Leadership Strategies for Effective Communicationstring(49) "Leadership Strategies for Effective Communication"

I was interviewed by Karen Mangia for Medium.com as part of the series called “Can You Hear Me Now?: Top Five Strategies Leaders Use to Diminish Distractions & Win in the Attention Economy.” This is fourth and final excerpt from that interview.


What advice would you offer to other leaders who are struggling to have their messages heard and actioned?


The communication saturation and barking dogs strategy are key to getting a message out there.

“Barking dogs” are people who have opinions that you may or may not want to hear, and they will be barking outside the room if you don’t let them into the room. It takes a strong leader to handle the barking dogs but that’s what it takes to have good communication.

Also, it helps if you lean on the healthy core values of the company or organization. An effective leader needs to be the core value champion. Use the core values as part of the communication strategy.


Leading a remote, distributed team requires a different communication cadence and style from leading a team in person. What are five strategies any leader can deploy to improve communication and clarity when leading a distributed workforce?


While not five “strategies” exactly, I do believe that the “Four Knows” that lead to Co-Creation encompass all we need as leaders for clear and effective communication.

1.First is Focus.

These are the seven things to consider:

Mutually Desired Outcomes

The who, what, where, when, why, and how

It’s more than the “what”

Who — stakeholders

Why — what is the reason or reasons

Most important is the “how”

Commit to measurable outcomes

2.Second is Communication.

Those key points are:

Everyone speaks — we all have a unique perspective

Everyone respects

Everyone is patient

Everyone is honest

Everyone is transparent

Everyone builds trust

Everyone commits 100%

3.Third is Process.

Determine the co-creation structure you plan on using: Think tank, crowdsource, open source, or user generated.

Establish governance

Have clear roles and responsibilities

Deliver predictable results

4.Fourth is Execution.

Clarify expectations

Leverage contextual intelligence

Ask questions

Lead from behind — with guardrails

Coach and cultivate


What are the three most effective strategies to diminish distractions when there is so much competing for attention?


The first is certainly to be sure your team knows that you aren’t just listening to them, but you are HEARING them as well. When people feel like they are being heard, they will pay attention when you need them to be focused.

Communicate clearly to your team that they need to “hold the vision, not the obstacles.”  Obstacles tend to be the biggest distractions. The bigger the obstacle, the bigger the distraction. If you get your team to focus on the vision, they tend to find workarounds for the distractions.

The best way to get people to focus on the vision is a concept I talk about in The 3rd Paradigm — that is “Communication Saturation.” When the leader saturates the team with relevant information (including a focus on the overall vision), it definitely helps to pull people away from distractions.


What is one skill you would advise every leader to invest in to become a better communicator?


The ONE skill that every leader should have to be a better communicator is to know that… there is NO one skill. It is always a recipe of factors. It’s like a great meal — one ingredient does not make a great dinner. It is a recipe that includes several things. For communication it includes things like being clear and transparent as well as practicing active listening, holding the vision, and communication saturation,


You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.


Others would have to say whether I have achieved this concept or not, but I feel that is exactly what I have done. BNI now has over 11,100 groups meeting in 77 countries around the world every week. More importantly, in the last 12 months (as of this blog’s publication date), the organization has generated $22.9 Billion US Dollars in business for our members (based on what they report via our online platform). If you take the UN estimates of Gross Domestic Product, there are over 100 countries in the world with a LOWER GDP than what BNI members generated for themselves in the preceding 12 months. That feels like a fairly effective movement to me.




Related Blog Posts:

A Memorable Career Moment

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Karen Mangia…


An Unexpected Twist in My Career

I was interviewed by Karen Mangia for Medium.com …


Communication Skills for Leadersstring(32) "Communication Skills for Leaders"

I was interviewed by Karen Mangia for Medium.com as part of the series called “Can You Hear Me Now?: Top Five Strategies Leaders Use to Diminish Distractions & Win in the Attention Economy.” This is third of four excerpts from that interview.


According to a recent Harvard Business School study, the most essential communication skill for leaders is the ability to adapt their communication style. How do you adapt your communication style?


The first step to adapting your communication style is to have good “contextual intelligence.” Good leaders are good facilitators. They understand the context of the situation. A leader understands the limits of their knowledge and adapts that knowledge to an environment different from the one in which it was developed.

Do not lead with a cookie-cutter approach. You can’t treat all situations or people exactly the same.

It is important for leaders to develop contextual intelligence to deal with challenges. This is the ability to adapt to the current situation. We can never conceive of all the potential problems in any given situation. This means that one’s ability to adapt is truly an important key to being a great leader. Do your best to understand the landscape and adapt.

However, you cannot plan for every unexpected situation. Sometimes, “what cannot go wrong will go wrong” which means you need to have a plan in place to address surprises that might hit you along the way.


