s a memorable name, why did your parents name you that?”

  1. The Name Ninja Technique

You’ve nailed the repetition, but now what? Integrate their name into the conversation.  Say things like; “How did you hear about tonight’s event Jamison?” As you continue to talk make sure to respond a couple times using their name as appropriate. “Wow, that sounds amazing Jamison!” Towards the end of the conversation ask them what social media platform they are most active on. Then, ask for one of their business cards and make a note as to the social media platform that they like to use. The conversation and the business card will help anchor their name in your mind.

  1. Association Amusement Park

For some people, remembering names is like playing a wild game of word association. So, if you meet a Jamison who’s really into football and travel, picture this: Jamison wearing a football helmet, kicking a suitcase across a field while shouting travel tips. Vivid mental images stick like peanut butter to the roof of your brain. Bonus points if it makes you chuckle in the middle of a serious conversation. Whatever form of association you make, dedicate the name to memoryMake associations in your mind. Write notes… When you are back home, review your meeting and try to remember what that person looked like and what they were saying and doing. You may want to send a quick “nice to meet you” message online to help you remember the conversation you had with them.

  1. The Phonetic Finesse

If you’ve ever stumbled over someone’s name like it’s a tongue-twister on steroids, try this technique. Ask them if there is a particular way they prefer their name to be pronounced. Not only will you earn extra points for courtesy, but you’ll also have a unique mnemonic device to remember their name. For example, if they say, “It’s actually pronounced ‘Jay-muh-sun,'” you’ll forever think of them pronouncing their name.

  1. The Visual Anchor

For some people, associating the person’s name with a distinctive feature of their appearance is helpful. If Jamison has striking green eyes, imagine him surrounded by jam jars made of emerald glass. This technique capitalizes on the power of visual memory, making it easier to recall their name by conjuring up their unique physical trait.

  1. The Greeting Gambit

Saying “it’s nice to see you” instead of “it’s nice to meet you” is rooted in the idea that many social encounters are not actually the first time you’ve seen someone. In today’s interconnected world, you might have come across someone’s photos or posts on social media (yes, it happens, I’ve had someone who felt bad that I didn’t remember them from our social media connection), you may have heard about them from mutual friends, or even seen them in a previous event, webinar, or video call. By acknowledging this, you’re not treating the encounter as completely new but rather as a continuation of a relationship, no matter how brief or distant. Plus – this has the added benefit of not offending someone that you’ve previously met. For example, there was the wife of a business associate who was once at a party at my home. Many months later, I ran into her at a grocery store which of course, was a completely different context. I recognized her face, but I had no idea where I knew her from. When she came up and said hello, I said, “hi, it’s great to see you.” She then went on to talk about how much she enjoyed the party and voila – it immediately came back to me where I met her.

So, there it is, the ultimate guide to name mastery. No more awkward moments of standing there with a polite smile while your mind is screaming, “Who are you?!”  With these additional techniques in your networking toolkit, you’ll be a name-remembering maestro in no time. So go forth and conquer those social and business events with confidence, knowing that you won’t be left in the awkward abyss of forgotten names!

Listen to What ISN’T Being Saidstring(33) "Listen to What ISN’T Being Said"

In the realm of business, where every interaction holds the potential for growth, the words of Peter Drucker are powerful: “The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”

This is true and extremely important because the quality of our relationships depends on the quality of our communications. When it comes to sales for your business, and growing your business through referrals, understanding this concept is a cornerstone for success.

Notably, not all sales transactions require relationships or extensive communication. Consider online shopping, where the transaction is swift and often devoid of personal interactions. However, even retail giants like Wal-Mart, not typically associated with warm customer relations, emphasize the value of communication and relationships. Their employment of a visitor host to greet customers at store entrances underlines a strategic approach to fostering connections, albeit in a mass retail environment.

My friend, Sara Minnis, is a seasoned coach dedicated to helping sales professionals navigate the intricacies of rejection. She has dealt with a phobia many salespeople face within the sales process by coaching those who are afraid of being rejected by a prospect or customer. She says, “Sales ‘phobics’ might have an unrealistic fear of being rejected during cold calling, during the closing phase, or during a phone conversation.”

This, she suggests, is because the phobic salesperson tends to focus their communication on the emotional fit between themselves and the customer. She explains, “The real business of selling can’t begin until the sales phobic feels that the prospect likes him or her.” To avoid this, she says, “The professional seller directs their communication toward finding a fit between their product and the buyer’s need. Focusing on “being liked” only enhances fears of personal rejection, while attending to the customer’s needs drives the transaction toward a closed deal.”

Communication Builds Connections

Establishing strong relationships with clients gives sellers a competitive advantage, because clients who feel connected or bonded to the seller are more likely to engage in repeated transactions. Communication emerges as the single most important tool for forging this connection. The quality of communication becomes the linchpin upon which a strong, bonded relationship is built.

The art and science of communication extend beyond the mere exchange of words; it is more than simply talking and hearing. It encompasses a myriad of strategies and techniques aimed at earning the right to have your message heard, and to have it understood. A pivotal aspect of this is the ability to align your communication with the customer’s style rather than imposing your own. This strategic alignment sets the stage for masterful sales conversations, where the rapport is cultivated through an understanding of the customer’s preferences and communication patterns.

In the contemporary landscape, sales mastery has shifted towards a more consultative perspective. Many box retail stores have embraced this evolution by adopting the term “sales consultant” to describe roles that were once associated with traditional store clerks. Master sales consultants recognize that their ability to communicate effectively is critical to selling client solutions. Rapport and trust, the foundational elements of successful selling, are intricately woven into the fabric of communication. The successful sales professional understands that building and sustaining client relationships are contingent upon a consultative, communication-centric approach.

