Networking And Leadership
A 5:30 a.m. wake up call to make a breakfast meeting at 7:00 a.m. is not my idea of fun. However, I will happily do so to support my team! So, Thursday I was up and out of my home by 6:15 a.m. to make the 45-minute trek to our breakfast spot. It was still dark, and much of the route was under construction. More fun. The plan was to meet with two colleagues from ITB Partners, the consulting side of our business. They wanted to discuss business development opportunities to help move our consulting group forward. These two Members had met over the prior weeks to get to know each other and to learn how they could support one another. During their meeting, they realized that they were not clear on certain aspects of our strategy.
I enjoy these meetings on many levels. It is always fun to break bread with my teammates and to catch up on their progress. It gives me a reality check as to my leadership skills and messaging. I leave with ideas as to how I can strengthen our bond and improve the effectiveness of our communications.
As I listened to their thoughts, two themes came to mind. The first is that these guys are still not clear on our mission and value proposition. Secondly, they’re uncertain as to their responsibility to build relationships with other Members. It was clear to me that they needed some coaching. This wasn’t a surprise as we are still in the “storming phase” of our team-building efforts.
When it was my time to respond, I reminded them of our dual mission. The first part of the mission is obvious, to connect the Members with clients in need of their services. The second part of our mission is to improve the effectiveness of the Members; freelancers, building independent consulting practices. These folks appreciate the value of our Membership program. We are dedicated to helping each other generate more revenue and to become more effective freelancers. I reinforced the point that the power of our concept is the Membership, whose value is to leverage our business development efforts. To make this concept work, active involvement is required of each Member. This requires them to become knowledgeable about the others. Each Member needs to know the capabilities of the other Members. They must be confident that introductions will not reflect poorly on themselves. This led us into a conversation about networking in general.
They pointed out that networking did not seem to be a natural strength of the Membership. We discussed the paradox regarding the capabilities of new Members’ networking savvy. Surprisingly people with senior-level corporate experience aren’t necessarily adept networkers. Networking is an attribute that does not come easily to some, training and practice is required.
We also discussed the question about how to best position their affiliation with the ITB Partners brand. They were not clear how they should present the benefits of their association with ITB Partners to their clients. This is still a work in process, but I gave them some ideas to consider.
Benefits ITB Partners provides to its members:
- Sharing best practices
- Promoting member clients
- Public speaking opportunities
- Promoting/sub-branding practice groups
- The added value of team meetings
- Making introductions to prospective clients
Becoming a freelancer is a process. A good support group can make the process easier and shorten one’s learning curve. An organization like ITB Partners can help close new assignments quicker and ensure a continuous flow of work. Our Model is designed to increase the freelancer’s prospects for success. However, we work in an environment where relationships are critical to success. This requires our Members to continually develop and strengthen their connections. This is the whole point of networking. My role as a leader is to stay close to my team, to understand and respond to their needs.
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Jim Weber, President
- CEO – Northeast-based Quick Casual Restaurant Company – New
- COO- Northeast-based Casual Dining Restaurant Company – New
- Operating Partners – Legacy Pizza Chain – New
- Corporate R&D Chef, Atlanta-based Home Meal Replacement Company – Complete
- Area Supervisor, Legacy Pizza Chain Franchisee, S. Carolina – New
- Senior Accounting Manager – Atlanta-based Manufacturer. Complete
- Controller – Atlanta-based Consumer Products – Digital Company – Completed
Author of: Fighting Alligators: Job Search Strategy For The New Normal