Clarity is critical as well. What lessons have you learned about how to communicate with clarity in our distracted world of work?


Communication is an important part of my book, The 3rd Paradigm. In order for it to be effective, the leader must have seven rules:

  1. Everyone speaks — we all have a unique perspective
  2.  Everyone respects
  3.  Everyone is patient
  4. Everyone is honest
  5. Everyone is transparent
  6. Everyone builds trust
  7. Everyone commits 100%

Whenever I was dealing with a crisis, I practiced what I call “communication saturation.” I would saturate the organization with all the information possible to show transparency and to make sure everyone was being informed.

Secondly, and this one is difficult — bring the “barking dogs” into the conversation. These are people who have opinions that you may or may not want to hear and they will be barking outside the room if you don’t let them into the room. It takes a strong leader to handle the barking dogs but that’s what it takes to have good communication.

Karen: We often discover what works by experiencing what doesn’t. Tell us about a time when your communication didn’t lead to the desired results and what you learned from the experience.

From The 3rd Paradigm, we found seven problems relating to working together as a team:

– Personality conflicts
– Dealing with egos
– Poor communication
– People who don’t pull their weight
– Lack of agreement on who makes the final decision
– Individuals hijacking the direction of the project
– Nonaligned vision for the project

The more prepared the leader can be to address these issues using their contextual intelligence and adaptive capacity — the more successful they will be.




Related Blog Posts:

A Memorable Career Moment

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Karen Mangia…


An Unexpected Twist in My Career

I was interviewed by Karen Mangia for Medium.com …


The One Rule to Happinessstring(25) "The One Rule to Happiness"

Would you like to know the “One Rule to Happiness?” Here it is… there is no “one rule!”  It’s a recipe, a combination of things that help you achieve the life you desire. There is, however, one truth and that truth is that the quality of your life depends on the people in your life.  

Imagine that you live your life in one room and that one room has only one door. Now imagine that this door is an “Entrance Only” door, “No Exit!”  Whoever comes through this door will be in your room and your life – forever! They can never get out.

Luckily, this is a metaphor but let’s assume for a moment it was true. If so, would you be more selective about the people that you let into your life? Everyone I’ve ever talked to has said, “oh yea, definitely!”

So, the question then is – why aren’t we more selective? In fact, I would argue that the “Room Principle” is more than a metaphor. Think for a moment about someone who was once in your life, but they are no longer part of your life. Think of their name. Remember how they created chaos in your life. Maybe they were angry or toxic or just difficult to be around. Take a moment – do you have someone in mind?

Well, if they’re still in your head – they’re still in your in your room because every decision you make in the future will be based in part on the past experiences you had with this person. Neuroscientist, Dr. Daniel Amen, says; “that significant input that is received in your brain triggers neural activity that cannot simply be erased.” In other words, their fingerprints are all over your brain.

The Doorkeeper

This means that if you want to create your best life, you need to learn how to screen entry into your room. For this, I recommend the “Doorkeeper Principle.” The Doorkeeper guards entry into your room and your life. This is your conscious and subconscious mind. It is a process of thought and feelings to help you determine whether your door should remain closed or be opened to allow someone entry into your life.

The first thing you need to do is train your Doorkeeper on your values. This is important because you want to allow people into your room who have values that are resonant with yours. They don’t have to be the same values, but they can’t be dissonant or incongruent with yours. When I ask people to name their top 5-7 values, you can generally hear crickets so here’s a great technique to begin the training: start with your “deal-breakers.” These are the behaviors that are incongruent with yours. These are the things that you refuse to allow into your room and into your life starting now. They may be things like being toxic, exhibiting excess drama, not being truthful, not being positive.  They are the things that you just can’t stand to be around. When you start understanding these, it’s easier to move towards the things you do want around you. If you want to begin this process, go to a site on the internet that will help you to determine the values that you want to live your life by.

Understanding your values and training your Doorkeeper will help you screen all the future people who try to gain entry into your room, but what do you do with some of the negative or toxic people that are already there?

Two Techniques to Use

Here are two great techniques to use. First, is “Benign Neglect.” This is where you gradually reduce contact and interaction with someone. Assuming that you don’t want to burn bridges, but you do want to remove yourself from the relationship, a gradual dis-entanglement over a period of time is very effective. This works even when you don’t want it to. Think about someone you really did like but that you lost touch with over the years. This generally happens through unplanned benign neglect. Now, imagine achieving this with a plan.

The second way to help you address people in your room you wish you hadn’t allowed entry to is through “Homeopathic Doses.” A homeopathic dose is the minimum dose necessary to treat a problem. In this case, it’s about dealing with people in your room by structuring your interaction with them in very small doses.

