Leadership, Personal Development

Steps To Build a Professional Network

So you have decided to build a professional network, but don’t know where to start?  Well the first step is NOT to start sending hundreds of LinkedIn invitations to random strangers.  Ok, so where do you start?

In the last post, Is A Professional Network Even Necessary?, we talked about what a professional network is, and why having one is important.  If you missed it, check it out now before reading this post further.

Getting Started

To get your network started, make a list of people you know.  As this is a professional network, with professional being the key word, be particular about who you place on this list.  They should be of good character and reputation.  Someone you trust and is trusted by others.  Remember this is just a start and that to build your network, you will be relying on this initial list to get you going.  Here are some suggestions to get you started:

  • Family and friends
  • Known acquaintances of close friends
  • Co-workers
  • Past co-workers
  • Former classmates
  • Fellow members of professional associations you belong to
  • Former teachers, professors or instructors
  • Parents of your children’s friends

Once you’ve got your initial list done, establish a prioritization criteria.  This criteria will establish how often you want to make contact with each person.  For example, a very close network member you may want to touch base with monthly, while another member might be once per year.  The criteria may also be based on the importance they hold within your network based on influence, mentoring, gaining new connections.  It’s up to you.

Rules of Engagement

Networking can take a lot of time.  How much time can you commit?  Once you establish your network, people within your network are going to make requests of you for various things.  What are you willing to do or what won’t you do?  At first you will be reaching out, but in a short time, others will be reaching out to you to connect.  Who do you want to connect with?  What is your criteria to connect with someone?  You should establish your rules of engagement right from the get go.  Here are a few things to consider:

  • What is the main purpose or goal of your network?
  • How much time per week will you spend building your network?
  • How much time per month will you spend meeting people within your network?
  • What is your budget for networking?  i.e. Gas, coffee, lunches, dinners, drinks
  • What is your connection criteria?
    • Do you have to know them personally?
    • Will you insist on a referral from someone you know and trust first?
    • What industries do they need to be from?
    • What level of experience?
    • Any educational requirement?
  • Will you provide “recommendations” on social media such as LinkedIn?
    • Recommendations are a reflection of you as well.  You should never recommend someone if you truly do not endorse them.  As such, consider how you will accept some requests for recommendations and not others.
  • Will you endorse members of your network for their skills on LinkedIn or other social media?
  • How will you handle job reference checks?
  • Who will you meet over email or phone vs for coffee or lunch?  Who will you meet over dinner?
  • How will you handle the tab for a meeting?  Will you pay?  Split it?  Decide in advance or at the meeting?

The First Connections

If you are serious about your network, integrate it into your personal planning routine to ensure that you are scheduling time for it and are taking specific actions to build your network.  It will not happen by itself.  You will need to work at it and when first establishing a network, it will take a great deal of time, focus and energy to do so.

Using your contact list, go back now and indicate your preferred means of connecting with each person whether it be by email, phone, or face to face.  Based on your personal planning, start reaching out.  You may decide to send several emails a week to some contacts, calling one or two, while arranging to meet one for coffee in a given week.  To make it happen, schedule or plan time to send the emails, have the phone numbers available and again schedule time to call.  Predetermine a mutually suitable place to meet that doesn’t inconvenience one person more than the other.

HINT:  When planning to meet someone face to face, plan several weeks to a month in advance.  Don’t expect to call someone on Monday and arrange to meet them on Tuesday.  It typically doesn’t work that way!  Again, build this in to your personal planning, so that you are taking actions this week, to arrange a meeting in a month’s time.

Growing Your Network

Now that you have your network established, you need to look after it and grow it.  The best way to look after it is to maintain contact with the members of your network on some frequency.  It doesn’t have to be overly frequent, but maintain contact somehow.  We all get busy with life and work, and at times, you will not have the time you really want to spend on your network, but keep it alive.

You don’t want to be that person who reaches out only when they want something!  You know who I mean.

