Imagine that I’m strapping you into the pilot’s seat of a 747 right this second. I expect you to fly and land the plane safely with no instructions, no experience, no co-pilot (auto or otherwise), and no radio to contact with the tower. How does that feel? How successful do you think you’ll be?
For women, being told we need to work our connections to better business and professional advantage—to advance ourselves and our causes—feels an awful lot like putting our buns in that pilot’s seat. Go on gals, take that solo-flight. You’re educated. After all, you have a graduate degree in, say, psychology so why can’t you smoothly pilot this (business) plane?
Why is it so critical that we women get much better at working our connections? Connections become relationships, relationships equate to success: sales, promotions, new opportunities, more champions and alliances, and growth-to-results that we really want.
What I (Unfortunately) Hear Women Say
The Self-Doubter: “I know, I should use my connections but I don’t really have anything of value to offer in return.”
Are you kidding me? Of course you do and if you don’t believe that, no one else will either. Please name one (remarkable, positive) thing you believe about you and your business, your work, right now!
The Self-Blamer: “I try asking my connections for business opportunities but usually screw it up and somehow agree to do free work instead.”
You’re just a total failure, huh. What other things in your life did screw up royally but tried again? And again, and again, and then you succeeded. Remember that feeling of persisting until you made it? Practice. Repeat!
The Self-Made Deluder: “I want to succeed on my own merits. I need to make it on my own.”
Think of a male leader, a successful man you know or have read about, did he do it alone? No! He had family, friends, and hefty coalitions of people (heck think of the Bush boys and their Skull & Bones Society, their family gravitas and money) that helped him succeed. Go out and buy a biography or autobiography if you don’t believe me, you’ll find there’s no such thing as “self-made.”
The Self-Saboteur: “I asked for what I wanted/needed and s/he said NO.” Or, “S/he said yes but then didn’t come through and now I’m hurt, I won’t try that again.”
It does sting when we muster up the courage to ask and don’t get what we need or want. Don’t sabotage yourself. Make sure you’re clear on “the ask.” Make sure you educate the person on how to make connections for you if you sense they’re inexperienced (e.g. many women aren’t accustomed to making connections for others). Focus on celebrating the courage you showed in asking, no matter what the result.
The Self-Defeating Assumer: “I have awesome women friends who support me but they don’t really know anyone who can help me with my business.”
Where’s your evidence? Stop assuming! Have you talked with your women friends about who they know, who their partner or kids or people they work with know? If not, you have some ‘splaining to do my dear because you’re likely selecting yourself out of great connections. Have that business connections conversation, please.
Connections: 5 Get Soaring Tips
1. Mindset Shift. If you saw yourself in one of the types above, what needs to shift in your thinking to begin working your connections better?
2. Connections list. Write out potential connections you have from: work, friends, clubs, associations, organizations, religious affiliations, neighbors, your children’s schoolmates’ parents, your high school, college, graduate school connections (teachers and peers) and whatever else you’ve been involved with (hey, add in your babysitter’s parents why don’t you).
3. Refine the List. Let your HUGE list sit for a day or two and then go back as ask yourself: How many of these people do I have contact information for now? Which of these connections do I want contact information for to reach out related to my work/business, my dreams for what I want to create and achieve? Start prioritizing and pulling together contact information.
4. Practice/Role Play. Grab a pal and role-play asking so that it becomes smooth and easy for you. Stand up and look in the mirror and make your “ask.” Get credible, gain confidence.
5. Start Flying! Try asking for 2-3 connections in one week. Keep practicing, keep persisting, and keep offering to make connections for others too. Work it!
There are a plethora of networking groups that can be fantastic support. But I want you to have this get started, cost-free flight plan. From connections, you’ll build relationships. From relationships you’ll reach results you really want. Be sure to seize opportunities to help others as you soar too.
Let me know how your use of connections is changing for the better. I’ll start my happy-dance, and even do a little Dr. Dre retro singfest dedicated to you:
I like the way you work it, no diggity, I got to bag it up.”
Images: Girl & plane via gapyear.com; Female (cartoon) Pilot via eduscapes.com; and Woman (cartoon) Pilot via lifewaysvbs.wordpress.com.