Other people have power over your happiness only if you let them. Don’t let them. Instead, curate the life of your dreams.

My Fourth Annual Founder’s Day Eventstring(38) "My Fourth Annual Founder’s Day Event"

In 2021, I announced that I was beginning a new tradition called “Founder’s Day” which is a day where I meet with BNI® members from around the world in exclusive one-to-one meetings. This is possible because of the technological innovations that allow us to conveniently have global video conversations from the comfort of our own home or office, which fits in very well with our BNI Core Value of Traditions + Innovation.

The Founder’s Day idea came from of my favorite television shows called West Wing, which talked about the “Big Block of Cheese” concept in one of the episodesThe story goes that in 1835, the U.S. President, Andrew Jackson, was given a 1,400-pound block of cheese from a grateful dairyman. The gift was delivered to the White House (the U.S. President’s residence) and he didn’t know what to do with that much cheese. So, he opened the doors of the White House for the public to come in and take some of the tasty cheese for themselves. They say that thousands of visitors came to the White House and dispatched the massive cheese block in just a few hours.

The “West Wing” series had a few other episodes where they took this concept further and required that all the President’s top staff meet with public citizens to listen to topics that they would not normally hear about and embrace.

That motivated me to do a networking variation of the idea. Founder’s Day is my opportunity to meet with BNI members from around the world for the purpose of answering their questions about business or networking or leadership.

The results from the first three annual events have been gratifying. I have enjoyed the one-to-one meetings and greatly appreciate the 30+ conversations with BNI members as well as their positive comments. One person shared afterward, “It was an inspired session. I am ready to hit new destinations in this journey.” A new book in both English and Hindi, “Knowledgepreneur”, came about because of one the meetings. I was able to connect with people from around the world in a way that was meaningful for both of us.

BNI Members: You’re Invited

BNI members – I invite you to follow me on social media for information on how you can submit YOUR request to be part of my 2024 Founder’s Day on June 27th.

You can find all of my social media links at the top of this page. The Founder’s Day posts will provide the submission form with due date information.

Have Your Own 1-2-1s, Too

Business owners, managers, entrepreneurs, and sales professionals: have you invited your team or your clients to have a conversation with you or ask you some questions? Purposeful meetings can be a great way to build and strengthen your business relationships.

The 2024 Founder’s Day is taking place on Thursday, June 27th. I invite you to have your own special day of 1-2-1 meetings that day, too (or a least do 1 or 2 that day). Schedule time to meet with your customers or your teammates so you can hear and answer their questions. You may discover overlapping areas of professional and personal interests, and you may find ways that you can help them in their business or role. BNI members, when you meet with fellow BNI members, remember to share your One-to-One information in BNI Connect.


BNI Members Only: Click here to submit your 1-2-1 request for 2024 Founder’s Day.

It will take place on Thursday June 27, 2024, from 9:00 am – 5:00 pm CDT.

The completed form must be received by May 16, 2024, 11:59 pm EDT.


An Unexpected Twist in My Careerstring(32) "An Unexpected Twist in My Career"

I was interviewed by Karen Mangia for Medium.com as part of the series called “Can You Hear Me Now?: Top Five Strategies Leaders Use to Diminish Distractions & Win in the Attention Economy.” This is second of four excerpts from that interview.


What is the most unexpected twist in your career story, and what did you discover from your detour?


Being diagnosed with cancer at the height of my career was the most unexpected detour for me personally and professionally.

After the initial shock and resulting conversations with my close family, I started to think about how I was going to handle this within my company. As the Founder and senior executive of an international referral marketing organization (BNI®), I have a fair amount of public recognition and I am the public figure for the company. Thinking about how my diagnosis would affect my company, so many questions ran through my mind:

Should I try to keep the diagnosis secret?
Do I only tell key people?
Would I still be able to run the company during treatment?
Or do I need to hire someone to take on my role?
Seeing this as a potential weakness, would our competition try and take advantage of us during this time?
And at the end of the day, will my illness hurt the bottom line of the organization?

To me, the answer to the first question would help determine the direction I would take with the others.

The Path I Chose

So, I started with the question of keeping it secret. Let me first say that this is a very personal decision. Everyone’s experience is different, and I can completely respect it if someone chooses to tell virtually no one. I, however, did not choose that direction. BNI is a business networking, “word-of-mouth” organization. The idea of keeping that kind of secret in an organization like ours seemed impossible to me. So rather than try to keep it private, I chose to “go public”. I thought this strategy would help me guide the messaging. Note that I didn’t say “control the message” because I can tell you from first-hand experience — you cannot control it. However, I do believe you can guide and influence the message greatly by coming out in front of it.

