Hi all. I decided to share snippets from Chapter 5 of my book. It is not the entire chapter, only selected passages. Enjoy.
5/ A Closed Mouth Don’t Get Fed (Asking For What You Want)
…..I have blogged and written ad-nauseum about how women don’t ask for what they want. The fact is most of us don’t. In the very beginning, I had problems asking for what I wanted because I didn’t want to come off as bothersome or a pest. Remember a few chapters back when I told you what my Mom said about “bothering people”? Thank God I am that stubborn non-conforming child in the family! I had to learn that I had to speak up for what I wanted. That if I expected to be successful, that meant that I had to do a little asking at times.
As women, we are sometimes afraid of being assertive or standing out because we think we may be labeled as pushy or a bitch. Don’t let that fear stop you from speaking out or asserting yourself. Use that assertiveness to your advantage. As a Black and Latina woman, I use every advantage I have as leverage. Whatever it takes, I will make sure people get to know who I am. You’ve got to get people interested in you and give them reasons for wanting to see more of you. If I spent my days worrying about if people won’t accept me because I’m a woman, or Black or Latina, or a mom, or a small business owner, or whatever, I’d be pretty miserable……
Build a solid network and use it.
There are so many people who tell me “I can’t network. I don’t know what to say to people.” Well I usually tell them to get over it. You cannot succeed in the business world without interacting with people. You just can’t. You don’t necessarily have to become BFFs. But you must on a basic level have the ability to strike up conversations and the timing skills to know when to strike or move on an opportunity. As much as I hate to admit it, there is still an unspoken truth that it’s all in who you know, not what you know that determines the outcome of your success.
If you are not comfortable with speaking to “strangers”, start off small. Talk to colleagues. No, not the gossipy water cooler types. Nobody needs to talk to them. They aren’t looking to improve or move up the corporate ladder. Their main goal in life is to gossip about Laura’s ugly new shoes or Dave’s hair piece. Seek out forward moving success magnets. Those are the ones who dedicate themselves to getting the job done. They have that brass ring within their sight and only surround themselves with like minded people. They don’t let anything or anyone stand in their way of success. A word of warning though. Those overly aggressive ambitious types can be dangerous. You know who they are, the ones who would step on their own mother to succeed. They may be beneficial to your success if you understand the rules of engagement. Keep these people in your sight at all times to avoid that knife in your back.
Reach out to people within your own sphere. Relatives can be a good source. Ask who they know and what introductions they can make. This is not the time to be shy. I know that my family members and friends are amazed at the people I know and network with. But see, there is a caveat to asking for intros and referrals. You must be able to come to the table with something. If you are a customer service rep (for example) why do you need to be introduced to the COO of Nike who knows your cousin? See where I’m going with this? I always say the sky is the limit, but by the same token aim within reason. Anyone in your immediate network (friends, family, neighbors, etc) can be a source of leads.….
…..Do you know what your friends and family do? No really, besides being a Realtor or school teacher or IT consultant or business owner, what do they do? Do you know who they socialize and network with? What kind of professional activities do they do or events do they attend? What are their professional interests? Have you ever bothered to ask? If you want to tap into your “base network” you need to start having these conversations. Take a few of them out to lunch or coffee. Prepare a few questions for them ahead of time so you can have a meaningful conversation. Get to know how their sphere of influence works and figure out how you can tap into that. The more information you get from them, the better you can determine if they can help you….
…..Suppose you find out they like golf and they live near you. Suggest you meet for a round of golf and lunch. The golf course is a hot spot for networking. But you better brush up on your game before offering such a meeting. There are many pro shops that have lessons for low cost. You can go to any public course and practice putting and chipping balls. If you are serious about learning the game, I would suggest going to the pro shop and asking about lessons. Of course I would do this way before asking someone to a game of golf. You don’t want to embarrass yourself, do you?
Wait, you don’t have any golf clubs? No problem, most people don’t. My first set of golf clubs were purchased at a garage sale for $25 and I still have them. The bag has gotten damaged, but the clubs are perfect. As I started learning, I got my son and a few friends into it. I took them straight to the Goodwill and thrift shops. You’d be amazed at what you can find. Remember, affluent people often need to have write offs so they donate items. Golf clubs in great condition are donated all the time. I purchased my son’s set (I had to dig hard to mix and match to make a full set) plus bag for $12. And there were a ton of balls left in the pocket of the bag to boot! My point is, you don’t have to go Tiger Woods and buy the $500 set of clubs. Learn the game with used clubs and when you’re comfortable, treat yourself to new ones. But I promise you that you will be just fine with used ones. The bottom line is golf is the international game of networking. Learn it….
