Networking – It’s All About Manners

Remember those thank you notes that your mom dogged you about writing?  Well, they’ve come back to haunt – or help – you.

I’m helping a friend with her Business Management class at a local college by doing a short segment about Networking.  It’s been an interesting exercise, and it’s given me a unique opportunity to both straighten up some of my material and talk with my colleagues about the good, the bad, and the ugly.  I have several contacts whom I consider  “Networking Ninjas”.  It’s a diverse group that ranges from a 25-year old female engineer to a 50-something broadcasting executive.  We all seem to agree that there are a lot of things that people who network really well do really consistently:

„- They don’t decide how someone will react, they contact them with a polite and clear request without fear of rejection
– They say please without being patronizing
– They are respectful of time and station
– „They say thank you, sincerely and often
– They follow-up on all leads or respond as to why they didn’t
„- They let their referral source know the outcome of the conversation or meeting
– They „don’t use the “6 degrees of separation” (ie. if Uncle Frank connects you to me, contact me to say thank you, don’t let Uncle Frank do the work for you)
„- They give information that can be helpful to others
„- They are always prepared to return the favor
„- They work hard in every aspect of their life
– They know that this is not all about them and that they need to do the legwork to stay top of mind
„- They recognize that this is a “currency exchange” and they respect and appreciate anyone who gives up a little networking currency on their behalf
So what’s at the root of all of this?  Good manners.  I’m not just talking about the “please” and “thank you” manners, I’m talking about genuine caring.  If you care about me, you will be sure to: ask me nicely to help you, thank me for helping you, follow-up to let me know how things went, provide me with some information, and look for opportunities to help me or someone in my network.  Further, having a solid work ethic at its very core, has a lot to do with manners.  After all, someone who works hard for me cares about my success within the company and with the project, and has the decency to make sure that we all succeed together.  They don’t have the “it’s all about me” attitude.
Think about times when you’ve extended yourself on someone’s behalf and they’ve blown it.  Maybe you connected them with someone and then you never found out what happened or worse yet, discovered that they never actually contacted that person.  Or perhaps they went for an interview but did no research on the company or couldn’t for the life of them answer the question, “Why do you want to work in this industry?”  Maybe you’ve experienced my pet peeve of passing along opportunities and 1) hearing nothing or 2)hearing someone say “oh yea, I’m just so busy/tired after work/overwhelmed” (Seriously, do any of us need to hear that?).  In any event, the people who blow it are generally lacking in – you guessed it – manners.
When my kids get a gift from their grandparents I dog them for days about writing a thank you note (yes, I have become my mother).  But recently, I created a new rule.  My new rule is that they cannot open a gift or a card until they have the time to say thank you.  So, I suggest that we all do the same.  Let’s not ask for a favor, a connection, information, or assistance until we have the bandwidth to give a sincere thank you.  It’s just good manners.