Having decided to go public, I did it with a communication plan in place. After I decided what I was going to do for my treatment and why, I created a communication hierarchy of who I was going to tell and when. Below is the communication hierarchy I used for the dissemination of information. All of these were done within a three-day period:

Extended family
Close personal friends
Key management of the company
Employees at the Headquarters office
Franchisees world-wide
Global employees and independent contractors
Our clients
The public through my blog and social media

Since I opted for transparency in regard to my diagnosis and treatment, I chose to not hire someone to take on my responsibilities. Instead, I asked for help from those people who worked for me directly and indirectly. I asked if my close team would step up and fill in for me as needed and if my extended team (such as franchisees) would allow me more flexibility with project due dates and serious matters that would normally require my personal attention such as contract issues. They did so without hesitation.

As for the competition, that was easy. I have always believed that we shouldn’t worry about what our competition is doing (know what they are doing but don’t obsess over it) and instead, focus on improving our business every day. If we continued to do that with the team that was in place, we would not have to obsess over the competition and we didn’t.

That left the question of our bottom line. Before I answer that, let me discuss my mindset a little further. I chose transparency as the approach to my diagnosis. Transparency to the point that I posted multiple blogs on my site talking very specifically about what treatment approach I was pursuing and how I was doing every few months. I knew that if I didn’t update people, they would fill in the blanks themselves and it may or may not be accurate. I wanted to put the message out there myself — whether it was good or whether it was bad. I set sail for that approach not knowing how it would end.

I’m pleased to say that I am fully and completely in remission today. What’s also important is that my organization was able to follow my journey first-hand. They did not have to guess or wonder what I was doing. I put it all out there publicly and rumors did not flourish.

So, how did the company do during this period? Well, since my diagnosis the company has more than doubled in size. I think that happened because I had good people in place who were willing to step up when the boss was down. If I had to do it all over again — I’d do it exactly the same way.




Related Blog Post:

A Memorable Career Moment

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Karen…


A Memorable Career Momentstring(25) "A Memorable Career Moment"

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Karen Mangia for Medium.com as part of the series called “Can You Hear Me Now?: Top Five Strategies Leaders Use to Diminish Distractions & Win in the Attention Economy.” This is the first of four excerpts from the interview.


What is one of your most memorable career moments, and what made it memorable?


An online platform for my company had recently been released, and it crashed and burned like the Hindenburg.

Immediately after, I was at a company conference and getting ready to face some of my key leaders. I stood nervously in front of the room and said:

“I want to apologize for what was released a few months ago. It was not what I promised it would be, and I take full responsibility for that. What I’d like for all of you to do is tell me everything you don’t like about the platform. Everything. Don’t leave anything out. I want to hear it all.”

This was my “Listen Till They Drop” strategy. Let them vent continuously for several hours. Do not interrupt them and, no matter what, do not argue with them about any suggestions or complaints they share. They needed to unleash their anger, and I needed to stay quiet and listen — not exactly my natural strength.

After three hours and more than 500 issues, a long silence finally fell over the room. The crowd was exhausted. They had nothing else to share. My “Listen Till They Drop” strategy had allowed them to release their pent-up anger. Maybe now everyone could focus on a solution.

I looked at them and shared my sincerest belief about this project: “Everything’s Going to Be OK. EGBOK. We’ll get through this. We will get through this because all of us are better than one of us. If we all work together to address these issues, we will create, together, a platform that will be a game changer for the company. Now, who wants to volunteer for the project board?”

I watched with immense relief as people began volunteering. By the end of the meeting, they had created a list of issues to investigate and put a plan in place. More importantly, there was a general sense of relief and accomplishment in the room. There was a sincere belief that the group could find a solution to the many problems the organization faced with this new venture. The tidal wave of anger had transitioned to the stillness of confidence. This was a productive meeting.

What could have been the worst day of my career might just prove to be the best one. The plan was in place. Soon the real work of co-creation would begin. I realized that the process would be messy, difficult, and frustrating — but I also knew it could work.

Decision Fatigue – It Can Happenstring(34) "Decision Fatigue – It Can Happen"

I’ve been a member of the Transformational Leadership Council (TLC) for the past 19 years. The TLC was established by Jack Canfield and is a group of innovative and out-of-the-box leaders from all around the world. We meet twice a year and I use this time to expand my mind, brainstorm new content for my blog and articles, and most of all, learn from the incredible teachers around me.

A few years ago at our meeting in Napa Valley, California, there was a topic that really got my attention – it was the idea of “decision fatigue.”

In decision making and social psychology, decision fatigue refers to the exhaustion that sets in when someone is presented with the need to make one decision after another, back-to-back, over and over and over again.

This can happen in several ways. For example, it can be as simple as going to a grocery store or market and being confronted with one bad choice for food after another. By the time you are checking out, your willpower becomes weak, and you buy some candy on the way out of the check stand (that’s why they place it there!)

