Out of the Box

Have you Considered Networking? 3 Assumptions We Make About Networking

“Have you considering Networking?” How many of you made the same face my clients or others make when I ask them this question?

Networking Noa Ronen Coaching

 I know, I know, there are rare people, somewhat like the lions in the savannah that when I ask the Networking question their answer will be: “I love Networking, bring it on!” with a spark in their eyes. Yes, there are a few of those, but many people do not enjoy networking.

 In this article, I would like to invite you to consider a new way of approaching Networking. A new intention if I can suggest.

A few weeks ago one of my clients burst into a long monologue about how much they hate Networking. I get it. Believe me, I do.

 
Selling Me vs. Meeting People

I am pretty good with one on one conversations, but when I had to enter a big room full with strange people, I could sense how uncomfortable I was. Still, in that gap between my car/a train and a big event, I can sense how my body is closing on me. When I started my coaching business I remember telling others that there is a big distinction between selling a product you believe in and selling yourself to others. By the way, it is the same experience when you are trying to share a vision you care about or letting people know you are looking for a job.

You see, entering a room with that mindset and the assumption that what you do is selling can put you at unrest. But with time I learned that when I go into a networking event, it is not about selling me, it is about meeting people and learn about them. Now if you are a giver, who focus on being always for the other, hold on and please pay attention; I didn’t mean that your job is to come into a room with the intention to allow everyone else to talk and for you to cheer them up and ask yourself how you can help them, you are there to introduce yourself like anyone else. But rather than coming in an intention of selling conversation, come with the intention to connect. Focus on meeting cool people.

I am better with one on one conversations
Exactly! I am better with one on one conversations too. And this is your goal.
When you enter a networking event, your intention should be on how you find cool people who trigger your curiosity. People that when you talk with them, you enjoy the conversation and would love to keep the dialogue in a week or two. There are many reasons why the two of you would like to meet with each other for a one on one meeting. It might be that this is the third event you see each other and it is time to meet, or it might be that you have areas of focus that complete each other, or you see a potential of referring to each other, or they might work/ed in a company that you are trying to apply for a job opportunity. You see, the focus is NOT about selling yourself, it is about meeting exciting people and creating opportunities for you (and them) to meet with each other for a more in-depth conversation and develop relationships.

 
But if I I intend to create relationships, how can I sell my service or product or my need for a job?

Before I answer this question, let me ask you another question (this is what coaches do very well). When you come to a networking event or one on one meeting and the person who you are meeting with is talking about themselves for a big portion of the meeting. If you are at a big event, you can sense that while they are talking with you they are browsing with their eyes for other potential opportunities and focus more on their exchanging business cards rather than who you are and what are your needs. How that person made you feel?

When I ask this questions in a big room, I always get the same answers:

  • I feel unheard and invisible.

  • I think that they are using me to get what they want, but they don’t care about me.

  • They only care about their pitch they don’t care about people.

You see? In the end, we all want others to listen to our wants and needs. We want to be seen, be heard and acknowledged. This is why when you connect with people, remember to see them as people, and not as objects to serve your needs and make them feel invisible.

Get curious about their wants, get curious about who they are, ask questions, challenge yourself to find something interesting about them – and try to identify what are the interesting points that connect the two of you. This is a good way to share your story from their need and create a deeper connection.

 

But if I spend so much time with few people how can I reach to as many as possible so they can help me?

In the end, no one will help you if they don’t know you. People help people they know, it is rare for a stranger to help you find a job, or support your business if they don’t know you. This is why I teach my clients to attend the same places consistently. There are many groups you can join or volunteer with; Meet Up is a great place to find your people. If you like to workout find a group, you want and show up every time. If you have the time I would suggest to volunteer with an organization, there is no better way to get to know people and leaders in the organization and your community than volunteering with a committee, the board or other projects. Ask yourself how likely are you to recommend someone on your running group who you speak with twice a week for a long time vs. a person you met for a quick 5 minutes’ conversation in a networking event?

