It’s Not Personal. It’s Just Business
It has been a very interesting week. Most are these days. It wasn’t because it has been snowing in Atlanta, although that has created its own issues. No, what made this week interesting was the extremes of networking results we encountered. My team was reminded that not everyone is a viable networking partner. That will never change.
While discussing our business development activities I told a colleague about my progress with a new partner. This contact, John is a referral from an associate who recently joined our team. John owns a Professional Services Firm whose model is very complimentary to ours. He is very personable and clearly understands the benefits to networking. After three visits to explore mutual interests and opportunities, with a handshake, we agreed to work together to exchange leads and referrals. In fact, both of us have already made connections on behalf of the other.
I then recapped a list of people I had contacted to set up meetings in the coming weeks. When I got to a specific name my colleague stopped me. “Don’t expect any help from him. He is funny about referrals.” In other words, this person will accept your help, but don’t expect him to reciprocate. I was a bit surprised, to say the least. I was fascinated by my colleagues’ recap of several encounters that made his point.
It is a sad part of life that not everyone is interested in the give-and-take of effective networking. Some people, albeit a small percentage from my experience, are about taking, not giving. It may be conscious or not, but not everyone is blessed with the networking gene. It just isn’t in their DNA. I have seen this phenomena all too often in my work. I cannot count the number of people who would not give me the time of day when I called on them, only to find that I am their long-lost friend when they need my help. Clearly, not the norm. Over time it has been a source of amusement. I have recognized this to be a fact of life. It is a cost of doing business. It’s not personal. I have long had the policy of helping these “long-lost friends” as best as I can without expecting anything in return. Punishing bad behavior with equally bad behavior is a poor business practice which likely leads to bad Karma. It’s not personal. I took my colleague’s admonition to heart but still plan to follow through on our meeting. Who knows, it might lead to some interesting intel.
In life, I have learned that I cannot expect everyone to behave to my expectations. Networking is no exception. So, when planning your networking activities follow the 80/20 rule. Focus on those people who are adept at networking and avoid the takers. Help everyone you can without expectation. If they do not reciprocate, recognize their behavior for what it is, a cost of doing business. It isn’t personal.
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Jim Weber, President
New Century Dynamics Executive Search