It can also be related to a very long day of having to make many decisions. If you are making tough calls all day long, the quality of the decisions will drastically diminish by the end of the day. It might play out over a very long period of time – weeks, months, or years – where you are confronted with one challenging decision after another. After an extended period of time, you feel exhausted and drained from having to make so many decisions about so many different issues. It is easy to experience “burnout” as a result.

In running a global organization (BNI) with an incredible amount of competing demands, this last consideration really rang true for me. I often felt that the serious nature of the ongoing decisions that needed to be made could create a massive amount of long-term stress for me. One way I combated this stress was to schedule dedicated “mental health days” to reset my mindset and get in a better place. This is something I continue to do to this day; it is regularly scheduled in my calendar.

Decision fatigue is a real condition. If you have experienced it, I’d like to hear what you do to combat this feeling in your life. Leave a reply below.




Related Blog Posts:

Hard Decisions?–The Secret to Making the Right Decision Every Time!”

When it comes to making big choices in business and in life decision making can often…


Add a “P.S.” to Your Email Signaturestring(40) "Add a “P.S.” to Your Email Signature"

P.S. is the abbreviation for “postscript.” The definition of postscript is: used at the end of letter or email after you have signed your name to show that you are adding a short remark or message not included in the main part.

In my book, Networking Like a Pro 2nd Edition, my co-author, Brian Hilliard, and I discuss ways to get more referrals by developing a formalized referral strategy.
One idea that we share is to make a brief addition—a P.S. message—to your email signature. It is a strategy that is easy to do but is not used very often.

Our suggestion is that at the end of your automated email signature, you can include something similar to this:

P.S. A great referral for me would be someone who brings in speakers for their organization. If you know someone who needs a speaker in the areas of Marketing, Mindset, and Personal Achievement, I’d appreciate it if you mention my name. Thanks!

A message very similar to that goes out on all of the emails from Brian Hilliard. The number of referrals those simple words generate is surprising.

Change it Up

If you really want to kick it up a notch, then consider changing your message every two or three months. This can be especially useful for people who work in industries that are seasonal. For example, in the month of March, you’re asking for one type of referral, and then in June, you mention a different one. This helps keep your message fresh and gets people to pay attention to your email signature!

Referrals do not happen overnight. Referrals are the product of time, thought and a good bit of energy put toward deepening the relationships of those around you.

When you get organized and structure your referral-generating activities into a formalized strategy, including techniques like adding a P.S. to your email signature, you will absolutely find an increase in referral-based business.

I’d like to hear from you. If you use the ‘email P.S.’ idea, share what yours says and the results you’ve received in the comments below.

What is the Definition of Success?string(34) "What is the Definition of Success?"

No matter what we call it, we all pursue success. Each of us has desires and we strive to achieve them. Our desires may be different from anyone else’s, and we may not consider achieving them to be “success.” We look around and see people whose success we might envy. What is John doing with his supply of hours in any given day that puts him so far ahead of me in money, friends, and influence?  Why is he successful, and why am I not? Why is he flying his own Learjet while I’m rattling around in this two-year-old Jaguar? Why is she living in a new house and raising three perfect children while I’m still looking for a mate? Why is that guy’s cardboard box so much bigger than mine, and where did he get that super-sized shopping cart? I could go on and on with examples.

However, without knowing all the facts, without being inside the mind of the other person, you cannot say whether that person is more successful than you.  Maybe he’s worth $100 million but is unhappy because his goal was to become governor by the age of 40 and he is growing tired of the frenetic pursuit of power. And maybe you are not as wealthy as you wanted to be, and yet you’ve made it through great personal difficulties and are pleased to have kept your finances afloat and your family intact. Which of you is more successful? Fulfilling any personal desire is success by any reasonable definition, and you’ve achieved some very important and satisfying goals.

The measure of your success is how well you use your productive time to achieve the goals that are important to you. Not how you measure up compared to everybody else – but how well you have used your own abilities and resources to achieve worthy goals, however humble they may be, for yourself and for the people who are important to you. Who knows? Perhaps that would-be governor could be watching you and saying to himself, “I’m a miserable failure. When did I decide money was more important than enjoying my work? Why didn’t I stay off the fast track and spend more time with my kids? Why can’t I take it easy and enjoy life like George is doing?”

Success is Personal

Dictionaries define success as the achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted. But in real life, success is a slippery concept, especially when you come to your own personal definition of it. Success is a relative thing and highly personal.

