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Name of author Rick Baker, P.Eng.

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Getting Present

by Rick Baker
On Feb 17, 2012

Often, we start meetings with a 'getting present' chat. Either we take turns answering a non-business question or sharing with one another how we feel...personal, but not intrusive.

We find getting present questions are a great way to start group sessions and workshops.

Getting present questions:

  • help People get comfortable
  • help People with one another connect
  • help People focus
All of these are very important things to do.
Why is it important to help People get comfortable?
Why is it important to help People connect with one another?
Answer: Some People are natural Connectors. Most People are not; most People benefit when Situations allow them to relax and exchange warm-up communication. 
Why is it important to help People focus?
Answer: Most People find it tough to concentrate; most People spend a lot of time thinking about the past, for example - the last task they were working on; most People spend a lot of time thinking about the future, for example - the work they will complete later in the day; few People are able to concentrate and Focus on the present. 
So, Leaders must help People be comfortable, get connected, and get Focused.
Tactics like getting present questions help Leaders get this important work done.
Leaders can obtain quick & straightforward help in these areas.
For example, if you want to understand more about 'getting present' and 'focusing on Now', check out:

Hello. How do you do?

by Rick Baker
On Dec 30, 2011

Hello. How do you do?


Hi. How are you doing?

Where did these sorts of greetings come from?

Why do we do them?

[and...lurking behind the curtains of the business scenes...is this 'Networking'?]

Some traditions are wonderful things. I mean, there is a good reason behind the lingering of some traditions. These greetings are examples.

Consider the Bedouins...the desert-dwelling, Arabic nomads of the Middle East. There are some great Bedouin stories, which can help us understand why 'greetings' exist as they do today.

Here is an often-quoted piece of Bedouin philosophy:

"I against my brother, my bothers and me against my cousins, then my cousins and I against strangers."

About a dozen millennia ago, that thinking developed in the fertile crescent [at or close to Bedouin homelands]. And, that thinking has existed throughout the evolution of civilization. It is part of the human condition...our legacy, our present, and our future. 

For millennia the Bedouins have asked questions when they meet or greet people.

Trust is earned or lost first at home: I against my brother 

Then trust, if it can be gained, radiates from home outward.

That's the way civilization grew.

People wanted to explore. People wanted to own property. And, people did those things by conquering first and later by trading.

As people began to venture out into new territories greetings became a part of life...friend or foe was the first test performed by a greeting. As trading routes expanded the greeting tests expanded beyond friend or foe.

As an example, when meeting new people the Bedouins asked a series of questions...

  • Who are you?
  • Where are you from?
  • Where are you going?
Simple, straightforward questions, designed millennia ago to help strangers feel comfortable enough with one another to determine 'common ground'...including common ground for exchanging goods in trade.
[now I hinted above, some business thoughts were lurking here]
Isn't that more-or-less what Networking is all about?
Put another way, wouldn't it be OK to continue the habit well-proven by the Bedouins thousands of years ago.
Wouldn't it be OK to meet new people and ask: 
  • Who are you?
  • Where are you from?
  • Where are you going?
Of course, you will be tempted to massage those words a bit to make them more-catchy. 
Really, there is no need to do that.

Business people are struggling with Networking

by Rick Baker
On Nov 8, 2011
If you think that is hogwash then – Congratulations!
[I would love to hear your stories.]
If you are still reading this Thought Post then you know some business folks who are struggling with networking.
Here is the advice I gave at a recent Greater Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce networking event:
  1. If you are uncomfortable networking, that's contagious. If you enjoy networking, that's contagious….so
  2. If you are uncomfortable networking, either:
    • Don’t do any more business networking [business networking is not a necessary evil…it is not an interpersonal exercise where misery enjoys company] or
    • Figure out how to get comfortable before you do any more business networking [a little creative thought can go a long, long way toward making business networking an enjoyable experience]
In addition to those ‘basic rules’…
  1. If you haven’t given much thought to whether or not you are comfortable with business networking then don’t do business networking until you are prepared to check your networking pulse. Again, business networking is not a necessary evil…if you view it that way then what you see is what you’ll get.
  2. If you have no networking goals then don’t do business networking until you are prepared to set some business networking goals.
Whatever you do – do not settle with going through the business-networking motions.
Just going through the business-networking motions will be unsatisfying for you and for the all the business folks you encounter while you are doing it.
The Good News: regardless of how you feel today, you can learn to get comfortable with and maybe even enjoy business networking [if that is something you want to learn].
What is Networking? I have written several articles on the topic…here’s a link.
In summary, Networking is a way to meet other business people. Networking is a way to accomplish ‘personal branding’. And, from time to time Networking may become the step in a buying process connecting with a step in a selling process [and, of course, vice-versa].


