How You Can Develop Your Executive Presence Through Mindfulness

What is mindfulness? What does it mean and how can it benefit you as a busy, successful professional? Mindfulness is simply another word for meditation. Although we are all likely familiar with the practice of meditation, it can often be hard to grasp if we’ve never tried it before, so we will explain it a little further here, as well as it’s intimate connection to Executive Presence.

What Mindfulness Is Really All About

Mindfulness, or the act of mediating, has its roots in Buddhism, and teaches being present in the moment; more than that, it teaches to always be attentive to, and accepting of, one’s thoughts, emotions, and responses – without judgment.

Apart from its deep connection to Buddhism, mindfulness has grown since the 80’s to become part of Western culture in various ways: from a method of helping children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder to soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and beyond. More recently, mindfulness is being used as a tool within Fortune 500 companies to help top performers excel.

Mindfulness and Executive Presence

The main pull of mindfulness for these high-level professionals is its ability to improve performance. Some of the biggest names in the game have recognized this, and have even adopted “mindful practices,” such as Google and General Mills. Not only does mindfulness practice help with focus, but it can also present a pretty hefty ROI for companies that adopt it.

In fact, according to Mark Bertolini, chief executive of Aetna Insurance, mindfulness benefits can yield an 11-1 ROI (in reference to less health care costs for the “mindful”) (Anne Kingston for Maclean’s: “Mindfulness Goes Corporate – And Purists Aren’t Pleased”).

But where does Executive Presence come in? A characteristic that is integral to Executive Presence is the ability to remain present; the individual with high levels of EP is always focused on the present, charismatic, engaged and attentive. This person makes you feel like the center of the universe when you speak to them. When they are working on a task, they are thinking about that task, and that task only. It is clear then, that a person with high levels of Executive Presence is also, subsequently, mindful.

To break things down even further, here are some proven leadership advantages of mindfulness training, according to MindfulLeader.com (mediating on a regular basis for no more than 30 minutes):

  • Increase in productivity and creativity
  • Decrease in knee-jerk behaviour that is often linked to poor decision-making and damaging relationships
  • Increase in the density of gray matter in the brain area essential for focus, memory and compassion
  • Decrease in blood-pressure, cortisol (stress hormone) and depression
  • Increase in immune response, emotional stability, sleep quality, resilience

In conclusion: the simple act of meditating for a short period of time on a regular basis can actually help to improve your Executive and Leadership presence, putting you at a distinct advantage. It all comes down to focus and most especially, awareness.

To learn about other ways in which you can increase your Executive Presence, visit our website Corporate Class Inc.

24 Tips on How to Increase Your Executive Presence On The Spot

increase-executive-presenceExecutive Presence – what is it? Well, it’s neither exclusive nor elusive, which means you can get it! People aren’t “born” with Executive Presence. Yes, for some it comes more naturally because they inheritably express certain characterizes that are closely linked to Executive Presence. However, for those who do not exhibit these characteristics, there is no need to fret. Executive Presence can absolutely be learned, although it is important to keep in mind that it is a process, not an event. Developing your Executive Presence takes time, hard work and dedication, but in the end, it will set you apart from all others at the table.

To make this journey a little easier for you, we’ve put together 24 quick tips on how you can increase your Executive Presence on the spot:

  1. Increase your focus – staying focused and in the moment is one of the easiest ways to increase your EP on the spot.
  2. Create a personalized, professional voicemail greeting
  3. Update your LinkedIn picture every year or so, or if you change your “look” (and be sure it is a professional picture! Your kids are certainly great, but save that for Facebook)
  4. Connect with your eyes – eye contact goes a long way in helping to express your EP
  5. Don’t gossip! Unless it’s positive gossip
  6. Recognize that your appearance matters, and realize the potential of presenting a professional image
  7. Do a wardrobe cleanse every season to get rid of things you no longer wear or are out of style. This will assure you are always presenting your best, most stylish self.
  8. Prepare (at least mentally) what you are going to wear the night before
  9. Get enough sleep – nothing says “Lack of EP” more than someone falling asleep during a meeting!
  10. Always be on time (and by on time, we mean a bit early)
  11. Practice power posing before any scenario where you might feel nervous
  12. Attend networking events – even if they make you feel uncomfortable!
  13. Increase your emotional intelligence – for this, you may need to work a little longer and harder, but a good place to start is by trying to be more empathetic to others
  14. Make sure you eat before attending a networking event – you weren’t invited because you were hungry!
  15. When networking, set yourself a goal, such as connecting with three people before you leave
  16. Show your attention to detail through your impeccable grooming – the most important piece of appearance is your grooming!
  17. Your network is your net-worth – always be thinking about growing your network, both professional and personal
  18. If you don’t already know it, learn about your company’s corporate culture and what they stand for. Do you fit in? Can you make any adjustments?
  19. Learn the political landscape of your company. For more information, check out our blog series on The Secret Handshake
  20. When giving a presentation, make sure you hit all four corners of the room with your eyes, so that everyone feels included – they will be more likely and willing to listen to you! This is probably the easiest and fasted way to help increase your EP on the spot
  21. Keep a clean and organized desk space – especially if you’re in an open-office environment
  22. Replace “Yes, or” “Yes, but” and “no” with “Yes, and”
  23. Listen more
  24. Write thank you notes