Many an exhausted high achiever has reached a lofty goal only to discover that it was a false peak, that the true summit loomed much higher. Others have reached the highest heights only to find them barren and empty, and then realized the only way down was… down. Yet many a modest achiever has trekked through a lifetime of rocky trails and boggy swamps to realize what a glorious and rewarding trip it has been after all. And the ex-addict who is stacking lumber? Every day on the job can be a victory for them.

So, now that you have an idea of how ephemeral this notion of success is, how do you go about achieving it? If you’re looking for a generic formula, you won’t find it–there isn’t one. Success depends on timing, circumstances, situations, and–most important–your own perception of what success is. There is no mathematical standard for measuring when and how thoroughly you’ve achieved it. There are many ways to measure success, but in the final analysis, it’s how you measure it for yourself that truly counts.

How do you personally measure success? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks!

There’s No Secret Formula to Being Good at Networking — But There Is One Thing You Needstring(95) "There’s No Secret Formula to Being Good at Networking — But There Is One Thing You Need"

Is the journey to success in business networking bound by mathematical formulas, or is it about something else? Here’s what I’ve found is the actual secret to making connections in networking.

Decades ago, I went to a breakout session at a BNI® conference that was called “The Mathematical Formula for Networking Success.” Well, as the founder of the organization, I absolutely had to see this presentation to learn the working formula for successful business networking.

The speaker began his presentation by writing a formula on the flip chart. He talked about “D” representing Dunbar’s average number of relationships and “M” representing Metcalf’s law (also known as the Squared Connection Effect). He continued with a very convoluted and confusing formula doing the square root of one thing and multiplying it by something that seemed totally irrelevant to me.

He hesitated as he spoke to us. He put his fingertips to his lips and hemmed and hawed in his presentation. It was uncomfortably clear to all of us that he was confused and bewildered by his own formula. Not only that, but we were also very confused and bewildered by his formula as well. We all sat there feeling pretty embarrassed for him.

That’s when he turned around to the hundreds of people in the room, picked up a huge red felt marker and put a giant red “X” through the entire formula and said to all of us: “Oh forget about the math — it’s all about relationships!”

The entire room simultaneously exploded into laughter. He was right. Business networking (when done right) is all about the relationships you build.

It’s All About Relationships

He went on to explain that there is no mathematical formula for success in business networking. It’s all about nurturing professional relationships — and while there may not be a mathematical formula, there are some principles that, when applied properly, add up to great results in networking.

  1. Ensure others know, like and trust you

“Know, like and trust” — that is the process that businesspeople need to follow to feel comfortable referring to other people. I refer to this as the VCP Process®. First you have to have Visibility in the community by going to networking events. Then you establish Credibility by building a solid reputation for doing good work. After that, the relationships can lead to Profitability through referrals. Don’t just go to networking events to do face-to-face cold calling. Go to them to work your way through the VCP Process.

  1. Maintain consistent communication

Building and maintaining relationships requires what I like to call “touch points.” How often are you reaching out and connecting with the people in your network? Regularly checking in, sharing updates, and expressing genuine interest in what other people are doing helps to keep connections alive. Benign neglect or letting relationships dissipate over time dramatically weakens your network.

Doing regular 1-2-1s with people, whether in person or online, can help keep the relationship alive. In fact, one university study conducted by Beatrice Sparacino in Europe discovered that people who do four or more 1-2-1s a month both give and receive twice as many referrals as people who do only one 1-2-1 a month. Whether through face-to-face interactions, emails, or social media, maintaining open lines of communication reinforces the bond between you and your network. Consistent communication ensures that connections remain strong, even in the absence of immediate opportunities, and allows for a more natural progression of the relationship over time.

  1. Hone the description of what you do

Describing what you do definitely depends on your audience. Giving one line at a chamber of commerce event is substantially different than doing a weekly 60-second presentation at a group like BNI. For example, if you are doing one sentence about what you do to a large group — use a memory hook. One of the first I ever heard was from a dentist who raised his right hand and said: “I believe in the tooth, the whole tooth and nothing but the tooth.” With just a dozen words or so, he made sure everyone in that room would remember who he was and what he did.

On the other hand, if you are in a networking group where you have a little more time to speak and you do so weekly, you need to do something that is fairly counterintuitive. Namely, don’t take a broad brush and explain your business in generalities. Instead, get laser-specific about one aspect of your business. Then the next week another specific aspect, and so on. After a year, you have taught the people you network with many ways to refer you. In groups like this, the goal is not to make a sale — it is to train a salesforce to find referrals for you.

  1. Create value with your existing and potential referral partners

Successful networking is not solely about what one can get; it is also about what one can give or contribute. Creating value for others establishes the sense of having a reciprocal relationship. This can involve sharing insights, providing assistance, connecting individuals to relevant resources, and of course, giving someone a valid referral for their business. By contributing to the success of others, individuals strengthen the bonds within their network and become valuable assets themselves.

