Networks are created through connections built on commonalities. Two people may work in a similar industry, or may have a shared interest. Perhaps a connection is made because one person has success in a market in which another person wants to find opportunity. Maybe two people just happen to meet at a professional event, or while waiting for an airplane.
Too often, our default is that we look at networking in the context of what someone else can do for us. Once a commonality has been identified and a connection created, we find ways to exploit this new relationship to benefit our career or business. This exploitation perspective may sound cynical, but our default behavior is to find ways to grow, to do better, to get to that next stage of our life or career, through networking. It’s personal, it’s selfish, and it’s what we do.
John Stepper, author of Working Out Loud, encourages us to instead approach networking with a mindset of generosity. Even when networking with someone who we hope may provide us with a connection, or a sale, or valuable information, Stepper encourages us to first consider what we can give. These gifts we give can be simple. Recognition of someone’s good work. Curiosity in their experience and their family. An introduction to a contact of yours, so their network may be expanded as you expand your network.
The practice of Working Out Loud is built on five principles:
1. Relationships: the path to knowledge and information is often through other people
2. Generosity: Stepper quotes author Keith Ferrazzi, who wrote “the currency of real networking is not greed, but generosity.”
3. Visible work: Make your work visible, and frame it as a contribution
4. Purposeful Discovery: Having a goal in mind can orient your activities
5. A Growth Mindset: Develop a more curious, open approach to work and life.
Stepper also suggests getting involved in a Working Out Loud circle, a small group of people that meets one hour a week for 12 weeks. Each person in the circle pursues their own goal with support from, and accountability to the rest of the group. There is a curriculum to follow and exercises to help learn the five Working Out Loud principles and to put them to work in pursuit of each participants’ goal.
I have been involved with several Working Out Loud circles, and have found them to be deeply meaningful, rewarding experiences. I have just begun another circle, and based on my experience, I am going to try to take Working Out Loud to the next level.
One of the Working Out Loud circle exercises I have enjoyed most is when we are asked to create and share a list of 50 interesting and/or unique things about ourselves with the rest of the circle. The list is intended to develop relationships with others in the group by providing opportunities for connection. Through these lists, we may learn that we grew up nearby each other, that we have common interests, or maybe even that we once worked at the same restaurant as teenagers.
It’s an interesting experience to share your list with your circle, but it is an even more interesting experience to create your list. Many people are daunted at the prospect of coming up with a list of 50 things, but once one starts to create such a list, it can be hard to stop. For me, I found myself pausing as I wrote my list, asking myself “Is this something I want to share? Is this something I want to reveal?” Creating a list of 50 things about yourself (that you know will be shared with others) demands a commitment to inner reflection, vulnerability and transparency.
Ultimately, it felt good to share about my experiences, my challenges and my accomplishments. It felt good to create these opportunities for connection, and I found that my networking opportunities increased as a result.
I am now in a new Working Out Loud circle, and in thinking about what I wanted my goal to be I found myself reflecting fondly on the experiences of creating the list of 50 interesting things about myself in previous Working Out Loud circles. I also have been wanting to improve my activity on Twitter, as I have found the Twitter platform to be particularly helpful in connecting to people and information important to me.
So, my goal for my next Working Out Loud circle will be to share my list of 50 interesting and unique things about myself on Twitter. One day at a time, over 50 business days, starting the week of November 30, 2020. From my @ljglickman Twitter handle I will using the hashtags #LG50things, #WorkingOutLoud, #WOL and #WOL50things, and I hope you will follow me.
I hope that every item I share is an opportunity to strengthen my connection with you. Maybe you have something to share with me, maybe there is something we can learn together. I hope that every item I share becomes an opportunity to expand my network. Maybe I can connect with people I have not met before, people throughout my industry, people around the world. I hope that every item I post gives me another opportunity to learn how to effectively share, how to effectively network and how to lead with generosity, transparency and empathy.
Working Out Loud is not a club. All are welcome. I will be Tweeting 50 interesting or unique things about myself at #LG50things. You are invited to follow me, you are invited invited to join me by creating your own hashtag and sharing your own list.
Whether you post your own list or not, let’s do this together. There is a lot to learn, there are a lot of connections to be made.