The profound wisdom in Peter Drucker’s words reverberates through the evolving tapestry of business networking and sales. The ability to decipher unspoken cues and recognize body language messages, coupled with a strategic and adaptable approach to communication, is the key to navigating successful salesmanship in today’s business landscape. As we move forward, the role of a sales consultant becomes more than a title; it reflects the evolving dynamics, where effective communication is the cornerstone of lasting success.




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Attitude of Gratitudestring(21) "Attitude of Gratitude"

I know that when some people hear the phrase “Attitude of Gratitude,” they often think, “Oh yeah, more new-age psychobabble. Where are the hard facts?”  Well, I agree that hard facts are important. To prove their importance, here are some reputable sources who argue convincingly about the positive impact of the science of gratitude.

The Benefits of Gratitude

  • Multiple studies, including one from Harvard Medical School, showed that people who express gratitude are “more optimistic and feel better about their lives.”
  • The Templeton Foundation conducted studies that showed that an “attitude of gratitude” can actually have a positive and “lasting effect on the brain.”
  • A paper published by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence concluded that “expressing gratitude completes [a] feeling of connection” with others (which I say is pretty important in building relationships).
  • Even neuroscientists argue that gratitude is effective. Paul Zak, professor at Claremont Graduate University, states that “the neuroscience shows that recognition has the largest effect on trust,” especially when it is tangible, unexpected, personal, and public.
  • UC Berkley conducted fMRI scans on individuals who wrote gratitude letters and compared them to the fMRI scans of people who did not. They found that the people who wrote gratitude letters had a greater activation in the medial prefrontal cortex than those who did not write the letters. The medial prefrontal cortex is, among other things, believed to be an area of the brain that triggers responses to nicotine, drugs and alcohol. In other words, showing gratitude is proven to be a healthy way of achieving a natural high.
  • Studies by the Cicero Group that were published in Forbes found that people who are on the receiving end of gratitude have a 33% increase in their innovation, a 22% increase in work results, and they stay with the organization longer than those who are in companies who do not have a practice of appreciating their people.

So much for psychobabble: Gratitude improves attitude, feelings of connection, and results. It is far more science than just a New Age trend.

The Gratitude Effect works when a person comes coming from a place of being grateful and acknowledging people along the way. This means that it is important to take time to notice all the good things that you may take for granted. Like so many other principles of success, it is simple, but not easy. That means this is a simple concept, however it is not an easy concept to apply regularly in your life. It’s not easy, because the easy thing is to notice what is wrong, what annoys you, what you don’t like, or the problems that you face.

Focus on Solutions

Over the years, I have learned that if you focus on problems, you will become a world-class expert at problems, and it is hard to show gratitude when you are obsessed with the problems around you. However, if you focus on solutions, you can become a world-class expert at solving problems. This process begins by recognizing what is right around us, right now. From that starting point we can be grateful for those elements. Additionally, we can begin to acknowledge those around us for the efforts they are making, both personally and professionally. The Gratitude Effect requires a life-long journey of developing our ability to be grateful.

Expressing gratitude completes the feeling of connection with others. Here is how you can start doing this today: We all have many people who have helped us during our lifetime; they are “in our story.” Have you acknowledged them? Have you thanked them? Have you recognized and shared the difference they have made for you?

I heard a story from a woman whose sixteen-year-old son had pretty much stopped going to school. His grades began to fail, and he started drinking alcohol. Worst of all, he was caught stealing a car and joy riding late at night. She told me that he was making some really poor life decisions and that she was beside herself with what to do.

She decided to send him to a leadership conference to see if that would help take his life in a new direction. At first, he said, “no” but around the holidays, he said that if this was that important to her, he “would do it for her.”

He attended the multi-day event and came home telling her that the event was amazing. He learned that people matter. Decisions matter. The people around you matter. She told me that one of the speaker’s at that event had a particularly large impact on the young man. Then she reached out to that speaker from the event and told him the story; she expressed her gratitude for the impact that his talk had on her son’s life. She told him, “You gave me my son back.” The speaker was so moved that he sent a video message to the young man telling him how grateful he was that he said something that the boy found helpful and that he was proud to be a small part of that. What’s more, the young man replied and told him a little about the life that he was now creating for himself.

This story reminds us that the Gratitude Effect doesn’t take much effort and it costs little or nothing. However, it makes an enormous difference in yourself and the people around you. When you acknowledge people in this way, people are drawn to you like a magnet. This accelerates the relationship-building process. As the story above shows, the Gratitude Effect can come full circle and then continue to spiral off in new, impactful directions. It is proven by science.




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Does Networking Work for Employees?string(35) "Does Networking Work for Employees?"

Yes, it does. Business networking is an important aspect of professional growth and success. Whether you are self-employed or you are a professional working within a larger organization as an employee, I believe it is worth the time and effort to find networking groups that can refer new business to you. If you currently work for someone, I suggest you take steps to persuade your employer that you will get business by working with these groups. The following story demonstrates the ways that networking can be beneficial to you.

The Bank Manager’s Triumph: A Networking Success Story

Several years ago, I met a bank manager who was diligently attempting to persuade his supervisor that participation in a BNI® chapter would yield substantial results for his branch. The supervisor reluctantly agreed to let him become a member on a trial basis. The bank manager began getting referrals soon after joining the group. After several months, a fellow member gave him a particularly good referral; it was a man who was disgruntled with the level of service at his current bank. The manager decided to visit the man at his company. The man told the bank manager that he felt he was not getting personal service from his bank. The manager assured him that his bank prided itself on service. He gave the man his personal mobile and his home phone number and told him that if there were ever a problem, he could be reached any time of day, at home or at work. The man thanked him for coming to his office and told him he would get back to him.  

