Project Practitioners > The Great Power of Networking

The Great Power of Networking

By Alfonso Bucero

The sooner you start creating a network, the faster you will progress in your career. When I joined the Project Management Institute on March 1993, it set off an incredible chain reaction. That would forever impact my professional life, and then my current business. Let me share with you what happened.

At the end of 1992 I attended project management training in France, organized by HP, company I was working for almost fourteeen years. In that training the teacher distributed to the attendees some project management articles and I knew about the existance of PMI (Project Management Institute) as a professional association. I asked for attending the PMI Global Congress on 1993 to my manager at HP and, after some discussions, he accepted my request. A huge window opened to me when I went there.
 
The first day of the Congress, I was a little bit frustrated because I was the only Spanish professional attending that Congress, and I was conscious about we had a lot of project management practitioners in Spain that were not there. I attended to a session called Global Forum being organized by Mr. David Pells and there I met most of professionals I would be in relationship some years later. I had the opportunity to distribute a lot of business cards, I collected many of them from colleagues from different countries and areas of expertise, and I really had a good time talking to and connecting with people.

That first event was very powerful for me, it motivated me and I understood the huge power of networking with people. Over the years I continued attending those annual Project Management Congresses, and I had a big network that is being increased year by year. The power of networking is nothing short of awesome.

If given the choice, wouldn’t you like to succeed sooner rather than later? Well, networking is a way to leverage your own efforts and accelerate the pace at which you get results. I strongly believe that the more solid relationships you build, the greater your opportunities for success.

What are the benefits of networking?

I believe that your success starts with you; however it grows to higher levels as result of your associations and relationships with people. Simply put, you can not succeed on a grand scale all by yourself. That is why networking is so important. Networking may be defined as the development of relationships with people for mutual benefit. I always took care of keeping my network alive.

But, what can we do to enhance the effectiveness of our network? I found some productive techniques that have been very helpful for me. I have classified in different categories: Taking action, References, Communication and follow up.

Taking action

1.You must project a winning attitude: When we talk about networking, attitude is a key for success.If you are positive and enthusiastic, people will want to spend time with you. They will want to help you.If you are gloomy and negative, people will avoid you, and they will hesitate to refer you to their colleagues.

2.Be active in organizations and associations: Effective networking and relationship building takes more than paying dues, putting your name in a directory and showing up for meetings. You must demonstrate that you will take the time and make the effort to contribute to the group. What kinds of things can you do? For starters, you can volunteer for committees or serve as an officer or member of the board of directors. The other members will respect you when they see you roll up your sleeves and do some work. They will also learn about your people skills, your character, your values and last, but not least, your attitude tu gladly accepted.
 
3.Serve others in your network: Serving others is crucial to building and benefiting from your network. You should always be thinking, “How can I serve others?” instead of “What’s in it for me?” if you come across as desperate or as a “taker” rather than a ”giver”, you will not find people willing to help you. Going the extra mile for others is the best way to get the flow of good things coming back to you. How can you serve others in your network? Start by referring business leads or potential customers. In addition, whenever you see an article or other information that might be of interest to someone in your network, forward the material to that person.

When I think of effective networkers, the first name that comes to mind is Randall L. Englund, ex colleague from HP, and coauthor of my book on Project Sponsorship. The second is Jim De Piante (US project professional). Jim works as a PM practitioner for a multinational company; he delivers presentations to project professionals at PM International Congresses and Events on soft skills,transmitting always his power, positivism and energy. I have referred many people to Jim. Why? He is talented, service-oriented person who has gone out of his way to encourage me, and to help me to increase the power of networking.

Jim has put me in touch with people in his own network who are in a position to help me. He distributes his materials at his presentations. Jim is one of those people who just keeps giving, and giving, and giving. That’s why people want to help Jim and that is one reason why his image, visibility and professionalism are growing more and more internationally.

Other powerful example is my colleague Michel Thiry who is very active professionally in project management. He has a special charisma who transmit interest in other people for networking purposes. He has increased his professional network very fast in the last years. How? Observing people at PM Congresses and inviting them to talk and to join his network; having dinner together, exchanging experiences, finding ways to do business together, being proactive. His Valence Network is a real example.

References

If you refer someone, make sure that the person mentions your name as the source of the referral. Be explicit. Let’s assume you are about to refer John Smith to your graphic designer, Jane Jones. You might say to John, “Give Jane a call,and please tell her that I referred you”. In some instances, you may even call Jane and let her know that John Smith will be contacting her.

Then, the next time you see or speak to Jane, remember to ask if John called and how it turned out. You want to reinforce in Jane’s mind that you are looking out for her and helping her to grow her business.Be selective. Don’t refer every person you meet. Respect the time of those in your network. Referring “unqualified” leads will reflect poorly on you. Ask yourself whether or not a particular referral is really going to be of value to your network partner. Keep in mind that the key is the quality, not quantity, of the leads you supply.