This also applies to members of your network.  They may not be responsive or appear to make an effort at some point, but don’t give up on them.  They may be back.  There maybe something going on in their life at that moment that is demanding more of their time.  For example, we’ve had a very challenging couple of years in my family dealing with aging parents and ultimately their passing, which has demanded a massive amount of my time, leaving me with very little ability or energy to spend on my network.  However, I’ve tried to keep it going as best I could, and now with this family need behind me (unfortunately), I’m trying to revive my network again.

To grow your network, look for opportunities to meet new people.  Within your existing network, ask a member if they can recommend someone for you to connect with from their network.  This can be done through a LinkedIn referral, or ask them to connect you virtually by sending an email to both of you to introduce you to each other.  Arrange to meet with them and their colleague for a coffee.

You can make great connections at leadership development seminars or training, or when attending trade shows or conferences.  Wherever you are, whether it be for personal or business purposes, be looking for good opportunities to add to your network.  Remember though, the game is not to get as many “connections” as possible and LinkedIn connections do not necessarily define your professional network.  In a truly professional network, you know each member personally, you can vouch for them, and they for you.

Other Related Posts:

How to Build and Maintain a Professional Network – Dawn Rosenberg McKay

The Most Common Professional Networking Mistake – Alison Doyle

 

You can email me with any questions at glennsommerville@hotmail.com, find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/glennsommervilleL2R/, or on Twitter at  https://twitter.com/gsommervilleL2R.

 

Leadership, Personal Development

Is A Professional Network Even Necessary?

Do you have a professional network?

A professional network is very important for your career.  A healthy network takes years to build.  How’s yours?  Is it active and healthy?

What Is a Professional Network?

Well, let’s start by saying that it is not having 10,000 connections on LinkedIn!  Sure, LinkedIn is a very powerful networking tool, but professional networking is much more than having many connections on social media.

A professional network is a system of business contacts with the intent to connect with each other for career, business, or developmental purposes to the benefit of all involved.  Sure, a professional network may help you find your next career move, or your next great hire, but it is much much more.  They may also assist with problem solving, recommend vendors, suppliers, or professional services.  Professional networks can also establish life long mentorship relationships.

How I Got Started.

cafe-coffee-shop-coffee.jpgWay back, I was one of those that thought that a professional network was only necessary if you were looking for a new career opportunity.  As I was challenged in my position at the time and not seeking new external opportunities, I did not maintain a professional network.  Maintain?  Well, I really didn’t have one!  Then, a colleague of mine that I hadn’t heard from in a number of years contacted me.  He was currently between positions and suggested we get together for a coffee.   Believing that my employer wouldn’t be a good cultural fit for this individual and not aware of any openings that would be suitable for him anyway, I declined.  But that didn’t stop him.  To me, he was relentless and eventually I gave in and met him for a coffee.

That’s ok if you don’t know of any opportunities for me.  Let’s just get together and catch up.  You never know how we’ll be able to help each other.  If not now, someday.

I met this leader that time and to this day have continued to meet with him, exchange phone calls on a regular basis, and we have helped each other out in one way or another countless times over the years.  Today, he is the CEO of a large company, and I feel pretty confident, no I know, that he is still there for me today.  And I’m there for him.  In fact, I spoke to him just yesterday.

If you wait to create a professional network until you need a new career opportunity, it’s too late!

Why Have A Professional Network?

Of course a professional network is critical if you are searching for new opportunities.  Or as a leader, your network can be an important source of new hires for your organization. In fact, in this regard your network can be a great form of a “pay it forward” system.  You can help others find their next new career opportunity or colleagues find their next superstar hire and some day, they may repay you with the same.