Two days later, at exactly 9:00 a.m., the man was standing at the bank door with several savings and checkbooks in hand. The branch manager met him at the door and thanked him for coming to his branch. The man said he was impressed with the way he was handled by the manager and that he had decided to transfer his accounts to the manager’s bank. To the astonishment of the bank manager, the new customer handed over checking, savings, and money-market accounts totaling over $950,000! After everything was completed, the man told the manager how glad he was to be referred to him by their mutual friend.

News of the Referral Got Around

I first heard this story when my office, BNI Headquarters, started getting phone calls from every branch manager in Southern California, USA, who worked for that particular bank. Each of them wanted information about a local BNI chapter in their area. When the bank manager who got the $950,000 referral told his supervisor where he got the referral from, the supervisor (Remember him? He was the reluctant one.) called all his other branch managers and told them to join a local BNI chapter within the next two weeks. The transformative power of effective networking had not only boosted individual success, it had also become a catalyst for organizational change.

Lessons for Employees: Persuasion and Initiative

For those of you working as employees, the bank manager’s triumph offers valuable lessons – the biggest one is persuade your supervisor. Convincing supervisors of the merits of business networking is often the first hurdle. I spoke to an individual who was eager to join a networking group but faced continued resistance from his boss, who cited budget constraints and said the company would not pay for it. Undeterred, the savvy salesman proposed a compelling deal: he would personally fund the membership, and if he secured two referrals resulting in sales within the thirty days, the company would reimburse him. The boss said, “Sure, if you come in with two sales, I’ll see to it that the company pays for the membership.”

Highly motivated by the potential for success, the salesman closed three sales and was working on four more by the end of the first month. True to their agreement, the boss covered the initial membership cost and then paid for the renewal, acknowledging the tangible benefits derived from the salesman’s networking efforts. This story underscores the transformative impact that personal initiative and persuasive communication can have in creating a supportive environment within a company for networking.

Networking – A Cultural Shift

The bank manager’s success and the subsequent organizational response highlight the opportunity for a cultural shift within companies. The reluctance of the supervisor who was initially hesitant about the networking idea, transformed into proactive encouragement for all branch managers to join local BNI chapters. This shift reflects the recognition that networking is more than an individual pursuit; it can be a strategic advantage for the entire organization.

Creating a culture that values and promotes networking involves leadership buy-in, consistent communication, and the showcasing of tangible results. The success stories that emerge from individual networking efforts can serve as powerful tools to persuade employers of the broader benefits. Organizations that actively support and facilitate business networking initiatives are more likely to foster innovation, collaboration, and a heightened sense of community among employees.

Virtual Platforms and Global Reach

In today’s digital age, the landscape of networking has expanded beyond traditional face-to-face interactions. Virtual platforms and online communities provide avenues for connecting with professionals globally, transcending geographical boundaries. While in-person networking remains invaluable, the digital realm offers unique opportunities for expanding one’s network and accessing a diverse range of perspectives. Embracing this digital shift allows individuals and organizations to tap into global networking and business opportunities.

The Enduring Impact of Networking

The bank manager’s triumph serves as a testament to the enduring impact of strategic business networking. Whether you’re a self-employed professional seeking to carve your niche or an employee within a larger organization aiming to create a culture of collaboration, networking is an invaluable asset.

The lessons learned from the stories in this blog extend beyond individual success to encompass organizational growth and cultural transformation. By recognizing the potential of business networking, and actively pursuing professional relationships, individuals and companies alike can unlock doors to new referral opportunities. Whether you are self-employed or you work for someone else, I recommend that you start looking for networking groups that can refer new business to you.

How Great Leaders Communicate Their Visionstring(42) "How Great Leaders Communicate Their Vision"

Co-creation involves knowing how to collaborate in a way that gets the best out of your partners and yourself. In this excerpt from our new book, “The Third Paradigm: A Radical Shift to Greater Success,” my co-authors, Dr. Heidi Scott Giusto and Dawa Tarchin Phillips, and I explain how to gain buy-in and consensus as a leader and move projects forward despite any challenges that may arise.

Leaders as Vision Champions

The real-world application of any concept is critical if you want it to truly impact people and the company they work for. It takes a special type of leader to execute co-creation. Leading a co-creative process must begin by displaying a quiet confidence in everyone else’s abilities. Co-creative leaders are somewhat like conductors of a symphony. Their role is to unify the performers, set the tempo, and keep the orchestra playing in time and in sync. In effect, they are the vision champions. They maintain the big picture of the overriding objective while allowing everyone to add their unique contributions to the crowdsourced result.

As the world becomes ever more complex and interconnected, the traditional top-down approach to leadership is no longer effective. To create lasting change, leaders must learn to co-create with their teams by identifying team members’ strengths, creating a safe environment where everyone feels heard and respected, and leveraging their abilities to achieve collective success.

Leaders can hold the vision in many ways.

By Clarifying Expectations
Leaders must be clear about what they want to achieve and why it’s important. They must also be open to input from all team members. Only then can the team reach consensus and move forward together—and, as always, in alignment with the overarching vision.

By Leveraging Contextual Intelligence
Leaders must be able to adapt their plans and strategies when circumstances change. They must also be able to identify potential saboteurs and manage conflict effectively.

By Asking Questions
Leaders can derive great value from co-creative teams simply by asking good questions. When do we want to get this done? When do we want to make this decision? What is our ultimate goal for this project? What is stopping us from achieving this success? Routinely asking good questions has the effect of reinforcing consensus and ensuring a cohesive vision among all stakeholders.

