How to Develop Your Professional Network.

By Kathleen E. Murphy

There’s a saying you have all heard it’s “who you know, not what you know”. When I first heard this expression, it annoyed me, especially since it was a common expression I heard numerous times after I graduated from college. For many years, I did not want to believe this statement had much merit, but as my career developed, I realized it might have more strength as a concept than I gave it credit.

When you think about your network and the people you regularly engage with, have you considered whether you have consciously developed your network, or has it been purely developed organically from the people you have met? I read a book a few years ago called “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi. The concept of the book was that you should always be in the process of developing your network and taking every opportunity to network with people, especially during dining opportunities. He explained that whether you realize it or not, your network will afford you other opportunities for career advancement or moves into industries you may not have foundational experience in.

As an executive coach and professional sports and performance advisor, I routinely talk to clients about the importance of expanding their network, and getting out of their comfort zone by meeting new people. For those clients who dread the thought of meeting new people, I advise them to seek out meeting new connections via their present network. It is far less intimidating to approach meeting new connections this way, and you already have something in common with the new person you are meeting. Developing your network does not always have to be accomplished in person, but when possible, this would be my recommendation. The second-best way to meet new connections is by scheduling a brief 10-15-minute call with them. You should develop an agenda of what you want to talk to the person about prior to the call, share it with them, and then adhere to the agenda to respect the new connections time. If the conversation is going well, you can always schedule additional time with them, or agree to meet in person if this is possible.

If you have the opportunity to travel, I highly recommend scheduling brief in person meetings with people from your current network, and with 1-2 other people who are connections from your network. It is critical to make sure you are always cultivating your current network, as the more time you spend investing in the relationship with your current connections will pay off immensely when you least expect it to. Another factor to remember about networking is to always ask the person you are networking with what you can do for them, and to sincerely offer to help them in some way. It might not be an immediate action you can do for them, but you should let them know you would like to reciprocate any action they are doing to help you. It could be offering to talk to either someone they know who would like advice from you about your expertise, or perhaps extending them an opportunity to be connected to someone in your network.

My parents have served as tremendous examples for me about the importance of cultivating my network, or what I refer to as my professional friends. For those who know me, meeting new people is one of the most exciting things I routinely look forward to doing. I am one of those people who look at strangers as simply people I have not had the opportunity to meet and get to know yet. Having this attitude has served me extremely well in terms of allowing me to build my network over the years. I do not overtly work on developing my network, but instead look for informal opportunities to do so, in places I am going to, or when I will be in social settings when I do not know everyone at the event. By not placing too much emphasis on whether I am growing my network, it more organically tends to be developed, and which I think is a good model for others to follow.

The most important thing to remember about networking is to have fun with the process. Too many people stress themselves out by thinking they constantly need to be networking. They do not, and I do not recommend doing so. Instead, approach developing your network like you would if you were working on planting a garden. Prep your soil, plant your seeds, water them and cultivate the results of your efforts in a more relaxed timeframe. Before you know it, the work you put into growing your garden will produce wonderful abundance.

In honor of Father’s Day, this blog article is dedicated to my Father, Daniel Murphy. Happy Father’s Day Dad, and to all of the Father’s out there, or to the people who play the “unofficial” role of a Father to others in their lives.

Kathleen E. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Strategist and CMO of Market Me TooMarket Me Too has expertise in bridging marketing and sales teams and providing organizations techniques to accelerate their market growth, regardless of the industry they are in, or the business stage they are presently at. Contact Kathleen at kathymurphy@me.com.

 

 

 

Why are people terrible at following-up with what they promised to do?

By Kathleen E. Murphy

I could have chosen a number of different words to express my sentiments about most people’s ability to follow-up on just about anything, but in my experience most people fail miserably at this skill, and yes, I will say the word….simply suck at it. Why is it that something which is so simple to do seemingly not done by the majority of people in the business community, and in many social interaction scenarios? Is it because they were not taught this skill, or lack manners or discipline? Is it because they forget what they promised to follow-up on, or did they not ever intend to follow-up and simply gave “lip service” and told the person what they think they wanted to hear?