Recently, I was doing a radio interview and I talked to the host about value creation by asking people who you want to build a professional relationship with this question: “How can I help you?” He said (live, on air) “That tired old phrase — that doesn’t work!” I didn’t want to argue with him on air, so I moved on. When the interview was over, I asked him who were some of the people that he was looking for to get them on the show. He gave me some names. One of them I knew very well. I told him that he was a good friend of mine and I’d be happy to make an introduction. The host thanked me profusely for my offer. That’s when I said to him that that’s how you can ask, “How can I help you?” without using those actual words. He said, “Touché!” and admitted that it can work well after all.

  1. Building a diverse network is vital

Networks are, by nature, clumpy — that’s not the technical term, but they truly do tend to be cluster-like unless we strive to create a broad and inclusive network. People tend to spend time with people that are much like them. However, building relationships with individuals from diverse backgrounds, industries, ethnicities, ages, educations and experiences helps to broaden our perspectives and provide us access to a wider range of opportunities (which I discuss at length in my book The Third Paradigm). These individuals become connectors who connect you to other clusters of people whom you might not normally meet. Embracing diversity in networking not only enhances the richness of our relationships, it also opens doors to a myriad of possibilities for personal and professional growth.

The journey to success in business networking isn’t bound by mathematical formulas but rather it thrives on genuine relationships. The resulting laughter from the mathematical formula resonated with the shared understanding that human connections defy quantification through equations. The core message emerged: Success in networking hinges on meaningful interactions, not complex mathematical computations.

If your network is a mile wide and an inch deep, it will never be successful. It needs to be both wide and, in some places, deep. Meaning that no matter how many people are in your network or how well you are connected — the key is to have deep relationships with people who will be there to help you, support you and refer you over time. This underscores the importance of both breadth and depth in someone’s connections. Merely accumulating a vast network isn’t sufficient; cultivating deep relationships ensures ongoing support and referrals. In essence, the true formula for success in networking lies in the art of building and nurturing authentic connections with others. Relationships are the one thing you need.




Related Blog Posts:

Is Your Network a Mile Wide But an Inch Deep?

Is your personal network deep or shallow? Chances are…


Intentional About Diversity

Being Intentional About Diversity

Being Intentional About Diversity was written with my co-author of Networking


A Sure-Fire Referral Technique for a “Difficult to Refer” Businessstring(78) "A Sure-Fire Referral Technique for a “Difficult to Refer” Business"

Even if your company isn’t the type to easily generate word of mouth, there are still ways you can network and build your business’s reputation.

Face it, some businesses are just more difficult to refer than others. Often, those same businesses struggle to get clients even through traditional advertising methods. Although I firmly believe referral marketing is the best way for almost all types of businesses to grow, in some cases, it’s almost the only way to grow. When I started my business consulting firm more than 40 years ago, I learned these lessons the hard way.

Very few companies retained a consulting firm based on an advertisement. Most of my clients came from referrals, but that took time and I needed to find new business to keep my doors open. Through this struggle, I landed on a technique that I’ve sharing with businesspeople and entrepreneurs for the past four decades. I call it “working the lunchtime-community-service-clubs circuit.”

Speaking Engagements

Years ago, I learned that when I did a speaking engagement, I often got new business. So the key was to get more speaking engagements while I was working on the long-term process referral marketing. Because educating my referral sources took time, getting some speaking engagements was a great short-term approach to building my business. I discovered that this became a specific strategy in and of itself: to build my company through the word of mouth that comes from speaking engagements.

When you schedule an appointment with someone you think might be interested in what you’re selling, that time you spend with them–usually an hour–is important! Imagine having that same one-hour appointment with between 20 and 50 businesspeople in your community, all at the same time! In effect, that’s what you’re doing when you’re asked to make a presentation at various clubs and organizations. While many people may realize the immense networking value that joining and participating in service clubs lends to their credibility in their community, what you may not think about is how much business the speakers at these various meetings can generate.

As an entrepreneur, just how do you go about getting on the calendars of these business and service groups? It isn’t as hard as you might think. With a little creativity, you can put together a presentation that will be informational, educational, and even entertaining for these groups. Most important, you can get referrals from people to help get you in front of them. Usually, program chairpersons are scrambling to find someone different, engaging, and interesting to come in and present to the group. Your job is to help them find you! What I did was to produce a letter that I’d give to the people in my extended network to make it very easy for them to refer me for a speaking engagement.