By Leading from Behind—and with Guardrails
Sometimes leading a co-creative process can seem like your team is running on a field, and you are running behind them, hollering, just trying to keep them inside the boundaries. In fact, co-creation often means leading from behind. That ensures the leader can keep the big picture—the vision, the boundaries—in mind while everyone is working their way down the field. This approach also positions the leader to gather as much input and extract as much value as possible from each team member.

By Coaching and Cultivating
Leaders must relinquish control and focus instead on coaching others to perform at their best. By identifying each team member’s strengths, the leader can position them to contribute based on their individual talents.

By Communicating
Clear and effective communication is necessary among all stakeholders for co-creation projects to succeed. We believe in the communication saturation approach that Richard modeled in our co-creation story.

Positioning the leader as the vision holder in a co-creative process also helps destroy the old model of command and control—of lead, follow, or get out of my way—and helps everyone embrace this 3rd Paradigm.

Above all else, the leader must be an example for others to follow. They must be open-minded, respectful, professional, nonjudgmental, humble, transparent, and appreciative. More than that, their actions must embody the project’s vision—the mutually desired outcome. Otherwise, they will drag the entire process down. Our open-ended survey of over 4,000 business professionals contained an astounding 1,945 mentions of the word “leader” when discussing the benefits and drawbacks of co-creation. And these responses were NOT to questions about leadership.
Strong leaders are crucial to a successful co-creative process.

Barriers to Execution

Even when leaders are committed to holding the vision throughout co-creation, internal barriers can emerge—emotional and psychological ones—that can crop up and cause problems for you. If you are leading a co-creative process, be wary of the following issues.

Procrastination – Co-creation is a dynamic and sometimes messy process. Kicking the can down the road only ensures co-creation won’t happen. Don’t succumb to the impulse to put things off.

Lack of transparency – Execution of co-creation must be transparent. Co-creation will fail if you are not transparent with all stakeholders.

Denial and/or avoidance – Denying there is a problem, miscommunication, or any other issue almost guarantees poor morale. Trying to avoid dealing with a problem only creates more problems.

Perfectionism – LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman has said, “If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” If you demand perfection from your team, the co-creative project will almost certainly fail. Always strive for further improvement, but never let imperfections restrict the co-creative process.

Lack of humility – Humble people don’t think less of themselves, they just think of themselves less. The lack of humility can be a problem for co-creation because it can lead to individuals prioritizing their own ideas and perspectives over those of others, hindering collaboration and stifling creativity. Additionally, a lack of humility can create a competitive and confrontational atmosphere, which can ultimately impede progress toward the shared goal.

Leaders must not only hold the vision of the co-creative project, but they must also hold themselves accountable. Recognizing and dealing with these barriers is a good place to start.

 When you become a leader who can effectively communicate your vision to your team, you expand your leadership capacity by learning how to gain buy-in and consensus and move projects forward despite any challenges that may arise.

Businesses Need an Edge for Successstring(35) "Businesses Need an Edge for Success"

As we go through economic cycles, businesses face constant challenges. Statistics indicate that more than 50 percent of all ventures close their doors within seven years, and during recessions, the rate of failure rises dramatically. To thrive in such an environment, successful businesses need an edge over their competition.

While many rely on advertising to gain an advantage, simply offering the same products or services in the same way as competitors rarely leads to differentiation. The key to success lies in creativity, especially in marketing strategies. Today’s thriving companies and professional practices understand that creativity is a fundamental pillar in standing out from the crowd.

A story exemplifying creative ingenuity features three store owners with adjacent storefronts in the same building. Faced with tough times, the first store owner put up a sign proclaiming, “YEAR-END CLEARANCE!!!” in hopes of attracting sales. The second owner, attempting to compete, countered with his own sign, “ANNUAL CLOSE-OUT.” However, it was the third store owner, situated in the middle, who realized the importance of a swift response. He placed a larger sign over his front door that said, “MAIN ENTRANCE.”

The tale underscores a crucial lesson: businesses cannot control the economy or the actions of competitors, but they can control their own responses to these challenges. Embracing creativity enables them to navigate turbulent times and carve out a unique position in the market.

The Significance of Creativity in Marketing

In the competitive modern landscape, relying solely on traditional marketing methods may not suffice. Because consumers are bombarded by advertisements from a variety of sources, creativity is the key to capturing attention and making a lasting impression. Creative marketing campaigns can leverage humor, emotional appeal, storytelling, and/or innovative visuals to engage audiences and foster brand loyalty.

Understanding Customer Needs

Creativity in business involves a deep understanding of customer needs. By conducting thorough market research and listening to customer feedback, businesses can identify pain points and tailor their offerings accordingly. Addressing unique client needs creates a competitive advantage that sets a business apart from others in the industry.

Niche Marketing and Targeted Strategies

Rather than trying to appeal to a broad audience, many successful businesses embrace niche marketing. Identifying a specific target audience and catering to their preferences allows for more focused and impactful marketing efforts. Targeted strategies ensure that the message resonates with the right people, increasing the likelihood of conversion and customer loyalty.

Innovation and Adaptability

Innovation goes hand in hand with creativity, as businesses need to continuously explore new ideas and adapt to changing market demands. Stagnation can lead to obsolescence. Forward-thinking companies that embrace change are more likely to thrive in any economic environment.

Building a Unique Brand Identity

A well-crafted brand identity plays a crucial role in standing out from competitors. Creativity in branding involves defining a compelling brand story, designing eye-catching visuals, and establishing a consistent brand voice. A strong brand identity instills trust, fosters client loyalty, and creates a lasting impression in the minds of consumers.