These are some excellent on-the-spot tactics you can apply in your daily lives that will instantly make a big impact on your Executive Presence. For more information on how you can further increase your EP, feel free to check out our Courses, Workshops and Lunch and Learns!

Top 3 Ways You Can Instantly Improve Your LinkedIn Profile – And Why It’s Important to do So

improve-your-linkedin-profileIt’s no secret that social media has taken the world by storm in the last decade or so; the way we socialize with one another will never be the same. Our private lives are now public, and it is possible for strangers to become friends with a simple mouse click. Social media and the way we engage with the World Wide Web has also changed the way we handle ourselves as business people. One of the most significant changes was the introduction of LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is so influential for a number of reasons. Firstly, it provides professionals with an online platform to reach out to other like-minded individuals in their field. Secondly, it is quickly becoming an important hub for those looking for career opportunities. Thirdly, it represents a huge source of potential clients for many individuals.

All of these aspects of LinkedIn are only a few of the reasons why it is so wonderful and so important. However, in order to be able to take full advantage of the countless possibilities LinkedIn offers, one must have a top-notch profile, or risk getting completely ignored. So, what can you do to instantly improve your profile? Here are a few starting points:

  1. Use a professional head shot

If you do not have a photograph on your profile, you risk not getting seen at all! When do you not have a photograph (a professional one that is in line with your brand – not one of you and your dog please!), people are more likely to either: skip viewing your profile entirely, or read your whole profile in detail, trying to figure you out. When you have a professional head shot that is in line with your brand, people who view your profile are much more willing to trust the content of your page.

  1. Use a catchy “title”

It’s wonderful that you are a Consultant, or VP of Sales, but what kind of consultant? What do you sell? We all know that people move quickly on the web, so try using a catchy title that will grab people’s attention, such as “I can help transform your life – and your wardrobe!” in reference to someone who might be a wardrobe consultant. Try to make it fun, expressive and different.

  1. Triple-check your bio and content – and update it regularly

We know you’ve been busy, which is great! That also means that you could probably update your profile as well. The more accurate and current it is, the better. It is extremely important that you triple check all spelling and grammar, as the last thing you want is your bio littered with typos! In addition, you don’t necessarily need your 2-year serving career from your twenty’s on there – keep it relevant.

Although sometimes daunting, LinkedIn can provide a wealth of potential connections, clients,employees and careers. All you have to do to make the most out of your profile, at least as a starting point, is follow the three rules stated above. There are, of course, many more details to take into account for your LinkedIn profile – if you would like to find out more about how you can have the best LinkedIn profile out there, check out our Lunch and Learn on Virtual Communications.

Five Business Networking Faux-Pas To Avoid For Young Professionals

business-networking-young-professionalsStarting your career in your chosen field is certainly an exciting time in your life. As your career begins to take off and flourish, there are certain activities and behaviours you can engage in to make the transition into work like more successful and fulfilling. One of these activities is often dreaded and feared by most, let alone young professionals who have little to no practice engaging in it: networking.

Despite this inherent fear, many people choose to overcome it and engage in as many networking opportunities as possible. They do so because they’ve realized one simple truth: your network is your net-worth. The more people you know, the more relationships you form, the more you will succeed in your field, whatever field that may be and regardless of the position you hold.