When I come across someone who has strong follow-up skills, I am always impressed with this skill. The people who consistently do this well are not always in sales, customer service or marketing and which are business disciplines which require you to have excellent follow through skills. However, the common thread which people have who possess excellent follow-up skills are often highly self-disciplined, driven to succeed, value the reputation of their verbal commitments and have genuine respect for the person they were speaking to and the time they spent conversing with them.

Take a moment to think about how you felt when someone followed-up with you. Were you surprised or did you expect this to happen? Was the impact of their follow through seemingly a large effort, or did it potentially take less than a couple of moments to accomplish? Let’s think about follow-up from a different angle. When someone does not follow through with a commitment they made, does it change your opinion of them, or do you not think twice about it? Have you ever considered how you are perceived when you failed to follow through with one of your commitments?  Do you think there was an impact on your lack of follow-up via the person or group you assured you would deliver on providing them with whatever you promised?

When I was researching this topic, I thought about when do people learn the skill of following through? This is not a skill taught in academic settings, and unless you learn this from your family or friends, you might not be fully equipped to master this skill until you are put into scenarios which require you to master this skill. Yes, I will agree in most academic situations an early form of practicing this skill is to complete and turn in your homework, and there is an incentive to do so. However, let’s go beyond the academic setting and place ourselves into the “working world”. Since in my opinion being able to follow-up is a relatively easy skill to master and yet only requires more discipline, everyone should have the ability to master this skill. Perhaps a change in your attitude to care about the importance of this skill is partially required to gain success in this area? Regardless of the reason or your level of ability to follow-up,  here is a link to an article to help you. It is titled “7 Ways to Improve Your Results With Follow Up” .

Since we are at the beginning of the week, here’s a challenge I want you to consider trying for one week. See what happens after you commit to following through on everything you told someone you would do. You are going to need to keep track of this information, and if you do and look back on the results a few weeks from now, think about the impact doing so has had on you and the recipients. If after one week of practicing your follow-up skills, let’s see if you agree it is not as difficult or time consuming as you might imagine it to be. The added benefit of practicing your follow-up skills will be how people perceive you in a much more positive light, and your personal reputation will gain what I refer to as “karma points” which everyone can use more of. So, what is the first thing you are going to follow-up on?

Kathleen E. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Strategist and CMO of Market Me TooMarket Me Too has expertise in bridging marketing and sales teams and providing organizations techniques to accelerate their market growth, regardless of the industry they are in, or the business stage they are presently at. Contact Kathleen at kathymurphy@me.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Were you really listening? Things you don’t hear, but should.

By Kathleen E. Murphy

How many times have you caught yourself half listening to the person you are speaking to? We are all guilty of this, but should be working on becoming better listeners with every conversation we are engaged in. Have you ever considered how much information you might be missing when you are only semi listening? When you are actively listening and fully engaged in the conversation, you will be amazed at how much satisfaction you can gain from the conversation.

A friend of mine told me a heartwarming story last week about a conversation he had with one of his patients a few years ago. The woman was receiving physical therapy to relieve chronic pain she was experiencing, and she was in the final stage of her life. Despite the pain she was in, she was the type of person who was always thinking of others, especially her family. During one of her sessions with my friend, she conversationally revealed a wish she had for her son to be fulfilled. Her son had been a hockey player all his life, and when he went through a divorce, his ex-wife got rid of all of his hockey equipment. He was a goalie, so the hockey equipment was very expensive. Playing hockey brought joy to his life, but when his equipment had been given away, he stopped playing the game and became very sad.

The woman passed away, but my friend remembered her story because he was actively engaged and listening to her. Within a year of her death, my friend who is also a hockey player, remembered his clients dying wish of having her son getting back into playing hockey again. My friend never forgot this conversation and thought about how he could do something about what he had heard. He ended up obtaining some used goalie hockey equipment and put it into a bag. He then found out where the son of the woman lived, and one day he showed up on his front doorstep with a bag full of goalie hockey equipment. The son could not believe a total stranger had done this for him, and was overwhelmed with emotion. My friend and this total stranger became very close friends. This friendship developed out of my friend’s ability to truly listen, and to go beyond listening and compassionately and actively do something with the information he heard. Since the day the man received the goalie equipment, he has been playing and enjoying his love of hockey once again.