 

There is no networking police
If the thought of meeting so many people in a networking event can sound daunting, exhausting and frustrating, especially for the introverts in the room. Here is a tip I share with my clients and my audience: “There is no networking police in networking events.” Let me suggest a different approach, rather than meeting all the people in the room and having short and non-meaningful conversations, go into a room and find one or two people that you can have a deep and meaningful conversations. After you had that experience, if you are done, go. No one is there to report your short attendance or stats about how many people you met. The more you work on the muscle of networking you will feel less exhausted and create opportunities rather than frustration and many shallow conversations that take you nowhere.

 

What is one new intention you can bring or practice in your next networking, conference or other events?

 

Followers?

Yes, I became one of these people who read 2-3 books at the same time. Most of them are books around what I do as a coach. I am looking for inspiration, nuggets, a line that will pull my attention to dig deeper and this week was no different. The inspiration came from the word followers. I got caught in the leader-follower term that we all use now. I think before it was the word "subordinates, " and since we are moving from the top down management to leadership so now we have the word: followers. But the more I think about it; I am not sure I would like to stick with this term, followers, let me tell you why.
 I believe that my role as a leader is not to make all the decisions, but to create an environment that makes others shine. It is interesting watching myself struggle with not going into solutions when I lead (or even when I parent). As a coach, you stay away from fixing, or go into solutions for your client which is 99% very easy to me. But as a leader to allow the other side to come up with solutions, experiment with them and see where it will take us that's a work in progress. Everyone talk about what the leader needs to do to make people follow them. Leadership by its very definition presumes that there are followers to lead. And if there are followers to lead, that creates the necessity of an actual leader. Essentially, leaders exist because of followers and followers exist because of leaders (Hogg, 2001). I admit that I see it the other way around. I think that as I see it, it is about what the leaders need to stop doing, or even just do less? The less they do, the more space they create for others to shine. So if you stay with me, we move into Zen approach leadership where less is more. The less you suggest, the more others shine, the more you go to the back, or to the side, the more others want to go to the front. Even in the messiness of others, I have learned that it is what I don’t do or try to fix in them that will allow their storm to calm down and come back different when they are ready. So that made me think… if... I as a leader go more and more to the back if I focus on asking questions, if I manage myself to do less and create more space for others to move to the front, they are not followers. 
Pause for our story time. Last time I talked about one of my biggest gifts, this time I will share one of my biggest weaknesses. My orientation, my sense of direction is just horrible. Put me in the car with GPS, and I will probably get lost. Every time I am sure that I walk or drive in the right direction without a map or GPS I walk/drive to the opposite direction.
When I was in college, my friend and I attended the same class for a year. For a year, every time we left the classroom, she slowed down and let me lead the way. Every time we left the class I took the wrong turn, then I would look at her and realized that she was giggling. After a semester she stopped and said: “Noa, I can’t believe, we come here every week, and every time we leave the classroom you head in the wrong direction”. 
Yes, luckily my husband and my two boys have an incredible sense of direction, and I follow their lead, which takes me back to the word: followers. When I walk with my husband in a new city I don’t even try, I trust that he will take me to the right place, but in that trust, I let go of curiosity or learning, I move the responsibility to him. You see, as a follower, I don’t need responsibility, it is my husband's job to make sure we get to the right place. Now, in the next day, if I will need to walk on the same route that my husband and I walked the day before, I will have no memory of the path, I will need to start from scratch with a map as I have never been there before.
So you see, my concern when we use the word followers is that as leaders we want our team, our employees, our client or members to be engaged, to be responsible – but we come from an intention/mindset of seeing them as followers. How can they take on responsibility??? by the way as a leader do you want everyone to follow you?