Now that we’ve established the importance of networking, there are some behaviours to stay away from when at a networking event. These behaviours will serve to not only undermine your executive presence, but will also result in a less-than-stellar networking “performance.” Here are four faux-pas to avoid while networking:

  1. Smelling like smoke
    It is understandable that many people smoke these days. However, if you are a smoker, it is really important that you do not go into a networking event right after smoking a cigarette. Non-smokers (and even many smokers) can’t handle the smell of second hand smoke on someone else. Remember, you are going to this event to meet people and engage them, and turning them off with cigarette smoke is not a great way to start.
  2. Trying to talk to everyoneIt is true that in networking and in business networking, the idea is to touch as many people as possible. You definitely do not want to be talking to the same person the whole night, as that defeats the purpose! However, you don’t want to be simply introducing yourself to someone, handing them your card and then moving on. It is important to establish a rapport with someone before you exit the conversation, to ensure they remember you. Handing them your card is simply not enough to do that.
  1. Have professional-looking business cards, no matter what stage you’re at
    Even if you are still a student, it is important to have professional-looking business cards (and enough of them!). Heavy card stock is always good, and a simple, clean look can go a long way. Make sure your information is easy to read and straightforward. If you are a student, your school likely has a business card format that you could use.
  2. Don’t bring a friend
    The idea at networking events is to meet new people, not to catch up with a friend. Often, when friends go to networking events together, they spend most of their time talking to each other. Going alone will force you to engage with and talk to others.
  3. Don’t drink too much
    This may seem like an obvious one, but often in stressful situations where we don’t feel the most comfortable, another glass of wine usually seems like a great idea. Having a few drinks over the course of the evening is acceptable; overdoing it to the point of inebriation will seriously damper your chances of a successful evening of networking. Pace yourself to one drink an hour, alternate with a glass of water or soft drink, with an absolute limit or three.

Networking can sometimes be scary and intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. If you are equipped with the right tools and know what behaviours to avoid, chances are you will have a fun and successful networking experience! Networking doesn’t always have be done at organized networking events, either. Check out our post on unique places you can network!

Double Standards: Why Women Often Struggle with Their Executive Presence

women-executive-presenceWe hope you enjoyed our blog series on The Secret Handshake: Mastering the Politics of the Business Inner Circle. There was certainly a lot to cover from the book, and in reality, each section covered could have been expanded upon much more. However, there was one section in particular, on power, that is arguably one of the most important sections from the book. Power can either make or break you; power comes first, and everything falls into place afterwards. It is for that reason that this week we will delve further into notions of power and powerlessness, what it means, and how it affects things like your physiology and emotional and mental states.

Dr. Amy Cuddy, a global leader on research around presence and body language, has recently published a book called Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges. Chapter five in this book is entitled “How Powerlessness Shackles the Self (and How Power Sets It Free), and it examines the differences between personal and social power (which was covered in the Secret Handshake blog series), and the difference between having power and being powerless. Dr. Cuddy begins by explaining that powerlessness can often come about when were are faced with a big change in our lives, and is followed by a self-perceived loss of power, accompanied by feelings of insecurity and anxiety. This depleted state that we experience makes us feel that we cannot cope with the situation at hand. When this happens, opportunities become threats, and therefore we actively avoid them. This is arguably the most important aspect of power versus powerlessness: when you feel powerless, you avoid opportunities, and vice versa. Power activates the behavioural approach system, and powerlessness, the behavioural inhibition system.

Another important aspect of power that is essential to understand is that personal power is uniquely essential (as opposed to social power). As Cuddy states: “Unless we feel personally powerful, we cannot achieve presence, and all the social power in the world won’t compensate for its absence” (114).

Feeling Powerless

  • Feeling powerless impairs thought: powerlessness and the anxiety that results from it undermine what psychologists call executive functions. These executive functions include high-order cognitive tools like reasoning and attention control. It also induces goal neglect, which is the phenomenon of failing to remain focused on a goal
  • Powerlessness makes us feel self-absorbed: the link between anxiety and self-absorption is bidirectional – the more self-focused we are, the more anxious we become
  • Powerlessness prevents presence

Feeling Powerful

  • Power can protect us: power acts as a buffer against negative emotions
  • Power can connect us: feeling powerful can often improve our ability to read and relate to other people. In addition, when we feel powerful we allow ourselves to be more open to others
  • Power can liberate our thinking: power seems to improve our ability to make good decisions under complex conditions
  • Power can synchronize us: feeling powerful can synchronize our thoughts, feelings and behaviours
  • Power can incite action: simply put, feeling powerful makes people proactive
  • Power can make our actions more effective: remember how when we feel powerful, we approach opportunities instead of running away from them?