Here’s a sample of the letter I used to send to program chairs when I owned a consulting firm in Southern California. You’ll see that I was offering much more than a one-hour sales pitch for my service:

Dear Program Chair:

AIM Consulting is a management consulting firm that works with small and midsize businesses. During the past two years, we’ve given a presentation entitled “Entrepreneuring in the 80’s” to more than 60 service organizations such as yours. The presentation deals with managing and motivating employees. It involves participation and interaction with the audience and leaves time for questions at the end. Here are some of the comments we’ve received:

“Fantastic, every service club must hear!”
East LA Rotary

“One of our best…Ivan kept everyone excited.”
Alhambra Optimist

“An excellent talk by an excellent speaker.”
Irwindale Rotary

“Excellent, highly recommended, got a lot of questions.”
Hermosa Kiwanis

If you’re interested in this topic, we’d be glad to visit your club to give this presentation.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.


Ivan R. Misner

I’d take the above letter to networking meetings and give it to people who knew me and wanted to refer me but didn’t know how. I ended up getting a lot of business this way. In fact, one of my largest clients came from a speaking engagement I got using this system.

It Only Takes One

Just one person who contacts you because of this letter can position you in front of numerous businesspeople who might be in the market for your product or service. Once you have the opportunity to make these types of connections, you never know where they’ll lead.

On a related note, I found that it was very important to give the audience something to take away that would bring them back to me. For example, for me, it was a behavior profile instrument. I told them they could take this back to their office, give it to any employee, have them fill it out and mail it back to me, and I’d give them a free four-page analysis of the behavioral characteristics of that employee so they could better understand how to work with that person. By using this tool, I almost always got one or more companies to follow up after I spoke.

Let me give you an example of how a business owner might position himself to be a speaker at an organization’s weekly meeting. Take the case of a hardware store owner I once knew. You might wonder how a hardware store owner could appeal to a program chair who’s looking for someone to speak to a business group. The topic of home safety is a very timely message. Who better than a hardware store owner to fashion a presentation on home safety and give viable tips on things to do around the house to be sure that the home environment is free from hidden–and not so hidden–dangers.

Of course, the members attending that meeting might have a need to take care of some of the things the presenter brings up. Who do you think they’re going to contact for that? Bingo! That week’s speaker is just the person for the job.

The key is to go in with information and education…not a huge sales pitch. People don’t like being sold to, but they do like to buy! A great presentation can motivate your audience to want to buy what it is you have for sale. Not only that, a great presentation can also position you favorably for extended networking with the members and their contacts.

This technique made my company easy for anyone to refer, and it got me a lot of clients while I was busy building my business. Most importantly, this technique can work for almost any business. Next time you think of lunchtime community-service clubs and groups, think leverage, think networking, think business.

Leading from “Among” Not from “Above”string(45) "Leading from “Among” Not from “Above”"

One morning when my good friend, Stewart Emery (Success Built to Last), was at my house visiting, he told me a story while we were having breakfast. It was about an interview he did with a well-known billionaire in the computer industry. The billionaire shared an intriguing story with Stewart about an experience he’d had when the senior executives of a company that was interested in purchasing his company came to visit his office to discuss the possible purchase.

At lunch time, the billionaire told those senior executives that he was going to take them to the Executive Dining Room. They followed him to the dining room, which was very nice but far from extravagant. However, that wasn’t the big surprise. The surprise was that the dining room had a buffet line. The billionaire walked up to the buffet area, picked up a tray, and stood in line behind everyone else. The visiting executives looked around the room as it filled up and realized that this room was not an “executive dining room,” it was the company dining room. The boss stood there in line with all the employees, and he spoke to everyone. No one was afraid to talk to him.

In my opinion, he didn’t lead by being above them; he led by being among them. Stewart told me that the billionaire said the visiting management team was surprised by the fact that he and all of his company’s executives ate with all the employees. One of them commented that this would have to change. For the boss, it was a test. This was not the kind of company that he wanted to sell his business to, and the negotiation ended that day.

It’s a Choice

Companies have a choice. They can move toward exclusivity in their organizational culture, or they can strive for, commit to, honor, and embrace inclusivity in their organizational culture.

Sometimes when people meet me, they say they are surprised that I am approachable. I find that interesting. I think they feel this way because sometimes we, as leaders, act in a way that people perceive as unapproachable. Some leaders act “better than” to other people.

I believe people should be surprised when a leader is unapproachable, not when they are approachable. The problem is that we live in a world where success sometimes creates a sense of separation (with both the organizational leaders and others). One of the key things to embrace in a successful company is the sense that the boss, the owner, the senior executive(s) are, in fact, approachable – to everyone.

I think of Stewart’s story often when I reflect on my years of running and growing BNI® and how much I enjoyed, and still do, the opportunities to be among the people in the organization.

Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences on this topic in the comments below. 




Related Posts:

How Great Leaders Communicate Their Vision”

Co-creation involves knowing how to…


Leadership Is More Than Management

I recorded a video for a BNI® Global…


1 2 3 4 146