However, the benefits of having and sustaining a healthy network go much further.  Below are some examples of additional advantages to having an established professional network:

  • Your own growth and development by learning new skills, technology, and approaches
  • Give/receive career advice.  Others’ points of view are healthy when evaluating careers, next steps, evaluating opportunities, and making career choices/decisions
  • Connect others to your connections or each others connections
  • Provide mentoring to other leaders
  • Receive mentoring from other leaders
  • Increase your exposure in an industry, technology, or field of focus
  • Exchanging non-proprietary business ideas
  • Benchmarking opportunities and exchange of best practices
  • Learn of development opportunities such as seminars, training, on-line learning, books
  • The social interaction beyond those you interact with daily within your organization can be extremely motivational and inspiring

 

In a future post, we’ll review the steps necessary to build your network and the investment necessary keep it healthy and active.

So what do you think, is a healthy professional network necessary? 

What are other benefits of having a professional network?

Leave a comment…

You can email me with any questions at glennsommerville@hotmail.com, find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/glennsommervilleL2R/, or on Twitter at  https://twitter.com/gsommervilleL2R.

Leadership, Personal Development

Setting Personal and Professional Goals and Objectives – Tactics or Action Plans

The tactics or action plans are what brings goals and objectives to life and make things happen!  Whether setting personal or organizational action plans, this is also a step that if not done well, can lead to disappointing results.

In the last post, Setting Personal and Professional Goals and Objectives – Goals and Objectives, we discussed the various important points of strategy or focus areas and how these then lead to goal development and then SMART objectives.  In this post, we discuss the critical execution stage of developing Tactics or Action plans used to deliver a successful objective.

The tactics or action plans clearly describe the tasks that you and/or your teams will do to achieve an objective.  Action plans are typically developed annually describing the tasks to be taken by whom, and when they are to be completed.

Action Plans are the detailed and specific tasks that will be taken to achieve one or more goals. 

When determining the action plans, be sure to review all the information gathered during the strategy brainstorming such as the SWOT analysis. Involve as many of the stakeholders as possible when determining the action plans. You need to define as many tasks or actions necessary to achieve the objective.  The more detailed you are, the more likely you are to achieve the objective.

Each action to be taken should include the following details:

  • What action is to be taken
  • Who is responsible for taking each action
  • When is each action to be completed
  • What resources are required to make the action happen

road-closed-sign-1-1165296-1279x591A key step I believe that is very important, is to identify the main barriers or risks to completing the individual tasks.  These are the things that can block progress or achievement of the task, or distract you or your teams.  Identify what they are up front and then invest time and focus to determine what mitigation steps can be taken to reduce the risk of impact.  For each barrier determined, consider multiple mitigation ideas or steps you can take to avoid or reduce these risks.  Build those into your plans.  These barriers and mitigation ideas can then impact or cause you to revise multiple parts of your action plan such as the what, who, when, or how.

For example, let’s say you have a personal objective to develop a 3 year strategic plan for your team.  While considering the barriers that can stand in your way, you identify that the day to day operational nature of your responsibilities may prevent you from having time to spend thinking strategically.  As mitigation to this you may decide to block a certain number of hours per week in your calendar for the entire year specifically for “Strategy Development”.  You go further by selecting a day of the week or afternoon in which you can work off-site to reduce the chances of casual interruptions.  Reviewing your calendar, you find that the best day to do so, would be Thursdays as there are typically less head office meetings, your team is heads down on priorities for the week, and you have the most control of your calendar.  Blocking your Thursdays across the horizon for “Strategy Development” will go a long way towards removing this identified barrier.

“When something is scheduled, it is 92% likely to happen!”

In the post Setting Personal and Professional Goals and Objectives – Goals and Objectives, we used the following objective examples:

  • Personal Objectives:  Reduce my weight to 165lbs by June 1st and sustain through an active lifestyle.
  • Organizational Objective:  Reduce operating costs by 12% within 12 months.