“Hey! I need your help” I texted my husband who was sitting in an Irish Pub at the other side of the world “do you have a different word for 'follower?'” 
Yes, that’s another problem I have, I start from my end thought and forget about all the intro. So I began my text message again, now with a full intro, or at least as much as I can write when my create brain wants an answer right here right now. I waited to see what words he will share. 
I know as a leader and as a coach that I can’t allow myself to use the mindset of wanting others to follow me or invite others to create a culture of followers. 
So I came up with the term: WALKERS.
When we walk, we can walk side by side and have a real conversation, but sometimes when the path is too narrow, you can walk before me, or choose to slow down and allow me to lead. It doesn’t matter unless we are hiking in North Carolina during spring, or summer or early fall and then I will probably ask you to go in front just in case we bump into a snake, but that's a topic for another post.

By the way, my husband came up with the word: “Devotee.”
What would be your word?
        

Easy Doesn’t Mean Yes

Focus. If you live in our ADD generation, many of us are struggling with how to keep ourselves focused. I see two levels of how I can keep myself focused. The first level is how to commit to myself to do what I promised to do, and the second one that I am going to focus in this post is how do I focus on my primary purpose and its goals without being all over the place.

I think that being a leader and having my own business open the door for me to be mindful of what and how I do things and what are my thoughts and emotions about every step I take (or don’t take). You need to deal with so many fears, demons, and challenges and for each one of us they are different, and since not doing results in no money, or no clients/people who support your vision – it is very easy to see when you are not showing up fully even though you want to. 

So here is a fascinating lesson I have learned in the past two years around keeping myself focused or being all over the place and not following my desired path.

What I have learned in the past two years relates to a gift, yes, a gift that I have. For me to take on a big project, a complicated project, something that I have never done before is really fun. In my former life, I was a project manager and change management consultant. I didn’t need to have complicated workflows and documents to run projects, I have had a simple workflow, and most of the other components were in my head, and I remembered EVERYTHING – yes it is crazy, but this is my gift. It is easy for me to orchestrate and run the project and then to bring on board the people that will join me to do their part. I am totally at flow when I execute a complicated project. So this is one of my biggest gifts. I can tackle complicate projects easily. And here is the BUT.... What I have learned is that my gift is also what stands between my desire to stay focused on what is important to me and my fear to be all over the place. 

What I have noticed is that whenever someone reaches out to me and asked if I can help and take on a complicated project, my answer was YES!
 
But then one day I set with my whole life projects, I made a long list and realized that I said YES to too many projects that are easy for me. When I looked even deeper, the sad news was that none of the projects on the list served what was important to me (no matter if it is in life or business). 
My YES was to “EASY”, easy to pet my ego.  What I mean is that if I will be very honest with you, saying yes makes me feel good that I can do it easily and I can save others' world at that moment. Of course, it serves them and it also serves my ego, but does it serve my goals?
And that’s when I STOPPED.
Don’t get me wrong; there are still moments when it feels like I can be the only one that can save the day and my first tendency is to say: “Yes, I can do it”, but I have learned slowly to control the four words and STOP. Then I ask myself: “What is the purpose of saying YES?” If it is only because it is easy for me, that’s not a yes. If it is to pet my ego, it is defiantly not serving me nor others. So now my focus is to say YES only to projects that serve my purpose. So next time ask yourself: Am I doing it because it is EASY for me, or am I choosing to say YES because it serves the goals that are the purpose of what is important for me. And YES it is okay to say NO.
 

Overwhelmingly Unbalanced January and Assumptions About my Generation X

Overwhelned

Something interesting happened this month, we are talking about January, and for some reason, most of my clients shared the same burden of having too many things going on in their life right now. For some, it resulted in doing nothing, and for others, it led to making too many mistakes.

It is kind of interesting how things were starting to fall apart for all at the same time, exactly when we all suppose to let go of our New Year's resolution.

But, let’s skip the New Year’s Resolution Statistics and let me share something I am thinking about related to my generation, Generation X.