Embracing Digital Marketing

With the digital revolution, businesses have a plethora of creative tools and platforms at their disposal. Social media, content marketing, influencer partnerships, and interactive experiences provide innovative ways to connect with audiences and create a memorable brand presence.

Networking and Collaboration

Creativity also extends beyond marketing strategies to business partnerships and collaborations. Networking with other professionals and businesses can lead to mutually beneficial opportunities, expanding reach and resources in unique ways.

Creativity is the driving force behind gaining a competitive edge in the ever-changing business landscape. Successful professionals recognize the importance of creativity in all aspects of their business. By embracing creativity and responding creatively to challenges, businesses can position themselves for sustained success and weather economic fluctuations with resilience.

In a world where constant adaptation is essential, creativity emerges as the key differentiator that allows businesses to leave an indelible mark in their industries. It gives them an edge that can significantly impact their success.

4 Key Things You Need to Know About Your Business to Truly Succeedstring(66) "4 Key Things You Need to Know About Your Business to Truly Succeed"

Co-creation is a process in which several parties come together to produce goods or outcomes that serve a common goal. In our new book, “The Third Paradigm: A Radical Shift to Greater Success”, Dr. Heidi Scott Giusto, Dawa Tarchin Phillips and I outline five types of co-creation that can result in success for businesses. But before you begin collaborating with outside companies and individuals, we stress that it is vitally important that you have a solid understanding of your own operation. We call these pillars “The Four Knows” and in this excerpt from the book, we explain why each is so critical to success.

The Four Knows

No matter which of the five types of co-creation you use, you will need to have all four of the following in place to succeed:

Know the Right Focus
Know the Right Process
Know the Right Communication
Know the Right Execution

The Right Focus: Establish Mutually Desired Outcomes

Everyone involved in co-creation needs to be rowing in unison and in the same direction. This means everyone must be focused on a mutually desired outcome. Disaster strikes when people fail to work together. We conducted a survey of 4,200 business professionals, and one respondent shared how ineffective teamwork derailed their leaders’ attempt to market an event: “We had not been able to communicate the WHY to them or get their views to make the event a part of the entire team.”

Focusing on the mutually desired outcome requires that all team members have a shared “why.” Co-creation leaders can guide their teams through a series of questions that will help them work together efficiently, effectively, and creatively, even if they are composed of diverse stakeholders.

This process will help identify their right focus. The outcome cannot be vaguely defined—it must be clear. When it is, the co-creation stakeholders will have the necessary shared purpose and intention. Once the mutually desired outcome is established, teams can accomplish the unthinkable. One survey respondent shared this sentiment: “If the right people, with the same goals, lifting, encouraging, and working together with the same commitment to achieve TOGETHER are in place, wonders can happen.”

The Right Process: Implement a Framework

Identifying the right process for a co-creation project ensures stakeholders can work efficiently and effectively. It is not enough to have a team that is committed to a mutually desired outcome. Without an underlying process guiding the mission, frustrations will mount, and the project will become mired in problems.

The process of choosing a framework begins by selecting from the five types of co-creation we previously introduced (think tank/brainstorm, crowdsource, open source, mass customization, and user-generated content).

Once the co-creation leaders determine the right type, additional pragmatic considerations will provide the overarching framework and process. These include determining clear roles and responsibilities for team members, developing an accountability system, defining the situational context of the co-creation project, and mitigating unconscious bias.

Some survey respondents attested to the importance of having the right process: “All persons working on a project should be specifically responsible and accountable to some extent. All persons should be required to provide input.” Others remarked on the importance of having “a good framework for growth in place” and the “need to be clear on the set tasks, with deadlines and people being responsible to either follow up with them or track the process.” Defining the process can be at a granular level, such as one respondent who shared, “We used to have daily review meetings on the product development, so it helped us to have a close watch on the development process.” Another recommended to “hold each member accountable for their piece of the process. Make sure the pieces fit moving into the next phase. Avoid backstepping.”

The Right Communication: Ensure Open Communication

Open communication is crucial to successful co-creation. This must span employees, customers, vendors, and all of a company’s other stakeholders. Without clear communication, co-creation will fail, even if everyone involved is passionate and fully engaged in the project. Many survey respondents underscored the importance of having the right communication:

“Communication is vital.”

“I cannot say this enough: The better the communication you have with the people who work for you, the more successful your company will be.”

“In companies where ideas are freely shared, a tremendous amount of growth happens. I have been at companies where the people in charge did not want to hear any ideas that weren’t their own, so no growth happens there.”

“[Co-creation] needs a lot of clear communication at every stage for the idea to develop properly.”

“The larger the organization, the more there is a lack of communication about strategy and goals, which results in having no direction.”

One of our more memorable respondents wrote, “EVERYONE MUST BE SINGING OFF THE SAME SHEET OF MUSIC!!!!!” Indeed, a chorus full of enthusiastic singers each giving it their all will have a miserable time if everyone isn’t performing the same song.

The Right Execution: Ensure Knowledgeable Leadership

Even with everything else in place—the right focus, the right process, and the right communication—all will be for naught if an organization lacks the right execution. Leaders of co-creation must lay the groundwork for successful empowerment and execution. With this final Know, leaders must have a clear plan and capably execute it while empowering stakeholders.

The entire process is at stake if the co-creative initiative falls short on execution. One survey respondent quipped, “Just a joke from my university days: When I die, I’d like the people I did group projects with to lower me into my grave, so they can let me down one last time.” With the right execution, stakeholder morale soars; without it, disappointment abounds.