…..If activity is not in the cards for you, try a different approach. Why not host a breakfast, brunch or lunch? It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. You can get 5-6 people together for some food and conversation. If you make it a casual, relaxed environment, people are more willing to engage in conversation. Have an informal agenda and plan some communication activities for the event. For example, ask each guest to bring a mini bio of themselves and one or two of their urgent networking needs. This usually goes over well in my networking events. It gives everyone a chance to get to know each person and understand what they are looking for, as well as gives others a chance to possibly help them. It makes everyone feel like a participant and deflects from the fact that you are the person in need. In helping yourself, you are in turn helping others and that is what networking is all about. But if you don’t ask, you don’t get.….
…..Starbucks has become the unofficial hotspot for meeting people. The other day I decided to go to Starbucks to get out of the house and see if I could overcome my writer’s block. It was a beautiful day, and although I hate coffee, I love the energy of the people who go to Starbucks. This particular Tuesday morning, I decided to sit outside to work on my writing. I noticed three different clusters of men, each chatting and discussing business details in their respective groups. The group closest to me consisted of 3 men discussing what appeared to be a big real estate deal. They were deep in conversation and it fascinated me. They talked about their plans for their business venture and how each would fit into the project. Behind me were two gentlemen who apparently had just met, but were brought together by an acquaintance. They discussed possible synergies they had regarding some IT project they were interested in collaborating on. They shared their work styles and hopes for the project. The third group, well I couldn’t hear them too much because I guess whatever they were discussing was top secret. But they looked like they were deep in thought and intensely in conversation.
I share this because they took the stuffiness out of a traditional meeting and got down to business….at the local Starbucks. Not all meetings need to be in a conference room or an office. As I looked around both inside and outside of Starbucks, I didn’t notice any women meeting. It made me kind of sad. I would have loved to see some women power meeting and hammering out deals. While this is not the first time I’ve encountered this, I felt compelled to share because of the intense vibe I got from those men. On this particular day I chose not to approach any of them. But know and believe I have been known to introduce myself at a Starbucks. I have yet to get shut down. It’s all part of my charm I guess. Like my Daddy said, a closed mouth don’t get fed. And I don’t know about you, but I like to be fed…well. So I open my mouth when it is called for. You never know who you may meet at the local Starbucks, bookstore, etc.
For those shy gals in the audience, I understand that some of these practices may be beyond your comfort zone. In that case start off using the internet, but don’t let that be your end all be all. The internet has allowed us in the last 10-15 years to level almost every playing field. It has allowed us to connect in ways that we could not have imagined just five short years ago. There are search engines, portals, information sites, networking sites, community networking, message forums, real time communications, websites and more. You do yourself a grave disadvantage if you don’t learn to use it and tap into the power of it properly…..
…..The internet is a wonderful thing and I am grateful that I have it to make my job a little easier. But it can make you lazy. You must cultivate your business relationships that you form online and eventually bring them offline. Let’s say you meet someone on Linked In or Viadeo, or any other online professional networking tool, and it’s not someone you know or are relatively acquainted with. Immediately suggest a phone conversation. Take the time to introduce yourself and let the person know how you see them networking with you. And then continue the dialog. You don’t have to speak every week, or every month for that matter. But you do want them to keep you in the forefront of their minds. Don’t approach your relationships with a “set it and forget it” mentality or worse “what’s in it for me”. It takes real work and commitment. I usually work on a relationship on and off for the better part of a year. If the person does not show any interest in building some sort of basic relationship with me, I keep it moving. Why waste my time or theirs.
A year gives me plenty of time to decide if this person is valuable to me. It’s not like you can make that type of assessment in one or two meetings with someone. You must take the time to get to know and understand the person enough to determine if they are a valuable asset or an albatross. The sooner you make the realization the better for you. But you must put in the effort…..
Copyright ©2008 by Adrienne Graham. All Rights Reserved.
ISBN Number: 978-0-615-25666-5
Go Ahead, Talk to Strangers will be available for purchase in the coming weeks. Please stay tuned to the blog for more details.
Til Next Time