I am not sure what is happening to us, especially Generation X, but I think for many of us this smartphone/technology distraction caught us unprepared. Don't get me wrong, I am not that old, but although my father brought home Commodore 64 when I was 6, life with computers, or computer with life – not sure what is the right order – became part of my reality only when I was around the age of 24.  My assumption is that for many of my generation it was/is the same picture.

The reality is that Gen X is struggling with balance like no other generation.

You see, for my kids, technology is part of their nature, they are 100% committed to it, but! When they want to talk to me (not when I make them talk) they will put their technology away and connect fully – I am not kidding.
Now, my parents and their generation? Most of them worked with papers during their office hours, and when they went back home, they disconnected from their work until the next day. Today, after they have retired, they got used to technology, and even enjoy some social media, and smartphones, but they use it as a hobby or pleasure.

Generation X?

Think about it for a moment; we weren't born into this environment; we needed to figure out how to work with all the distractions, how to work with emails efficiently? How to build our business using social media? How to use text messages and What's App? And feel alive or not depend on our smartphone battery life.

So we feel like we always have too much, too much work, too many commitments, too many distractions, so we stopped choosing, we do it messy or just break the rules and don’t do it at all.

Again, this is my assumption about why our generation feels so overwhelmed and out of balance; we had to learn to say yes to too many things, we had to learn later on how to embody email and social media and iPhones and exploding Samsung. Oh! One thing we did forget! We forgot how to say no.

So what I like to do is go back to basics. Somewhere in the new reality of “technology is part of our life” we got confused and started to approach our brain as CPU. So listen here! Yes, our brain is a smart computer, but if you read the machine instructions (Brain at Work by David Rock is a good place to start), you will realize that our brain is not okay with multi-tasking. Multitasking is something that was invented by Human Resources to write in Job Descriptions, but let me repeat my message to you: our brain was not designed to support multitask. Our brain was designed to figure out patterns and behaviors; it learns what we do by breaking the actions to little bites until it sees a pattern and makes it part of our "non-thinking mechanism."

So if it is okay, I would like to invite you to go back to basics, to go back in time to when Commodore 64 was just a big fat box with not much memory. That was the time when we would take a pencil or a pen and write down or even draw your list.

Write down, or draw everything you have in your head, spill it out, throw up, I know you have there more than a dozen item in your head. I can tell you that it feels so damn GOOD to empty your head space and let go of all the distractions and even guilt for all the things you said YES to because they are easy to do, but not important and that will lead you to the next step. You need to have a serious conversation with yourself about what stays and what goes. This is your early spring cleaning. Enjoy ;-)

Last, here is something I have created to plan my goals. I broke down the process into three categories: DOING, BEING, and RESULTS. For each goal ask yourself: What is the doing for this goal? What is the being for this goal and what are the results I would like to see from the doing and being? What's cool about this process is that sometimes what you think is your goal ends up being something else. It makes you think intentionally about each of your goals.

For example, you want to speak in front of groups, is speaking is your result? No! Speaking is your doing, so what is your being? Your being can be courage, and what are the results? Probably more clients, visibility, money…

Got it? Keep it simple, download it and have fun!

The Relationship between Leaves and Declutter Your Life and Head Space

Picture By Noa Ronen

Before we moved to the US we lived in a country with two main seasons: Summer and a short Winter. This is why I enjoy living in an area with 4 seasons.

"Look how beautiful the leaves are!", I tell my kids, "look! look! at this beautiful tree, I have never seen such bright red color in my life!", "Hey! I have to stop and take a picture of this Magnolia's flowers". The kids got used to it with the years, they will shrug and ignore daily comments about nature, sometimes they might even ask politely if I can stop repeating the same sentences every time we cross the same tree, oh well... I get them they grew up into this reality.
This is why when we moved from New York City to North Carolina which is warmer, I had no big expectations for the Fall season. But when Fall happened, it really happened. 

Now, living in a wooded area where trees are everywhere, it shifts how you look at Fall season. Every day I drove or walked outside I have noticed that colors were changing constantly and Mother Nature invited me to keep looking with enthusiasm, to keep my eyes wide open and ask myself what Nature is going to share with me next???