Communication
Be a good listener. Have you ever been speaking to someone who goes on and on about himself and his business – and never takes a moment to ask about you? We have all run into the “Me, me, me” types – and they are the last people you want to help. So, in your conversations, focus on drawing other people out. Let them talk about their careers and interests. In return, you will be perceived as caring, concerned and intelligent. You will have eventually get your turn to talk about yourself.

Call people from time to time just because you care. How do you feel when someone calls you on the phone and says, “Hey, I was just thinking about you and was wondering how you are doing?” I’ll bet you feel a million bucks. If that’s the case, why don’t we make these calls more often? Every now and then, make it a point to call people in your network simply to ask how they are doing and to offer your support and encouragement.

That’s right. Call just because you care and because that is the way you would like to be treated. Every December, I pick up the phone and call certain clients I have not spoken with for a long time. Many of these people have not ordered anything from my company in years. My call is upbeat and my only agenda is to be friendly. I don’t try to sell them anything. I appreciatethe business they have given me in the past, and I just want to hear how they are doing, personally and professionally.

If business comes from these calls that is great. Year after year, I do get business as a result of making these calls. Someone will say, “I need to order more of these services of Project management”, or “Our Company is having a sales meeting in six months, and they may want you to do a presentation”.

Please understand that this is not manipulation or a sales tactic on my part. I am not expecting these people to give me business. I really care about how they are doing. Business is simply a by-product of reconnecting with them.Take advantage of everyday opportunities to met people. You can make excellent contacts just about anywhere. You never know from what seed your next valuable relationship will sprout.
  
Treat every person as important, not just the “influential” ones. Do not be a snob. The person you meet (whether or not they are the boss) may have a friend or relative who can benefit from your product or service. So, when speaking to someone at a meeting or party, give that person your undivided attention.And please promise me that you won’t be one of those who gaze around looking for “more important people” to talk to. That really bugs me. You are talking with someone and then he notices someone out of the corner of his eye, someone he deems more important than you. So he stops listening to you, and abruptely breaks away to start a conversation with that other person. Don’t do that! Treat every person you encounter with dignity and respect.

At meetings and seminars, make it a point to meet different people. Don’t sit with the same group at every gathering. While it is great to talk with friends for part of the meeting, you will reap greater benefits if you make the extra effort to meet new faces. In 1996, I was in Washington, D.C., to attend a project management training. At lunch, instead of sitting with some friends from HP, I sat down at a table where I did not know anyone. Sitting at that table was a man named F.A. and we struck up a conversation. His organization, conducts excellent training programs on soft skills for professionals.

It turned out that Frank is also a big believer that attitude is very important. Frank has become a good friend. I am sure glad I did not sit with my friends that day, as I would have missed out on a tremendous opportunity. Be willing to go beyond your comfort zone. For instance, if you have the urge to introduce yourself to someone, Do it! You might hesitate, thinking that the person is too important or too busy to speak with you. Even if you are nervous, force yourself to move forward and make contact. You will get more comfortable as time goes on.Ask for what you want. By helping others, you have now earned the right o request assistance yourself. Don’t be shy. As long as you have done your best to serve those in your network, they will be more than willing to return the favor.

Follow-up

Send a prompt note after meeting someone for the first time. Let’s say you attend a dinner and make a new contact. Send a short note as soon as possible explaining how much you enjoyed meeting and talking with him or her. Enclose some of your own materials and perhaps include information that might be of interest to this person. Ask if there is anything you can do to assist this individual. Be sure to send the note within 48 hours after your initial meeting so that it is received while you are still fresh
in your contact’s mind.

Acknowledge powerful presentations or articles. If you hear an interesting presentation or read a great article, send a note to the speaker or writer and tell him or her how much you enjoyed and learned from their message. One person in a hundred will take the time to do this, be the one who does. I am not saying that spaeakers and writers often have developed a huge network of people covering a variety of industries, a network you can tap into.

When you receive a reference or helpuful written materials, ALWAYS send a thank you note or call to express your appreciation. Follow this suggestion only if you want to receive more references and more useful information. If you don’t acknowledge that person sufficiently, he or she will be much less likely to assist you in the future.

Send congratulatory cards and letters. If someone in your network gets a promotion, award or celebrates some other occasion write a short note of congratulations. Everyone loves to be recognized, yet very few people take the time to do this. Being thoughtful in this manner can only make you stand out. It is also appropriate to send a card or memorial gift when a family member dies.


Alfonso Bucero, MSc,PMP
Managing Partner
BUCERO PM Consulting

www.abucero.com
www.projectportfolioday.com



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