Networking: The Joys of Connection

Networking & The Strength of Weak Links

by Rick Baker
On Oct 13, 2010
You have a network of people connections.
Some of those connections are strong and some are weak.
Your strong connections include your family and your friends. Strong connections contain special significance and they exist over long periods of time. As the saying goes “blood is thicker than water”, so strong connections are thicker than weak connections.
Strong Connections are considered the Strong Links of your network.
Your weak connections are occasional and unplanned: some of them happen by sheer coincidence.
Weak Connections are considered the Weak Links of your network.
The Strength of Weak Links: that is a phrase used by Richard Koch and Greg Lockwood in their new book titled ‘SUPERCONNECT, Harnessing the Power of Networks and The Strength of Weak Links’.
How can there be Strength in Weak Links?
The answer to that questions starts with Mark Granovetter, who attended Princeton and Harvard. His research paper titled ‘The Strength of Weak Ties’ was published in 1973. In that paper, he concluded weak ties or links are often much more valuable than strong ties. Here is how Koch and Lockwood explain Granovetter’s puzzling conclusion:
“Granovetter said that people with whom we spend little time can frequently be far more useful to us than those we see every day, those with whom we have intimate and intense relationships, those who actively try to help us.” He also argued that weak ties between acquaintances or strangers are more important to society that the strong ties of friendship.” How could this be?
Put simply, his argument is as follows. Our close friends tend to be similar to us and mainly move in the same social circles. Close friends operate in a dense network, what Granovetter called a ‘closely knit clump of social structure’, where most people know each other and share the same information.”
“The weak tie between the individual and his acquaintance ‘therefore becomes not merely a trivial acquaintance tie but rather a crucial bridge between the two densely knit clumps of close friends…It follows, then, that individuals with few weak ties will be deprived of information from distant parts of the social system and will be confined to the provincial news and views of their close friends’.” [the part in italics is an excerpt from Granovetter’s paper]
Here’s a link to Granovetter.
Question: Have you every experienced absolute surprise when a relationship that started from sheer coincidence turned into something truly amazing?
Bottom line: maybe it is a good idea to keep our minds open to new relationships…and, keep our doors open…and our phone lines, our BlackBerrys, our desktops, our mail boxes, our…


Networking: The Joys of Connection

People Networking…Succeeding in the 21st Century #5

by Rick Baker
On Jun 19, 2010
The purpose of this blog series is to develop a framework for best-practice people networking. That is, to provide those interested in succeeding at people networking with a guide…a guide to help them.
Not only are we trying to develop the How To Network framework, but we are doing it in a collaborative way. Business associates - LinkedIn friends - are sharing thoughts and exchanging input. This blog series presents some of the details of our idea exchanges. The full set of interactions can be found at LinkedIn.
My LinkedIn contact name is WFC Rick Baker.
Prior blogs can be found at these links [#1, #2, #3, #4].
At the Blog #4, I promised to adjust my definition of Networking and discuss the changes I make.
My first draft of the definition was:
Networking is meeting new people and re-meeting people in a business or social context
My LinkedIn friends felt this was not sufficient. The definition should contain a description of not just ‘what’ networking is by also ‘why’ we do it. We should define the purpose/goal of networking. While my LinkedIn friends had differing views about the purpose/goal of networking there was a common theme. The differences were more about the extent of the purpose than the direction of the purpose.
My LinkedIn friends felt the direction networking should take is delivering value. The purpose/goal should be to deliver value. My LinkedIn friends had strong views about making sure the value was given or exchanged rather than just taken. Some strongly felt giving value without expecting to receive value was the right starting mindset.
My LinkedIn friends had differing views about the extent value must be delivered. At one extreme, successful networking could be as small as helping the other person smile.  At the other extreme, successful networking could be as large as building a life-long relationship, a two-way commitment based on trust with an ongoing sharing of value.
I believe a one-way delivery of value to others could be sustainable for life. I mean, as long as we accept success happens when we deliver a small value to others there is no reason why we cannot keep delivering small value to others when they do not reciprocate. For example, we can smile at others every time we see them even if they never let us know they receive value.
My original definition did not attempt to incorporate success. I was trying to define networking in as simple terms as possible. I agree with my LinkedIn friends: in business we should not just do things, we should have some purpose behind the things we do.
So, on behalf of our group of LinkedIn friends, I have added ‘purpose/goal’ words to our 2nd draft definition, to ensure people know successful networking is about delivering value. However, we have not attempted to set limits on the extent delivering value must happen. If the delivery of value is as small as trying to help another person smile then that is successful networking. If much more happens and the exchange of value is as large as life-long shared commitments and value exchange then that, of course, is successful networking too.
Here is 2nd draft of the definition - Successful Networking:
Successful Networking is meeting new people and re-meeting people in a business or social context with the purpose of delivering and receiving value