What if there were more people like my friend who really listened and followed through with what they heard? We all have the capacity to do this, and do this well. In the business world and numerous other industries, it is imperative to our success we become skilled listeners. Although it may seem like an easy thing to do, listening and doing it well takes practice and dedication. We live in a world of constant distraction, and endless interruptions, so having focused conversations can be challenging. However, being focused during your conversation is imperative, and when you are, the end results can be as rewarding as the story about my friend and the stranger he gave the goalie hockey equipment to.

One trick I utilize when I am listening to people is to take notes. It is not always possible to do this, but when I can do it, being able to refer back to my notes from the conversation is remarkable, as it allows me to think through what was being said from a different dimension, and most times to come up with a better outcome or result from the conversation. Most business or conversations in general are a way to convey information, and often a way to figure out a solution to either a problem or a challenge the person is having. All of us have the ability to solve challenges, and we can solve them much better if we are actively engaged in the conversation. So, the next time you are in a conversation, take a moment to consider whether you are fully listening. If you are not, refocus your attention and know that when you do this, each party in the conversation will significantly benefit from the engagement.

This article is dedicated to Doug Kennedy.

Kathleen E. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Strategist and CMO of Market Me TooMarket Me Too has expertise in bridging marketing and sales teams and providing organizations techniques to accelerate their market growth, regardless of the industry they are in, or the business stage they are presently at. Contact Kathleen at kathymurphy@me.com.

 

 

 

 

How to talk to anyone, anytime.

 

Have you ever wondered why it seems effortless for some people to be able to talk to almost anyone, anytime or anywhere? With technological gadgets seemingly taking over our lives each day, the art of face to face conversation is something fewer people, especially the millennial generation are becoming skilled at, or practicing on a regular basis. However, what if you or they knew about a simple technique which would allow you to easily have a conversation with anyone you desired? Would you want to know how to do this? Would it help you personally or professionally? I going out on a limb and admitting this is a rhetorical question.

About twenty-five years ago while we were having lunch at work, a good friend of mine asked me what I perceived to be a very simple yet deep question. She asked me how I could so easily have conversations with everyone I encountered. Upon hearing this question, I realized perhaps this was not something everyone could easily do, and I took it for granted the ability to converse with others came so easily to me. I then thought about what had I done differently in my life to make conversing with others happen so naturally and with ease? This answer might surprise you, and it is a two-part response.

The first part of answering this question about why I find it easy to talk to anyone is because I have always found it easy to talk to other people due to the fact I am genuinely interested and curious to learn more about them. The only way I know how to learn more about other people is to ask them questions, and not be afraid to do so. Typically, I will ask an open-ended type of question which does not permit a yes or no answer, and which allows me to naturally ask follow on type of questions. When I began explaining to my friend who wanted to know how to more easily speak to anyone about anything at any time, I told her what now looking back is one of the greatest and easiest things to teach someone. I explained to her all you need to do is to have a few simple questions you can ask someone which will get them talking.

Examples of the types of questions I shared with my friend were to have her start out with asking someone if they had any travel plans, or had recently been to someplace they would recommend to others. This could be either related to a trip, or an experience they had doing something different than their normal daily routine, and which they would be very willing to share information about (e.g., they went white water rafting). What you might not realize is that people love talking about themselves, even if they are shy. By asking them an open-ended type of question, you allow them to feel comfortable with talking to someone, and this then allows the person they are conversing with to ask additional questions. The result of this conversational exchange is it can often lead to a fascinating conversation you would not otherwise have had.