Anyone who wants to implement co-creation in their organization must understand each of the four Knows and its interdependency with the other three Knows. Co-creation will only succeed if all four of these key things are in place and functioning effectively. Once you master the Four Knows, you will be well on your way to successful co-creating.

Co-Creation Can Boost Creativity, Community and Sales for Your Business. So What Is It?string(87) "Co-Creation Can Boost Creativity, Community and Sales for Your Business. So What Is It?"

There is no aspect of your business that cannot be improved upon with the help of co-creation. Co-creation is a big step further than mere cooperation. As my co-authors Dr. Heidi Scott Giusto, Dawa Tarchin Phillips, and I write in our new book, “The 3rd Paradigm”: “It is about bringing different parties together to actually produce, improve, or customize a product or service, based on a mutually desired outcome.”

In this excerpt for the book, we break down the five types of co-creation, and what each of them brings to the table for like-minded entrepreneurs and business owners.

Five Types of Co-Creation

Co-creation is unlike earlier business models, the latter of which business professors C.K. Prahalad and Venkatram Ramaswamy compared to traditional theater in a 2000 Harvard Business Review article:

Business competition used to be a lot like traditional theater: Onstage, the actors had clearly defined roles, and the customers paid for their tickets, sat back, and watched passively. In business, companies, distributors, and suppliers understood and adhered to their well-defined roles in a corporate relationship. Now the scene has changed, and business seems more like the experimental theater…; everyone and anyone can be part of the action.

This is part of what makes co-creation so attractive: It is always a joint process. The group of people working together on a solution and the involvement of other stakeholders determines the form of co-creation you can or want to engage in.

And like all frameworks, co-creation comes with its own set of limitations and challenges you should be aware of. The drawbacks mentioned most often in our survey are personality conflicts and dealing with egos— not unusual problems when there are multiple cooks in the kitchen.

The Board of Innovation, a global innovation firm, also points to six barriers that arise, particularly in B2B contexts: cost, time, resources, capacity, creativity, and fear of change. Co-creation has immense potential but also risks. Choosing the right type of co-creation for your business is a crucial step to mitigate challenges.

Here we highlight five types, or frameworks, of co-creation. They can be likened to five different paths, which can all lead you to your destination. Which road you choose depends on which path you consider the most suitable for your journey.

Some types of co-creation are more popular and thus more familiar to the average person than others. Many types of co-creation happen in plain sight, but unless you are trained to perceive co-creation in action, it might look very similar to a traditional business model. In fact, it is radically different.

Learn About the Five Types

Here are the five types:

Think tank/brainstorm: A group or company brings together a consortium of people, experts, suppliers, and/or partners to develop a new solution, product, or service. In some instances, this even results in customers handling part of the “production” (e.g., flat pack furniture that customers transport and assemble themselves, self-scanning systems in supermarkets, and self-serve ticket counters at airports).

Crowdsource: A large group of people (often volunteers) co-create (often for free) a product or service by using web-based creative tools. (e.g., Wikipedia, Kickstarter). This type of co-creation can lead to an increased quality of creativity, which was also one of the benefits mentioned in our survey.

Open source: A group or company invites a large group of internal and external experts to tackle its innovation challenge or contribute to its data pool (e.g., Center for Open Science and ResearchGate). This can lead to what many participants in our survey described as a shared sense of ownership and shared resources.

Mass customization: A group or company mass-produces products that have been individually tailored to the customer’s wishes. (e.g., a T-shirt printed with your own photo, personalized Vans shoes, or customized luggage). Many participants in our survey of several thousand entrepreneurs mentioned the diversity of ideas as a major benefit of co-creation.

User-generated content: A group or company uses knowledge and content that is made public by people (e.g., posted online). There are all kinds of web tools to help you find very quickly information that others have posted online (e.g., customer feedback on blogs and forums, YouTube videos, and social media platforms). This is another great example of gaining access to shared resources, which many in our survey listed as one of the advantages of co-creation.

Two Buckets

You can also group these five types of co-creation into just two different buckets:

According to what role the group or company plays in the process: This is about who steers the process. Is it the individual consumer, or the company?

According to the kind of value created: This is about whether your value is a standardized value that all customers can enjoy (co-creating a better product or service), or a personalized value individually tailored to each customer (co-creating a personalized product or service).

Co-creation, following the five types above, is about making something better or making something unique. If unique is the value proposition, even average products can find market success because they tap into the value of co-creation. If it is making something better, even average products can still find market success by being improved with the help of customers and consumers.

That is why co-creation is continuing to rise in popularity among new and established businesses alike. What type of co-creation would work for you and your company?

As you can see, co-creation can unlock additional value in your value creation chain and make that value available for your and others’ success. Wouldn’t it be great if you could optimize the value you provide because you trust and engage with others, rather than keeping your value generation tied to an outdated model? Wouldn’t it be meaningful to elevate your relationships and engage the talents, knowledge, and skills of those who care the most about what you do—your customers and the consumers and stakeholders of your products and services?

There is no aspect of your business that cannot be touched and improved upon with the help of co-creation. Every part of every business can benefit from unlocking and harnessing the power of co-creation to identify the value yet to be discovered, unleashed, and scaled. Every business could achieve greater success by embracing the co-creation process and expanding the trust and investment it can generate among customers, consumers, and stakeholders alike.

It’s No Longer About Competition or Cooperation. This Is the New Force That Is Driving Business Success.string(110) "It’s No Longer About Competition or Cooperation. This Is the New Force That Is Driving Business Success."