Clearly, there are so many incredible side-effects of feeling personally powerful. Not only does power positively affect our lives in these ways, but it also affects our physiology. For instance, studies have shown that high-status individuals (i.e. those who possess social power) tend to have high levels of basal testosterone, which is the dominance and assertiveness hormone. Secondly, those who lack feelings of power often exhibit higher levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. It therefore makes sense that people who have a high sense of personal power cope better in crises. Evidently, the power of power cannot, and should not, go unnoticed.

Ways to increase your personal power can be so simple as to adopt a better body posture. Other ways include adjusting how you speak with and engage with others, as well as actively trying to deter negative thoughts that make you feel powerless. When you do so, you will notice feelings of power slowly encroaching in your day-to-day interactions. Others will notice too!

Works Cited

Cuddy, Amy. Presence: Bringing your Boldest Self to your Biggest Challenges. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2015. Print.

Self-Knowing and Authenticity

Alas! We have finally reached the last blog post on Leadership Presence – self-knowing and authenticity. Over the past few weeks, we’ve discovered what leadership presence means, what it can do for you, and how to attain it. Last week we began to dissect the final piece of the puzzle in the quest to obtaining leadership presence: self-knowing. This week, we continue with this theme but discuss it in terms of authenticity.

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What is authenticity? Well, at its most basic level, it means to be genuine. To be genuine is to be oneself. The ability to connect with others in the business world is of the utmost importance, however the connecting must be done genuinely, or authentically, for it to have any meaning or impact.

According to Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, authors of “Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire”, there are three rules for authenticity. We shall discuss each in detail below.

Rule #1: Accept yourself and be open to growth (Halpern and Lubar 230)

Many of the greatest leaders feel comfortable and happy with themselves, despite their shortcomings. They know of their weaknesses and work to improve them, however they also accept them. When you’re aware of, and accepting of, your limitations it will allow you to develop the skills you need to overcome them. In addition, a good leader will know if their limitations cannot be overcome, at least in a timely manner, and in that case will delegate the task to someone more appropriately equipped to handle the situation. One of the best ways to accept yourself is to be open to hearing commentary about yourself and your performance, including criticism.

Rule #2: Live your values (Halpern and Lubar 235)

 In the last blog, we discussed values and how important they are to a leader. Well, it’s one thing to have values, however it’s another to put them into practice, especially in a workplace setting. Halpern and Lubar suggest leaders take two related steps in order to make sure their actions are congruent with their values:

  1. Ask others straight up if they believe you are someone who lives your values.
  2. Every time you speak of your values, ask others to tell you when your actions don’t align with your values.

It’s one thing to realize or discover that your actions don’t align with your values. If and when you do realize this, it is imperative you do some soul searching in order to figure out why this discrepancy exists, and then come up with a plan to correct the discrepancy. Remember, when your actions and values don’t align, you risk being perceived as inauthentic.

Rule #3: Create an authentic connection to work (Halpern and Lubar 240)

In order for a leader to be their most inspiring, authentic self, they must connect their values and interior life to the work that they do, similarly to how actors need to create a true connection to the characters they are portraying. At the end of the day, it is simply about creating meaning; if you truly believe in what you do and say, others will recognize that and will want to follow you. Connecting authentically with others allows the leader, as well as the led, to connect with something “bigger than themselves and their own self-interest” (Halpern and Lubar 247).

Being a leader is not about being “the boss”; it is about much more than that. It’s about inspiring, connecting, and motivating others to succeed and reach their highest potential. It is about communication, values, and the ability to make decisions. The steps we’ve outlined over the past few weeks are not necessarily the easiest things to do (opening up to others and becoming vulnerable is typically an anxiety-causing activity for most), however, if put into practice, they will help you achieve the leadership presence you deserve and need to reach the next level.

Works Cited

Halpern, Belle Linda and Kathy Lubar. Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire. New York: Gotham Books, 2003. Print.

 

Leadership Presence: Reaching Out and Making Connections

As our series of blogs on Leadership Presence continues, our hope is that you take some of these suggestions into practice, in order to foster leadership presence in yourself, not just at work, but in every aspect of your life.

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Last week we discussed reaching out and empathy, and this week we continue on the topic of reaching out, but specifically reaching out and making connections.