Before I go back to leaves, colors, and Fall I want to share with you something about my relationship with the Fall season. Every year, when the weather is getting cooler when we can wear cute jackets and scarves, while orange is everywhere it brings joy into my life. For me, the Fall is a time of inspiration, the colors around me bring energy and creativity. But, there is also that heavy feeling that winter is almost here, the weather is going to get really cold, people will start dancing the slow dance and the brown color is going to rule everywhere.

But this year something shifted. One morning my husband was looking out our bedroom window and called me to join him. "Look!" he said, "there is more light in our room.” He was right, behind our house there was a little forest and we both realized that the naked trees allowed the light to get access our backyard, now we can even see the kids if they want to play in the forest. We could see.

It made me think about a different situation in our life, when people have so much clutter in their internal and external space they can't see clear, but when they declutter their head and/or life space clutter they can see things with more clarity, there is more space to organize thoughts and emotions.  Maybe, like Winter to me, it can bring a new perspective and help see things differently.
So what are you choosing not to see in your Winter?

 

 

 

 

Stuck with my Sticky Notes

 

Once in a while, I get stuck. I get stuck between my thoughts and my beliefs about how I want my next steps to look like. 
Although I crave to move forward, something is holding me back and I just can’t, I am stuck.

What makes us get stuck? What is that THING? 
For me being stuck is about trying to fight the “not moving”, fighting my thoughts, the thoughts that are trying to convince me that I must do. I hear voices in my head saying: “you need to do this” and “you should do that” and “you cannot procrastinate and not do anything!!!”.

So, I sit, do nothing and feel even worse about myself.

But, what if I would just give in? What if I would just allow myself not to DO anything without feeling guilty about it? What if I would just allow myself to process where I am and let my thoughts and feelings move me forward to the next step? What will happen then?

Anyway trying is just pretending to be working….

So last week I just gave in, my husband and I came back from our first no kids’ vacation. It was one of our top 10 vacations together. We needed time to connect with no interruptions and just be with each other. But when we returned back from our vacation I was able to see things about my business that I couldn’t see or think about before, when I was focused on the DOING.
 One of the thoughts that came kept nudging me, or pulling my attention during our vacation was that I need to change few concepts and let go of others, which required from me to redesign my business. I could see bits and bytes but the hardest part was to sit down and write the new plan. I tried to pretend, but after few days I gave in. I gave in and dived into the deep sea.

In my deep sea of giving in, there were groups of fish with thoughts and feelings, a big octopus which likes to hug me with stories about "how I can't".  But then when I saw the dolphins skipping and flipping, I knew this is my sign, the sign that I am ready. I pulled myself out of the deep water and took a little breath and then I pulled my sticky note and started writing everything I saw during my diving experience. Suddenly all the quiet thoughts and even emotions made sense to me.

You will never catch me out without my sticky notes, I use them to capture interesting thoughts from books, from blogs, capture a new thought or idea about a project, or just mark my next 3 important things to focus on my day. They allow me to give a voice to my thoughts, fears, and emotions and create a structure out of it. From words that are floating around me, I create relationships and meaningful connections that can move me forward.

Some people call my system a workflow, some call it mind mapping, it can be either or neither, it doesn’t matter to me. What really matters to me is that it works for the way I think.

Now I want to share something with you, I believe that there are too many people out there who think their recipe is the one that will save your life, your business, your career. But, we are all different, even being stuck can mean to you something totally different than my own experience that I just have shared with you. Dont get attached.

So next time, when you get stuck take a moment to pause and observe where you are, notice how you behave, notice what you think, what are the fears, the dreams, and expectations you have in the experience. Observe who you are when you get stuck, maybe it is time to just BE with it rather than resisting it. We run too many times to the doing of things before we are ready for it then we feel like big procrastinators. Maybe we just need to BE?
 I do believe that from the nothing something will show up.