Imagine a world where you can tackle the greatest, most challenging problems with a proven approach that leads to unmatched success. That is the premise and the promise of The Third Paradigm: A Radical Shift to Greater Successthe new book I co-wrote with Dr. Heidi Scott Giusto and Dawa Tarchin Phillips. In the following excerpt, we discuss the state of the relationships between businesses with their competitors, their customers, and their internal teams.

We live in an age of sweeping conflict, widespread skepticism, and intense anxiety. Contention feels pervasive. Balanced discourse is a thing of the past, and pundits constantly tell us what’s wrong with society. People complain like it’s an Olympic event, and gurus in the marketplace obsess over the massive problems they see in the world. Negativity seems to be the norm.

However, we believe there is hope. There is an answer, and it starts with focusing on the solutions. When people focus on problems, they become world-class experts on “the problem.” When they focus on solutions, they can become world-class experts on “the solution.” We believe “the solution” to today’s massive challenges lie within the 3rd Paradigm.

As a reference point, a paradigm is a philosophical framework or discipline within which theories and laws are formulated. We believe we are entering the era of the 3rd Paradigm. Let us take you on a short journey through what we define as the three paradigms of the modern era.

The 1st Paradigm

The 1st Paradigm is the era of competition. This paradigm was formulated within the framework of the laws of production by early pioneers of business thinking. Formal theories of management began to be developed in the late 1800s by experts like Frederick Taylor, Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, Max Weber, and others who focused on issues like workflow, economic efficiency, and labor productivity. This was the era of “scientific management,” which was the beginning of business theory. Scientific management’s focus on production led directly to the 1st Paradigm’s emphasis on competition.

The 1st Paradigm was so focused on productivity and competition that it failed to account for the needs of the people in the workforce. Competition was about gaining something by defeating your rivals or establishing superiority over them. It meant having a winner and a loser. The impact this had on individuals was generally minimized—unless it had an impact on productivity.

Can you imagine living in this production-oriented, competitive model today? Sixty-hour workweeks would be the norm, there would be few—if any—breaks, you’d be expected to work during much of your current lunchtime, safety regulations would be nonexistent, and children might be working right next to you in a factory. In most “developed” nations, that now seems inconceivable, but in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was common throughout the world. In those countries where employees are still required to work extreme hours, it can easily lead to burnout, stress, and dissatisfaction in the workplace.

You might even be working in an environment like this right now. Did you find yourself nodding your head when you read about routinely working 60-hour weeks, eating lunch quickly—or even at your desk— and feeling stressed and burned out? If so, your company might be stuck in the 1st Paradigm, so focused on “getting ahead” of the competition that workers like yourself are left behind. If so, know there is a better way to do business.

The 2nd Paradigm

The 2nd Paradigm is the era of cooperation. This paradigm evolved over time as people learned that a strictly production-oriented approach did not take into account the interaction of the people involved in the process. This era was about two or more people working together toward shared goals. The focus on acting together for a common purpose started to evolve in the 1960s.

Around this time, MIT management professor Douglas McGregor published his groundbreaking book The Human Side of Enterprise (1960), which introduced the concepts of Theory X and Theory Y. His framework highlights the motivating role of job satisfaction and argues that people can do their work without constant direct supervision. McGregor insisted that people are one of the most valuable assets for driving organizational success and that success comes from people being highly engaged in the process, with management recognizing employee contributions. His theory further focused on the motivating role of job satisfaction for individuals in the workplace.

We may be puzzled by this because these ideas seem so obvious now, but they weren’t at the start of the 2nd Paradigm. This was, in fact, revolutionary management thinking in its day.

During the time of the 2nd Paradigm, management consultant Peter Drucker developed the MBO process (Management by Objective), whereby managers and employees could identify common goals, define their areas of responsibility, and determine measures to guide the contributions of each individual. These and other advancements led to forms of collaborative project management, which enabled teams of people to collaborate across departmental, corporate, and national boundaries to achieve organizational objectives.

Today’s organizations are much more collaborative. Old command-and-control methods have largely been replaced by much more openness and transparency than during the 1st Paradigm. Cooperation focused on better communication and compromise.

The collaborative approach used in large companies has trickled down to small and medium-sized businesses as well. In a 2012 study entitled “Punching Above Their Weight,” published in the Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, it was found that the vast majority of small businesses (almost 78 percent) were very open to collaboration as a way of developing their operation.

While the collaborative model was a massive improvement from the strictly competitive, production-oriented model, it was still lacking the full potential that the human experience can bring. In the 1980s, John Naisbitt wrote in his groundbreaking book, Megatrends, that humanity is moving toward a “high-tech, high-touch” society, saying that the more technologically advanced we become, the more important it is to become highly connected to people. Advances in management theory and technology have been leading society toward the next paradigm. It’s important to note, however, that the transition from one paradigm to another doesn’t happen overnight. They emerge by evolving over time.

The 3rd Paradigm

The 3rd Paradigm is the era of co-creation. This concept begins where cooperation leaves off. The difference between cooperation and co-creation is the difference between working together and creating together. You may collaborate on a project, but you co-create products and services. Co-creation is a significant step beyond cooperation. It is about bringing different parties together to actually produce, improve, or customize a product or service, based on a mutually desired outcome. We define co-creation as creating value through a joint effort, typically involving both internal and external stakeholders.

While some scholars recognized the theory of co-creation in the late 20th century, it was in the 21st century that the internet brought the concept to the forefront. Crowdsourcing has become a critical tool for engagement. Waze, the navigation app, used by millions of people is a good example of this concept. The widespread application of digital technology has made customer empowerment a must.

