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.


Lean and Continuous Improvement

Should Smart Screens Replace Pen & Paper on the Shop Floor?

I was asked recently by Scott Smith of High Performance Solutions what my opinion was between the effectiveness of using Smart Screens or handwritten control boards for tracking metric performance on the shop floor.  My immediate response was handwritten!  However, after some further thought, my answer is, it depends.

I do believe there is a place for Smart Screens that automatically pull down and display certain operational information.  The use case for a Smart Screen in my opinion, is to provide overall system or process status in more complex processes provided it has visual indicators that differentiate between normal and abnormal conditions.  Furthermore, the screens should be capable of indicating whether the abnormal condition has been acknowledged and action is being taken.  Beyond that, I’m old school and advocate for pen and paper!

Why pen and paper, or at least handwritten on a white board, flip chart, control board or other visual display?  Well, screens become invisible over time and people walk by them without looking or really seeing them. Having a leader go in to the floor management system to see the metrics, understand them, recognize if achieving target or not, and then recording it using red/green markers engages them in a deeper awareness and understanding of how their operation is performing.  When missing target and recording the result in “red” it’s more difficult for someone not to take action to get things back on track.  In fact, this approach facilitates the documenting and displaying of what actions are being taken to address the issues.  Also the handwriting provides variation in appearance on the board which can draw attention to it versus a screen which is more or less static, always appearing the same. As a senior leader, you have no idea if anyone is looking at the screen nor if they are doing anything about it!

Perhaps a little extreme, but makes the point none the less, I recall a situation where I was taught this as the GM of the Lexus plant when a high ranking company official came to the plant to confirm our operation.  Given that it was a Lexus plant, we made a lot of effort to ensure the plant and the processes were always in “clean room” condition to ensure the mindset we wanted our team members to have towards building Lexus quality vehicles.  At each flow rack of parts there was a sheet of paper that contained a list of all the parts and how many boxes of each part should be on the flow rack based on the model mix for the month.  Members of the team had it in their standard work to check the flow rack list to the actual parts in the flow rack each shift.  Typically, these flow rack lists were rolled up and stuffed in the end of the flow rack.  After several uses, the paper became torn and tattered, not looking so good.  To improve the condition at the process, the team placed the flow rack list flat behind a clear piece of plexiglass so that you could just pull the paper out, do the check, and place it back in behind the plexiglass.  The paper always looked smooth and in good shape.  The senior executive took one look and instructed us to get rid of the plexiglass and go back to rolling up the paper and stuffing it in the end of the flow rack.  He explained that he liked the visual indicator that the checks were being done by easily seeing the torn and damaged condition of the paper!  Now that’s a visual indicator!

Another advantage of handwritten boards is they provide an opportunity to be much more interactive. A more senior leader can leave questions or comments for the floor leaders to consider or think about.  Leaving a comment or question indicates to the floor that someone is actually looking at the board and the information on it.  It’s also facilitates “good job!” comments when things are going well.

What are your thoughts or opinion, should Smart Screens replace pen & paper on the shop floor?  Leave a comment!





Leadership, The Leader

Can Police Use Handicapped Parking Spots?

LeaderIn this post we’ll pick up again on the Leadership model where the main components are the Leader, Vision, and People by  examining another component of the Leader; that being Lead by Example.

So no, there is not a new law that permits the Police to use handicapped parking spot when going for coffee, but it sure gives a good example of how all leaders need to lead by example, at all times!  Someone saw this poor example of leading by example and not only took a picture of it, but published it on social media for all to see.   We’ve all heard the phrase “lead by example“, however, time and time again we see and hear, both very publicly as well as from the leaders we interact with daily, how they fail to actually demonstrate it.

TweetPolice handi-capped v3

As a leader you need to assume your team is always watching you and that you are under the microscope at all times.  Nothing goes unnoticed, particularly hypocritical double standards of one version for them and a totally different one of lower expectation for you!  How can you expect to enforce and uphold the rules and standards of your business and team if you don’t demonstrate them yourself?