While considering the barriers to achievement of these objectives, we determine that in the case of the personal objective the dark and cold mornings during the winter months are a real deterrent from a morning run.  Furthermore, for the organizational objective, a barrier is determined that many of the operating costs are governed by existing contracts and purchase agreements.  What action plans can be taken to achieve the objectives while taking these barriers into account?  The following are potential examples:

  • Personal Action Plan:  Purchase a treadmill for less than $1500 by 1 September.
  • Organizational Objective:  Establish a cross functional team comprised of operations, engineering, procurement and legal and identify top 10 contracts based on annual spend and opportunity, to review/renegotiate by 15 March.

The next step is a step that is often overlooked.  The problem is that after the action plans are determined everyone goes back to “normal life”.  However, soon after returning to “normal life” the action plans are forgotten.  Why?  Usually because the action plans are not integrated into daily routine and cadence.  The action plans will not happen on their own; you need to make them happen.

Here are some methods to “operationalize” your action plans:

Personal Action Plans:

  • Add repetitive actions to your Leader Standardized Work
  • Add an action plan review cadence to your Leader Standardized Work
  • Post a copy of your objectives and tasks where you will see them daily
  • Integrate into your regular weekly planning routine by adding specific tasks or actions you need to take that week as well as to review your progress and adjust as necessary
  • Set repeating calendar reminders or scheduled tasks in your calendar to review objectives and action plans on a regular basis

Organizational Action Plans:

  • Involve your team throughout all phases of developing the goals, objectives, and action plans
  • Create charters for each goal that clearly describe the problem, objectives, inputs/outputs, action plan, milestones, deliverables,  and team
  • Post or make visible to the entire organization the goals, objectives and the teams responsible for the action plans.  Regularly post updates on progress and performance.
  • Create a project plan and schedule, complete with gantt charts
  • An entirely separate topic is to implement the Hoshin Deployment Matrix to deploy and align your entire organization on your most important organizational objectives
  • Add an action plan review cadence to your Leader Standardized Work
  • Schedule regular cadence reviews with your team in which they report out on action plans and metrics, request your help, and you can provide direction
  • Conduct a gemba to review the results of actions within the operations
  • Celebrate and recognize accomplishment and completion of tasks.

 

What do you do to “operationalize” your personal or organizational action plans?  Leave a comment.

 

Other related posts:

  1. Setting Personal and Professional Goals and Objectives – Goals & Objectives
  2. Setting Personal and Professional Goals and Objectives – Mission Statements
  3. Reflections Vs Resolutions – It’s That Time Of Year!
  4. Lead with Vision
  5. Elements of Strategic Planning – Systemico.ca
  6. What Are Your Goals? – Valiance Coaching
  7. New Year’s Resolutions/Goals and How to Keep Them – The Whole House
  8. Don’t Make Resolutions! Set Goals... – Gloria Green Entertainment
  9. Demystifying the Hoshin Kanri X Matrix – Kanbanize

You can email me with any questions at glennsommerville@hotmail.com, find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/glennsommervilleL2R/, or on Twitter at  https://twitter.com/gsommervilleL2R.

Leadership, Personal Development

Setting Personal and Professional Goals and Objectives – Goals & Objectives

In the last post, Setting Personal and Professional Goals and Objectives – Mission Statements, the importance of establishing mission statements and the associated values were discussed.  This is true whether you are doing so as an individual, family or organization because without them the goals you develop may not be the right ones, or ultimately not get you to your desired outcome or destination.

The next step is to develop the areas of focus, or in business referred to as strategies, that you will deploy to achieve your mission.  This is the beginning of creating a plan defining how and what direction you will take to achieve your mission.  Strategies are statements of the methods or plans you have chosen to take in the course of achieving your mission.  You are likely to have multiple strategies for each mission.  Unfortunately, strategy development is a step often skipped by many people and they go straight to goal setting.  The issue is that even if you accomplish the goal, you may or may not have actually achieved an important part of your mission.