Society is rapidly moving from a passive to a more participatory consumer culture. Co-creation plays a key role in this, since today’s consumers want a say in creating new products and services or improving existing ones. In their 2000 article in the Harvard Business Review, “Co-opting Customer Competence,” C.K. Prahalad and Venkatram Ramaswamy make the distinction that from approximately the year 2000 and beyond, customers transitioned from being a passive audience to being active players—becoming “co-creators as well as consumers of value.” In this age of co-creation, consumers want to work together with their favorite brands to ensure that products and services are adapted to meet their needs. In addition, many want to make sure there is a social cause related to the brand. Organizations engage in co-creation because they wish to foster the buy-in of stakeholder interest and increase value through innovation. People tend to genuinely care about what they create.

I invite you to learn more about co-creation in The Third Paradigm and how it can help drive your business success, too.

Unlock Networking Success by Mastering Approachabilitystring(54) "Unlock Networking Success by Mastering Approachability"

Have you ever found yourself at a networking event, feeling awkward and isolated, watching others engage in lively conversations while you stand alone wondering what’s wrong? You’ve dressed the part, you’re in the room, yet people don’t seem to be lining up to speak with you. If this scenario sounds all too familiar, it might be time to consider whether your approachability is the issue.

In the world of business networking, being approachable is a game-changer. Your body language and behavior can make the difference between someone viewing you as a potential referral partner or just another face in the crowd. You may not realize that you are the one getting in your own way when it comes to meeting new people and kindling business relationships. To succeed in networking, you must ask yourself a critical question: Am I approachable or alienating?

The Power of Approachability

Approachability is the quality that makes people feel comfortable approaching you and engaging in conversations. It’s the secret sauce of networking that encourages others to connect with you. To become a master networker, you must assess whether you exude approachability or radiate alienation.

Behaviors of an Approachable Networker

Positive Attitude
Approachable individuals maintain a positive and pleasant attitude. They smile, laugh, and create an atmosphere that invites interaction. It may sound simple, but your demeanor speaks volumes. Many people don’t realize they are frowning, or that they look bored during a conversation. Try it – look in the mirror and observe how your facial expressions transform when you frown versus when you smile.

Open Body Language
In my book “Networking Like a Pro – Second Edition,” I discussed the concept of positioning during conversations. Instead of engaging in one-to-one conversations with closed-off body language, approachable networkers stand in ‘Open 2’ and ‘Open 3’ positions to ensure their stance allows for others to easily join in. They create an environment that welcomes new connections.

Approachable individuals are consistent in their actions and words. They live by their values and demonstrate authenticity. In networking, authenticity is a prized asset, as people can easily detect inconsistencies and insincerity. At networking events, conduct yourself as if every person you meet is the host of that particular event. If you were at someone’s party, you would want to make them feel good about themselves and the party, right? Make it a point to consistently engage others in conversation by being genuinely interested in them and their business.

Alienating Behaviors to Avoid

Negative Attitude
Constantly talking about personal or professional hardships can repel potential referral partners. Leave your problems at the door of networking events. If you’re always complaining or focusing on the negative aspects of life, you’re going to turn people off. Networking is an opportunity to create positive connections, not to bring others down with your grievances.

Closed-Off Body Language

Alienating individuals exhibit body language that discourages interaction. A scowl on your face or having your arms crossed over your chest can deter others from approaching you. Open and welcoming postures are essential. Put away your phone, too; being engrossed in a call or text is a sure way to miss out on a conversation with someone in the same room.

Lack of consistency between your words and your actions can erode trust and credibility. For example, if you are reiterating how much you value kindness in others and then speak poorly to a server or the event host, your potential referral partner may be skeptical of your sincerity and dependability. If you say one thing and do another, people may perceive you as insincere and unreliable.

Take Action for Improvement

To enhance your approachability and shed alienating behaviors, consider these practical steps.

Attitude Adjustment
When you are getting ready to go to a networking event, choose your attitude ahead of time just like you choose what to wear. Focus on maintaining a positive attitude and leave personal problems behind when attending networking events. Approach each gathering with a welcoming demeanor.

Body Language Awareness
Pay attention to your posture and facial expressions. Put a smile on your face and position yourself in an open and inclusive manner. Maintain eye contact with others, especially during conversation. Avoid behaviors that convey disinterest such as fidgeting, looking at your phone or around the room, and yawning.

Ensure that your actions align with your words… all the time. Stay authentic and consistent in your interactions by showcasing your true self when networking. Strive to be interested more than interesting during conversations. Remember, a good networker has two ears and one mouth and uses them proportionately.

The Compound Effect of Approachability

In networking, as in life, the little things add up. Approachability is a skill that can be cultivated. Don’t assume that because some of the suggestions mentioned above are simple and easy to understand that you don’t need to practice them. I recommend you practice them on a weekly basis because repetition produces results. Incorporate these strategies into your business networking efforts to create an inviting and welcoming presence.

If you’re not sure whether you’re projecting approachability or alienation, consider bringing a trusted friend or referral partner to your next networking event. Observe each other’s body language, tone of voice, and words. Afterward, engage in constructive feedback with the intention of helping each other become better referral partners.

Approachability is a critical factor that significantly influences your networking success. Networking isn’t merely about meeting people; it is also about how you make others feel when they meet you. It is about forming meaningful business relationships. Being approachable is the key to forging those connections.

Approachability isn’t a one-time achievement; it is an ongoing, lifelong practice. By mastering this trait, you can transform yourself from a wallflower into a magnet for meaningful connections. As you venture into the world of networking, remember that success is not only about the number of people you meet but also about the quality of relationships you build. Learn how to be someone who is easy to approach so you can navigate business networking events with ease and watch your connections grow.

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