Monthly Archives: July 2013

//July

What not to say at a networking event

I don’t know where the misconception slips in but networking events are not sales events. There are some network clubs that give their members sixty seconds to stand up and sell their products or services, but for the large part this is not the case. So what are the do’s and don’ts of networking?

Don’t:
  • Open a conversation by telling who you are and what you do
  • Try and sell anything to anyone
  • Hog all the food
  • Drink too much
  • Look at other people while someone is talking to you
  • Forget your business cards
  • Talk too much even if the other person shows interest in what you are saying.  (There are many people for both you and your contact to meet).  
Do:
  • Decide why you are going in the first place (make a mental list of any issues you might have that could be solved by someone else)
  • Arrive early and check out who you would like to meet from all the name cards lying on the reception table (ask the receptionist to hand your card to that person when they arrive -you can also pop it behind their badge with a personal note written on the back of it)
  • Eat before going, to avoid hogging the food.
  • Ask open questions that show interest in the person you are speaking to
  • Look the person you are communicating with in the eyes
  • Make a connection with someone, swap cards, agree to an action (as appropriate) and politely move on.
  • Introduce people to other people, especially if they seem to be on their own
  • Thank the organizer before you leave
No, no opening lines: “Hi I am Harley I work for Ricoh, are you aware of our interesting range of photocopiers and  multi-functional printers?”

Better opening lines:

  • “Wow, what did you think of the closing speech?”
  • “I don’t believe we have met before…? (Try and leave it to them to answer and tell you their name, this way they will feel in control)
  • This is my first time (at this event/place etc) it’s impressive (or not) how about you?
  • If someone appears interesting, and you feel a genuine connection, do not turn it into a sales pitch but keep it as a fun conversation focused exercise based upon information gathering. You can do this by asking sensible and interesting questions such as:
  • “How’s the recession affecting your business?”
  • “What are the biggest challenges your company is facing right now?
  • “If you could change any one thing in your business, what would it be?”
  • “What motivated you to come to this event on this (add weather description  here ie warm and humid – or damp and wet or rainy etc) evening?” This technique subtly brings you to the persons motivations and decision values, meaning also that he or she always had a choice.

These type of open questions invite your contact to open up and share their thoughts and concerns, by doing so you can listen and see how or if you or a friend of yours might be able to help in some way, thereby opening an exchange of value.

The golden rule is to try and always connect on an emotional level – ending with the mutual feeling of ‘that was a nice guy’. This way you can always come back for more and they will very likely introduce you to others.

Have a good week

Harley

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Big Decisions -‘We’re going to war!’

I don’t suppose there can ever be a bigger decision for any leader to make than to decide to go to war; be it the president of a country or a gang leader in an inner city suburb. This week I have been reflecting on big decisions, how they are taken within business; not only in the boardroom but also within projects and in our private lives.

Jack Straw, a former Foreign Secretary in the UK under Tony Blair was right in the middle of the decision to go to war in Irak. In his latest book ‘Last Man Standing’  he tells how there was only two options on the table and that he was definitely leaning towards not going to war (this is not surprising because he was known for his pacifist leanings) however, over time, he felt himself getting ‘sucked in’ to the taking the War recommendation from his leader and colleagues. But he is not the only one, there are countless cases in history where people have rallied together to take, what can later be judged as ‘irrational’ decisions.

From boardrooms to war cabinets there are similar patterns at play: A strong leader with deeply felt beliefs, surrounded by colleagues that are prepared to challenge for a while until a certain point comes where they find themselves all moving in the same direction.  Generally we applaud this, because it allows us to move forward, but it is often not one might logically do.

Jack Straw argues that strong procedures help to mitigate this effect but I wonder if they do or if we end up in a stale compromise deadlock.  The Quakers have a policy of never voting and I tend to follow that line because the minority can (and often are) right but for any decision to work it needs the full support of the whole team and there we need to establish supportive consensus, rather than compromise.

What concerns me most is mankind’s apparent inability to take really big impartial decisions. People are governed by emotions and not reality and when emotions come into play, impartiality tends to fly out the window. Clear thinking, intelligent humans become biased; narrow minded opinionists. (If you think you’re immune, reflect on the decision process you typically take when making purchasing decisions: cars, gadgets, houses; holidays etc. and how you then justify them to those loved ones that surround you that might have other ideas or priorities)?  The psychologist Jeremy Dean has a very interesting article on his blog on the 12 laws of emotions and law three touches on the area which I am writing this week.   Law three: ‘The Law of Apparent Reality’ seems to back up my theory.  

Just a few thoughts and some interesting reading for the beach or a shady spot under a lime tree!

Have a good week,

Harley

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Seven times down, eight times up!

Every ten days the teacher placed a new slogan on her desk at the front of the class. Her students knew better than to ask what they meant. “The best start in life I can give my students”, the teacher told her colleagues “is to give them enquiring minds”.

One day the Chief Inspector of Schools for the county came to visit. “Don’t get up children” he said as he entered the classroom, “please continue with your work”.  The inspector walked over to the teacher’s desk and noticing the piece of card with her slogan on it, picked it up and read it out loud. However he must have had a puzzled look on his face because a young boy who happened to be standing by the teacher’s desk said “don’t worry Mister, you’ll get it in a couple of weeks”!