800px-swot_en.svgStrategy development should start with some open, honest discussion and brainstorming among the key stakeholders.  A great method to facilitate such brainstorming is the SWOT analysis.  SWOT is a method to identify the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats related to the individual or organization.  When setting personal goals and objectives, this may seem like overkill, however, it is just as an important step as it is for a business or organization.  Why?  It’s an important step because it helps you determine and clarify what and where you should build upon and focus.  As well it helps identify the elements that are likely to erode your chances of success.  The items identified through the SWOT analysis are also critical to know when developing your detailed action plans.

Once the SWOT analysis is complete, you can then step back and begin to identify focus areas that will lead you towards your mission.  Again, invest the time to make these statements clear and descriptive enough for all to understand and articulate enough to define what you’re going to do in a broad sense.

Examples of Strategies or focus areas:

  • Personal Strategy:  Manage professional and personal life in sustainable ways that keep my energy flowing, and my mind and body healthy and happy.
  • Organizational Strategy:  Grow current business units by re-investing savings from efficiencies gained by waste reduction.

Following strategy development is the setting of goals.  Many people use the terms goals and objectives interchangeably, which is incorrect as they are very different.

A goal is a statement explaining something you want to achieve.  A goal is a milestone to achieve while implementing a strategy. 

There can be multiple goals within each strategy.  Goals should be simple, clear, and easy to understand.  Goals need to align with the desired and defined values already determined.  Goals also need to be able to change and evolve over time as required.

Your goals should be achievements or outcomes to be realized over a 3 to 5 year span.  They should be aggressive but achievable.  You don’t have to know how you will achieve a goal when you create it.  That step comes later.  If a goal is to be achieved over a longer period of time than 5 years, then I recommend that you break that goal down into 3-5 year interval goals.

Examples of goals:

  • Personal Goal:  My health is my No. 1 priority maintaining good physical shape, and healthy mental and emotional stability.
  • Organizational Goal:  Increase profit margins

Objectives define the implementation steps to attain a specific goal.  Objectives are what makes the goal’s general statements Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based or SMART.  They define the who, what, when, where and how necessary to achieve a goal.

smart-goals

Most people are aware of the SMART concept with setting objectives, however, this crucial step is often a point of failure for many.  This is usually because at least one component is not well enough defined.  This is particularly important within organizations where you are counting on more than yourself to understand, action, and achieve the objective.  If any one or more of these components are not well defined, the fish bowlprobability of success is dramatically reduced.  For example, if the objective is not specific enough the person or team working on this objective may not adequately understand the intent and despite working very hard on what they think is required, they deliver something very different than what was intended or even needed.  Similarly, if the objective and associated milestones are not clearly identified with completion dates, the “fish is likely to grow to the size of the fish bowl”, meaning, individuals and teams may take as much time as they can get away with, causing the goals to take much longer than desired or even necessary.   Lack of clarity or ambiguity in any of the SMART components can cause the fish to grow to the size of the fishbowl.

Examples of Objectives:

  • Personal Objectives:  Reduce my weight to 160lbs by June 1st and sustain through an active lifestyle.
  • Organizational Objective:  Reduce operating costs by 12% within 12 months.

bridge-jump-offIn the next post, we will discuss what I believe is the most critical step that really determines if the goals and therefore the mission will be accomplished; the Tactics or Action Plans.  Action plans are where the rubber hits the road.  As in the picture to the left, you may have a great goal to live an adventurous life, but if your action plan is flawed, the result could be disastrous!  “Follow” me to find out in the next post what the most important steps are in establishing and executing your Action Plans.

Additional Resources I found useful on setting Goals and Objectives:

  1. Elements of Strategic Planning – Systemico.ca
  2. What Are Your Goals? – Valiance Coaching
  3. New Year’s Resolutions/Goals and How to Keep Them – The Whole House
  4. Don’t Make Resolutions! Set Goals… – Gloria Green Entertainment

You can email me with any questions at glennsommerville@hotmail.com, find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/glennsommervilleL2R/, or on Twitter at  https://twitter.com/gsommervilleL2R.

