Strategic contacts are often people with whom you have no mutual connection. The bad news: For many, reaching out to these people is an overwhelming task that causes high anxiety. The good news: It can be mastered with structure and practice and it has a high return on investment.
Once you have identified people to connect with, what do you say to them? How do you introduce yourself? The more you practice the following steps the easier it will get and the more likely you are to make it part of your ongoing leadership practice.
4 Steps to Make a Connection
1. Initial Contact: Whether in person or electronically, use your commitment statement as a way to introduce yourself and ask for a meeting. Tell them what you are committed to, what you are passionate about, and what you are working towards. Mention your common connection and request some time to meet. For example:
“I got your name from … I am committed to … so that … Can we meet for coffee to talk more?”
2. Your Story: During the “get-acquainted” meeting, share your 2-minute story of commitment so the other person can learn about you. Tell them about a challenge you overcame, your shared purpose, and your desired future. For example:
“I’d like to tell you a story… I share this because … is important to us … Imagine if … Please join me … ”
3. Their Story: Use curious listening to learn about the other person. Everyone has a story to tell. Encourage them to share theirs. Ask questions and listen. Look for something that resonates with you– work or non work related. People most often bond through interactions about personal interests, not technical ones. For example:
“I’m curious … Tell me more … Go on … That is interesting … ”
4. Follow-up: Show your appreciation by thanking them for the meeting using ongoing regard. Describe specifics about the meeting and then describe what impact it had on you. Written notes are best, but email also works. For example:
“Thank you … I appreciate …What you said/did … It made a difference in …”
Questions to Deepen Thinking
- How are you doing with making new connections?
- What would happen to your leadership practice if you stopped strategic networking?
- Have you ever tried to make a connection simply by being curious about the other person?Credits
Battilana, J. & Casciaro, T. (2013, July-August). The network secrets of great change agents. Harvard Business Review.
Ibarra, H. & Hunter, M. (2007, January). How leaders create and use networks. Harvard Business review.
Kegan, R. &. Lahey, L. (2001). How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work: Seven Languages for Transformation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Schein, E. (2013). Humble inquiry: The gentle art of asking instead of telling. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.
Uzzi, B. & Dunlap, S. (2005, December). How to build your network. Harvard Business Review.
Strategic Networking: ABCs of Choosing Your Connections
Networking: 5 Circles of Influence
How Leaders Inspire & Motivate: 2-Minute Story of Commitment
Setting Meaningful Goals: 3 Components of a Commitment
The DOs and DON’Ts of Curious Listening: Tell Me More
Ongoing Regard: Boost the Power of your Thank You