I tell this story because I believe that when it comes to changing the mindset of others, one of the best communication techniques is to tell stories and use images that are not always one hundred percent self-explanatory. The reason is because during the process of deciphering what the story might mean the recipient goes on a journey of self-discovery that allows him or her to grasp and remember the key underlying message in a way that no other communication technique can.

Back in 1984 I remember when Charles Saatchi’s advertising agency came up with possibly the most amazing and highly successful billboard advertising campaigns ever; rocketing a cigarette manufacturer’s product up to the number one slot.  It utilized no text or brand logos, no image of the product; nothing – just the image that you see at the head of this blog (you can click on it the find a larger example).  The cigarette company’s directors were extremely happy with the agency, especially as they were working in a time when it was illegal to mention or show cigarettes in any kind of advert!  Just in case you didn’t know already, the make of the cigarettes was ‘Silk Cut’. Simple but brilliant

Have a good week,

Harley

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Gimmick or great?

Every year we seem to be bombarded with new theories that promise to make us more effective and our businesses more successful.  Every year there are more than 360 management books published in Belgium alone but how can we know if they are gimmicks or really useful advances?  We’ve had so many: Balanced scorecards, Lean, Agile, Red Monkey, you name it we’ve had it. This week I want to make my point by using guitar playing as an example of ‘gimmick’ or ‘great’.  So sit back, read, listen and (hopefully) enjoy!

I remember when a young Mark Knopfler first came on the seen back in 1977. Everything about his band Dire Straits sound new and fresh, when you watched him play you could only be impressed, he still held and played the guitar normally but what about these examples: Jimi Hendrik playing with his teeth? Or Pete Frampton connected up with a tube in his mouth or Mark King slapping the strings of his bass with his thumb or perhaps, more recently, this guy Eric Mongrain?  Now to be fair – Hendrix didn’t always play with his teeth and most of the time Eric plays his guitar in a ‘conventional’ position. But how should we tell ‘gimmick’ from ‘great’?

In guitar playing, I find the secret is to simply close my eyes and to listen to the music. Just the music. I need to turn off my guitar playing head and listen to the sound the person is making and forget about the how. And then I decide if what I am hearing is poor or great music for me.

In business it is exactly the same: You need to look at the results and not at the how. But here I would add that, to be honest, it does not really matter if the management book you are reading or the guru you are listening too is a ‘gimmick’ or ‘great’ – it is the act of exploring that matters. With eyes closed in quiet contemplation you will know whether it makes sense or not. If you want to be sure you can always look around and see if the technique you are questioning has been done before and whether it worked or not. For example I am still a great believer in the Balanced score card system but I have yet to meet a company that has fully introduced it and managed to maintain it for more than a year or two. It’s incredibly complex to implement. On paper it’s perfect. In practice only a dramatically scaled down version seems to be possible to keep up over time.

It’s the same with guitar players. Once the audience is over the ‘wow’ moment, they have to want more, again and again. They need to want to buy the CD.  That’s how you tell ‘gimmick’ from ‘great’. I have just bought both of Erik’s CDs, I wonder if I will be listening to them in a year from now?

However, please excuse me, I need to get back to writing my next management book!

Have a good week,

Harley

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“Your mission is to shut the place down…”

This weekend I had a very interesting conversation with a woman at a remembrance party for a dear departed friend of mine. She had been a fellow student of his in an art school in London way back in 1953. She told me a story about a very unusual form of leadership that I thought you might be interested in?

In 1952 a man called Clive Gardiner took over the running of Goldsmiths college in London.  He had been asked to shut the place down.  The strange thing is that he seems to have done completely the opposite by doing everything in his power to keep it going.  He must have been a man with enormous energy because, apart from being a painter in his own right and managing the affairs of college, he also personally conducted all the interviews for the incoming students. The lady I met at the party was just one of 300 hundred students interviewed for her year alone and Clive Gardiner selected her into a class of only 8 students!  From this tiny class size I think we can gather that Clive Gardiner was not putting revenue generation high on his list of priorities?! 

However, under his leadership Goldsmiths became one of London’s most vibrant and forward thinking colleges. Apparently his strategy was to source lecturers and students from different sides of the spectrum. According to him “If you recruit people who are opposites then things will be become interesting”.  Every student was allocated more than one tutor per subject; each of them taking a radically different view from the other. It must have been incredibly tough for the students being forced to find their own path forward and to decide for themselves whose truth they would believe, or even to throw away everything they were being taught and to formulate their own ideas and truths, while still keeping the respect and support of the academic staff?

Today I often find myself worrying about some modern universities where apparently professors award the highest marks to those students who support their theories and repeat the words they utter in their lectures. That is fine in school but surely the main purpose of University is to engage students on a learning process that will end in them finding their own way through the labyrinth of their chosen subject?

I find Clive Gardiner’s approach very interesting but I think it must have been very tough for the lecturers and indeed the students; but what richness of thought and debate there must have been between those hallowed walls?

Today Goldsmiths is an internationally renowned college; part of the University of London. I guess in 1952 it must have been a challenging hotbed of creativity and discovery and also the subject of great annoyance to those who gave Clive Gardiner his job? What I would give to travel back in time and to be a fly on the wall of that South

East London college in the unusually cold autumn of 1952. I would also be interested to see my departed friend as a young student in earnest discussion with his class mates, but then again I suppose I can see exactly the same thing on any campus anywhere around the world today?

Have a good week,

Harley

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