Below are ten ways I believe that a leader can lead by example.  Although I follow and believe strongly in all 10 of these, I do find a few where I struggle for consistency, so I continue to work to develop my skills and behaviours in those areas to be a better leader.

Top 10 ways to lead by example:

  1. Always follow organizational rules, policy, protocols; you are not above them​
  2. Consistently demonstrate the behaviours of the culture you want in your organization​
  3. No double standards​
  4. No favourites, but that doesn’t mean treat everyone equally​
  5. Always be approachable, friendly, listen​
  6. Assume positive intent​
  7. Seek to understand first​
  8. Treat people the way you want to be treated​
  9. Never take people for granted​
  10. Say “Thanks, good job!” and mean it.​

Leading by example can be tough sometimes; as after all we are all human.  However, rest assured, the one time you let your guard down, it will be noticed.  Continue to strive to lead by example and improve your leadership with the ten methods above.  Be a positive model of leading by example to your team!

How do you lead by example?  Leave a comment.

If you missed the first post in this series, you can find it at What is Leadership?

Leadership, The Leader

Is taking vacation too stressful?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve found going on vacation or taking a few days off can be a stressful experience! Trying to get everything in order before you go and then coming back to a full inbox, a day of meetings, and many demands can challenge the benefits of vacation.  Have you ever found yourself responding to the common question “Hey, how was your vacation?” on your first day back after vacation with “Vacation, what vacation?”  I have.  Sad, but true!  I am certainly not the role model when it comes to vacation for sure.  I typically stay connected taking calls and responding to emails.  This is certainly an area I’m trying to improve upon myself as I do believe everyone needs to get away and recharge.  Even a quick email or short phone call snaps you away from your vacation and family and in the long run reduces your effectiveness in your job and other parts of your life.  So, this is a case of do what I say, not as I do.  I am trying to improve in this area.  Regardless, here are some things you can do to help make your escape to vacation and your return to the real world a little easier.

Before you go:

  • TIP: When you book your vacation, block off in your calendar the last day before you go and the first day you return, then be very selective as to what meetings you book on those days, if any.  Give yourself the opportunity to clear your inbox, ensure delegation is set-up, take care of any priorities that need to be looked after when you are gone, and give yourself sometime to deal with the inevitable last minute before vacation “crisis” that surely will pop up.
  • Appoint a delegate to look after things for you. Advise your team who this is and how to contact them.  Turn on your out of office notification and put this contact information in the notification so that when others beyond your team try to contact you, they will realize you are out of the office and will know who to contact should they need to do so, rather than wait for your return.
  • Depending on your level of responsibility, provide someone you trust with your contact information should there be a urgent matter or emergency in which you need to be reached. This maybe your cell phone number or contact information as to where you will be staying.  This may or may not be your assigned delegate.  Let your team know you are not checking or responding to emails or texts while you are gone.  Be sure to leave clear instructions as to what constitutes an urgent matter or emergency.
  • TIP: I picked this one up recently from my current boss and found it to be a great add to vacation planning. Leave instructions with your team to summarize key issues or problems you need to be aware of or where they need your help immediately upon your return.  If you have an assistant they can consolidate all these items in one email and send to you upon your return.  If you don’t have an assistant, then you can assign this to your delegate.  The intent here is that this short list will allow you to quickly focus on the most important items immediately upon your return rather than trying to sort through all your emails or reacting as things come to your attention somewhat randomly throughout the day.

Upon Return:

  • Review the consolidated list from your team of the urgent matters they need your immediate assistance with. Use this list to set your priorities for your first day back.  Schedule urgent meetings or phone calls as necessary to address these issues.
  • Check-in with your delegate to see how things went and if there is anything you need to know about or follow-up on.
  • TIP: Create a “Vacation holding” file within your email and move all the emails received while you were gone, other than the last 1-2 days, to this file.  Then sort through and process the remaining emails from the past 1-2 days.  If something comes up that you need to search through the emails in the vacation holding file, you have them available.  After a week or so, if you haven’t found you need any emails from this folder you can go ahead and delete them.
  • Reflect on what worked well and what didn’t before, during, and after your vacation so you can tweak your vacation routine accordingly.
  • TIP: Book your next vacation!