Upon having had thousands of conversations with people in my lifetime, what I am most surprised by, and I think you will be too, is how once you get someone talking, you will be amazed at how infrequently they will reciprocate and ask you questions back. People who are skilled at conversing will ask you questions back, and more than a few of them. However, many people will not, and this is a shame because the more you converse with others, the skilled you become as a conversationalist. This enhanced skill can ultimately lead to a lifetime of opportunities you would not otherwise have it you did not begin your conversation in the first place. By conversing with others, you are planting the seeds of developing a relationship with the individual, and allowing them to more easily converse with you again. By asking people questions, they will also be more inclined to like you as a person, and let’s face it, I always tell people you can never have too many friends.

If you have not had a conversation with a stranger or someone you only slightly know, give this conversational technique a try. You will be amazed at the possibilities of where the conversation can or will take you, and if nothing else, you will have practiced the art of conversation which everyone should be working on mastering, just like learning how to read body language is an important life and business skill.

Kathleen E. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Strategist and CMO of Market Me TooMarket Me Too has expertise in bridging marketing and sales teams and providing organizations techniques to accelerate their market growth, regardless of the industry they are in, or the business stage they are presently at. Contact Kathleen at kathymurphy@me.com.

 

 

 

Finding Your Purpose

 

How often do you ask yourself, why am I doing this? This could be a reference to your work, leisure activities, relationship or fill in the blank as this question can be applied to so many areas. For the sake of narrowing the scope of this question, I will direct it towards your work, as we all spend countless hours devoted to our occupations. Unless you won the lottery, have a trust fund or have figured out a way to having a streaming income with little effort applied, you will likely will be working most of your life. Given this reality, and thinking about my last blog article on The Gift of Time  what if you woke up each morning and had a job or career which gave you a sense of purpose?

One of my favorite books is Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath, and now my second favorite book is Destination Unstoppable by Maureen Electa Monte. The reason I like Destination Unstoppable is because it helped me to focus and crystalize a professional purpose I have been driving towards, and which is to make other people see and capitalize on their strengths. When you are able to focus, and capitalize on your strengths, everything starts to align both professionally and personally, and you can see more clearly what your purpose is.

Working with sales and marketing teams my entire career, I did not realize one of my strengths was something which allowed me to see in others strengths they may not have either seen, or been fully aware of themselves. The particular strength I am referring to is what Strengths Finder refers to as “Individualization”. In essence this means I see each person as a “snowflake” and all the special and significant characteristics which make them so unique. Having this strength is something I readily share with others, and has allowed me to help them see the potential they have, and which they may not have realized or yet achieved. When individuals understand their potential, and can focus on it, magical things begin to happen. They also have a renewed sense of joy and purpose doing what they are spending their career time on.

Referring back to the book Destination Unstoppable, this is a true and amazing story. The book chronicles how a mid-western prep school hockey team came together as an unbeatable team in a short period of time, doing so towards the end of their season, and which focused them on how to win their state championship. There were a number of factors which contributed towards the team coming together and winning the state championship. Ultimately the fact each team member was focused on having their own strengths contribute to the team each day on and off the ice, was what made the difference in their performance.  Imagine if you could be focused on applying your unique strengths to your career each day?

Let’s assume you are not in a career which is firing up your passion and fueling your purpose of how you are spending your time each day. Have you considered either finding another role within the company or researching companies who are selling products or services which would be in stronger alignment with your career passion? I know this advice is commonly given to people either early in their career, or considered when you have been in an unsatisfying career choice for a period of time. Regardless of what you may be thinking, please keep in mind you are never what I will call “stuck”. If you are spending your valuable time working in a job or career which is not fueling your desire to be purposeful, I encourage you to consider changing this situation. Yes, you have the power to do this. Ask others for help if you do not know where to start, but please get started on finding your career purpose. It’s out there for you to discover. Now go find it.

Kathleen E. Murphy is the Founder, Chief Strategist and CMO of Market Me TooMarket Me Too  has expertise in bridging marketing and sales teams and providing organizations techniques to accelerate their market growth, regardless of the industry they are in, or the business stage they are presently at. Contact Kathleen at kathymurphy@me.com.