Definitions - Spirited Words Defined | Networking: The Joys of Connection

People Networking…Succeeding in the 21st Century #4

by Rick Baker
On Jun 13, 2010
Recently, I posted 3 blogs about 'People Networking' [#1, #2, #3].
After posting the blogs, I asked some LinkedIn friends to look at the blogs and provide their feedback about what I had written and provide input about what they thought I ought to write next. 
[FYI - my LinkedIn account is under WFC Rick Baker]
I notice a few readers 'rated' these blogs…and, overall, they were rated rather low. [I have dealt with that as best I can by (1) committing to improve my writing and by (2) recommending to some other friends they should use my blogs as a remedy for their insomnia.]
Back to People Networking
First: to my LinkedIn friends who provided their thoughts to help me and others…Thank You!
Here is a summary of the LinkedIn-friends feedback I received about People Networking:
  • I agree with your analysis of the two extremes of networking. When I began networking, I definitely fell into the latter group, i.e. the ones who go into a shell. You don't mention the third type of networker, i.e. the one who actually knows how to network, but I assume you will cover that in future instalments.
    I don't necessarily disagree with the inner-directed questions to ask yourself, but I'm not sure it's the best place to start. For one thing, when it comes to the first type of networker who grabs everyone to explain to them why they should be clients, many of them would give themselves a 10 as networkers, even if they are really a 2. The self-assessment won't work, in other words, if you don't first know what a good networker does.
    For me, my turnaround came when I realized that networking is not about what you can do for me. It's about what I can do for you. As soon as I changed to an outer-directed focus, I came out of my shell. There was nothing to cringe about if I focused on how I can help the other guy.
  • Yes I agree but I think it is deeper than that.
    You concluded: "Networking is meeting new people and re-meeting people in a business or social context."
    I would extend that beyond "meeting" to "developing a relationship with". A relationship can be, as you said, both social and business, but it goes beyond meeting which is often one-way (you introducing yourself to them) to a two-way commitment where you learn more about each other and start looking for ways to add value to each other. This builds trust over time - which from my perspective is the ultimate goal of networking. Once trust is established, an opportunity may present itself.
  • Great way to drive traffic!
  • I agree with your description of the two extremes of networking, the proverbial shrinking violets on the one hand and the gregariousness personified on the other hand. As a former shrinking violet, what works for me is to understand that effective networking starts and ends with providing value. It's not about me, it's about what can I do for someone, something, the world. Doing this consistently establishes credibility and provides the basis for a productive relationship that engenders trust. For me, meeting and re-meeting people in a business or social context is not a satisfactory goal, it is only a tool. The goal of networking, for me, is to develop relationships based on providing mutual value.
  • I'm not sure I agree with your definition of networking. Simply making and remaking contacts doesn't really add value. A network consists of a series of connections. The stronger those connects the better the network.
    In your example you explain that networking starts by looking at your own personality and development. I don't think that's where people should start. I think people should network with the intent of helping the other person. Help them smile, help them learn something, help them meet someone that is better able to help them. I would much rather network with someone that is more interested in what other people have to say than someone that knows how to nod at the appropriate time.
    In business I work on a simple axiom - people buy from people. Regardless of whether it is offline or online the idea of helping others will take you much further than polishing your presentation skills.
This confirms:
  1. My LinkedIn friends who provided feedback understand others have a wide range of ways of approaching networking: some are shrinking violets, some are gregariousness personified, some people think they are excellent at networking when really they are not, and some other folks are excellent at networking.
  2. The friends who provided feedback think my definition 'Networking is meeting new people and re-meeting people in a business or social context' is not sufficient because it does not capture the goal/intent of networking. My friends believe the goal/intent of networking is
    • helping the other person and/or helping the other person smile and/or
    • providing value and/or
    • it's not about me, it's about what can I do for someone else and/or
    • adding value and/or
    • making strong connections and/or
    • developing relationships based on providing mutual value and/or
    • even more than building relationships it is growing a two-way commitment and building trust over time
  3. My friends who provided feedback had differing views about my statement regarding the starting point. I had stated:
    So, the first Networking step is spending some time thinking about oneself:
    • What are my interpersonal strengths?
    • What are my interpersonal weaknesses?
    • Have I educated myself and learned enough about 21st Century networking?
    • What do the results of my past-actions tell me about my networking skills?
    • On a scale of 1-to-10, how do I rate my networking talent?
    Overall, it seems the friends who provided feedback are at least a little uncomfortable with the starting point I suggested.
So, in my next blog in this series - blog #5 - I will make [and discuss] some adjustments to my definition of People Networking and I will revisit 'the starting point'. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions about these things then please let me know.

Copyright © 2012. W.F.C (Rick) Baker. All Rights Reserved.