SWOT Image By:  Xhienne [CC BY-SA 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons
Leadership, Personal Development

Setting Personal and Professional Goals and Objectives – Mission Statements

With it being a new year, I think it fitting to discuss setting goals and objectives.  Over the next few weeks, we’ll discuss the process I go through each year to set personal and professional goals and objectives.  In this way you can follow along each step of the way yourself resulting in the creation of your own goals and objectives for the year.  I’ve been doing this for years now and I’ve found it to be motivational and rewarding.  In fact, my wife and I began setting family goals and objectives before we had children.  Now with them grown to young adults, it’s great to see they actually did absorb some of this process and have adopted this important life skill.  Initially it was a forced process whereby they set simple goals and objects such as hosting 2 tree house sleepovers per summer, or organizing a camping weekend with their Grandparents.  However, they have created their own methods building off the fundamentals we will discuss, and now set more challenging and important life goals and objectives.  Who would have guessed?  Hey, one of our objectives has been achieved!

If you haven’t yet read the post Reflections Vs Resolutions – It’s That Time Of Year!, I’d encourage you to do so before going about setting your goals and objectives for the coming year.  Reflection is a critical first step that is necessary before setting new goals or objectives.

After completing your reflection process, the next step is to create Mission statements.  Whether you are doing so as an individual, family or organization, establishing your mission is a critical step and will act as your compass which sets you in the desired direction.  There a many definitions of a mission statement but simply it is:

A short written statement of your goals and philosophies.  It should define what your, the family, or the organization is, why it exists, and its reason for being. 

The making of an effective and meaningful mission statement takes time, patience, and very careful consideration.  The choice of words is important because they must be easily and clearly understood by all and need to stand the test of time of describing a future state or meaning intended.  Although the individual mission statements may not have been achieved yet, they should be described as though already accomplished and written in the present tense.

For additional information on vision and mission statements, see Lead with Vision.

Below is an example of one of our family mission statements:

Our health is most important, as it is life.  We eat well, look after each other and maintain a physically active lifestyle.

Having a mission is one thing, but how you will achieve it is another.  So it is important that you also define the values that the organization, family or individuals will have and demonstrate while setting about achieving the mission.  Without the values well defined, the mission may very well be achieved, but not in the way or method originally intended.  There is a right way and a wrong way to almost everything!  Many leaders have gotten themselves and/or their organizations in big trouble because although they have remained true to the mission, they strayed on their values.  Values are the moral principles and behaviours that all involved will exhibit while on the journey to accomplish the mission.

When my wife and I created our family mission and values, it took many hours of thinking, discussing, revising, wordsmithing and healthy debate.  However, once it was done we framed it and hung it in our house as a constant family compass which has guided us now for many years.  We review it carefully every year.  Although we have only made few changes over the years, we use it each year to check our direction and alignment to what is most important to us and use it as part of our goals and objectives process for the year.

This is an example of one of our family values:

Close Relationships:  Spending quality time together experiencing life – “People before things”

Although I’ve used the example of our family mission and values, the same process holds true for an individual or an organization.  When creating mission statements and values beyond an individual, it is important to be as inclusive as possible in creating and aligning everyone involved to increase buy-in and commitment.

The creation of a mission is important because it is what your goals and objectives need to be based upon.  Otherwise, without a mission, any goals and objectives you set are just a bunch of things you want to get done that may not lead you on the desired journey to your intended destination.  Without a mission, it is difficult to prioritize and ensure you are focusing on the most important activities.  Without a mission you are wandering through life wherever it takes you, not necessarily where or how you want to get there.

Do you have a mission and associated values?

You can email me with any questions at glennsommerville@hotmail.com or find me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/glennsommervilleL2R/ or Twitter at https://twitter.com/gsommervilleL2R

In the next post, we’ll review goal setting.