Most of these are pretty common and nothing special, but hopefully you picked up a couple of new tips.

Please leave a comment and let us know any tips you may have to help others reduce their vacation stress!

Effective Leadership Series, Leadership

Effective Leadership – Part IIIb – @5 Essential Email Folders

The last post in the What is Leadership? series focused on Effective Leadership – Part III – Email where I alluded to my secret weapon of email effectiveness being the @5 Essential Email Folders. To be effective with your email and to achieve the target of having no emails in your inbox at the end of the day, set-up and fully utilize these file folders as follows:


This folder is used to place emails with either content or attachments that you need to read in detail or with high attention or focus. The urgency is not immediate and you can read these at your first opportunity.


Place emails in this folder in which you have to take some kind of action. These actions will typically take you some time to complete and are not quick responses. The quick response type actions are not kept here as those type of emails need to be done as you read them and from your inbox.


Emails placed in this folder require some type of future filing that you currently don’t have access to. This may occur when working off-line or on your phone where you may not be able access your archived folders.


Ever have the problem where you debate if you should save an email or not but you really don’t need to save it long term? Never fails if you delete it, you’ll be searching for it in your delete folder. If you keep it… it just stacks up at the bottom of your inbox with all the other emails you’ll never look at again. In cases like this where you think you may need to refer to it in the near future but don’t need to keep it indefinitely, move the email to this folder. Periodically review the folder and discard those no longer needed.

@Follow-up – the mother of the @5 Essential Email Folders

I stated in previous posts that as a leader, relentless follow-up is not only essential, it is respectful. If you are going to ask someone to do something, not only should you expect them to do it, but they should expect that you will follow-up on it. With the advancement of email replacing paper in the workplace, many seem to have forgotten how to follow-up effectively.

Create a folder called “@Follow-up”. Within that folder create 12 sub-folders, 1 for each

essential folders.JPG

month of the year. Prefix each month with the corresponding sequential number representation for the month. For example create a folder for March as “03 Mar” and similar for the other months of the year. Then whatever month you are currently in, go into that months sub-folder. Now create numbered sub-folders within that month from 01 through 31. Now move any numbered sub-folder previous to the day of the current month to the next months folder.

When you are processing your emails you file the email to the appropriate month and day in which you want to follow-up on. As an example, if you sent an email to someone on your team asking them to provide a report to you by the 24 August, place a copy or move the email from your sent folder to the “24” sub-folder within the month folder “08 Aug”.

Although you can create numbered folders for each month, that’s a lot of unnecessary work. After you have processed all of the follow-up emails on the current day, that numbered folder should be empty. Now you can just move that folder to the next month. If you want to follow-up on something that is say, 3 months from now you just place it in the main month folder until that month arrives. Then you can decide what specific day that month you want to follow-up on it on.

Other points for the @5 Essential Email Folders

  • The “@” symbol placed at the beginning of the folder names forces these folders to the very top of your list of folders.
  • When you place an email into any of the @5 Essential Email Folders, change it to “unread” to act as a visual aid or andon to indicate you have an email in that folder. It will then tell you how many emails you have in each folder. For example, by looking at the 23 August follow-up folder, I know right away there are 5 emails in there that I need to follow-up on.
  • Create the @5 folders as sub-folders within your Inbox. This way you will have access to them from your phone.
  • I refer to these as the @5 Essential folders, however, you can always add more depending on what your needs are. I travel and work from my phone a great deal so I’ve added a 6th folder called “@Printing” where I place emails or emails with attachments that I want to print out when I get back to the office.

Hope you found this useful. As always, let me know by clicking “Like” or contribute to the post by leaving a comment.


If you’ve missed the beginning of this series of posts on Leadership, check out the first post What is Leadership?