According to Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, authors of “Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire”, empathy not only requires seeing and feeling, but also expression. What do they mean by this? It is what you do to communicate and act upon empathy that truly counts.

The focus of this entry is building relationships. The trick to building relationships, which is absolutely necessary if you want to be considered a leader, is to do so with empathy. But how?

 

Rules For Building Empathetic Relationships (Halpern and Lubar 109)

  1. Listen to build relationships
    1. This week again we see the importance of listening. The authors suggest listening for subtext (look for hidden meaning and emotion in the persons words). In addition, they suggest listening for the persons values and strengths, which can be an easy way to connect with someone.
  2. Acknowledge the person
    1. It is important, when listening, to acknowledge feelings, values and strengths that the other person might be trying to get across, but in a not-so-obvious fashion. The idea here is to turn off the “problem-solving” part of the brain when someone comes to you for help, and really listen to what they are saying beneath the words themselves. Another way to do this is to offer positive insights based on what you heard the person say. Remember, “people want to be loves, heard, and made to feel important.”
  3. Share yourself
    1. “Openness is critical for coaching” (119), say Halpern and Lubar in their book. This statement could not be truer, especially in business. It is integral to be vulnerable if you are to be a successful coach. Reveal the chinks in your armor, so to speak, and let others see who you really are; they will be more likely to follow you if you do.

It is important to mention that, although opening up and sharing yourself is necessary if you want to be a successful leader, there is also a limit. The authors suggest doing this in stages (offering bits of information here and there), and seeing how others respond. Don’t tell others your life story the moment you meet them!

The challenge this week is to try to open up and become vulnerable (yes, this will likely be difficult, and possibly even uncomfortable!), and see how others respond to you. Remember, it is all about making connections, and you wont be able to do so if you’re a vault!

Works Cited

Halpern, Belle Linda and Kathy Lubar. Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire. New York: Gotham Books, 2003. Print.

 

Leadership Presence: Reaching Out and Empathy

This week we continue our series on leadership presence – what it is and how we can attain it. Last week we looked at the first aspect of leadership presence, and arguably it’s foundation, being present.

For this next instalment, we will discuss the next step on the path to attaining leadership presence: reaching out with empathy. According to Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, authors of “Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire”, reaching out means “the ability to build relationships with others through empathy, listening, and authentic connection” (77).

This may sounds easy or obvious, but in fact is it not. A true leader is someone who reaches out first, and does not wait for opportunities to cross them by. In addition, it is one thing to reach out to others, to seek out opportunities, but if one does so without empathy and compassion, the effect will be lackluster. Both of these characteristics compliment each other and work together to foster leadership.

How Can I Learn to Reach Out and be Empathetic?

There is a saying: “people want to be loved, heard, and made to feel important.” This statement is true in every aspect of life, and especially in business. A true leader will make their colleagues feel heard, and their actions and ideas integral to any business situation. This includes, for example, active listening, as opposed to passive listening, and sensitivity in dealing with potentially awkward situations (such as someone’s terrible idea for a proposal to a potential client). Halpern and Lubar state: “When you know and acknowledge your people and their feelings, they feel more motivated, work more productively, and they’re more likely to stay, even if the going gets though” (89). If you can learn to reach out and be empathetic with your employees, they will be loyal to you and will work harder for you.

If empathy and the ability to reach out doesn’t exactly come natural to you, there are certain actions you can take to encourage this behavior in yourself.

Know What Makes People Tick

Being empathetic does not mean having warm and fuzzy feelings of happiness for the entire population; it simply means understanding someone’s thoughts and feelings. To do this adequately, it is important to get to know the person, and find out what makes them tick, so that you may better understand them in any situation.

Make The Link to Your Own Feelings

 In opposition to sympathy, empathy involves feeling with someone, as opposed to for someone. Therefore, empathy requires you to connect with your own feelings and inner self. Many leaders have the “bad habit” of leaving all their feelings at home before coming to the office. If you do this, your ability to empathize will be gravely affected. We often see this be the case for some in our 360 with clients. Categories of respondents differ in their opinions of the subject. Friends and family will rate their empathy high while colleagues, direct reports and bosses rate it low.

You Can Empathize With Anyone

Naturally, it is easier to empathize with people we like. Empathizing and connecting with others that you may not like or respect can be a challenge, but it is certainly not impossible. Halpern and Lubar suggest thinking about the person with whom you cannot connect with, and trying to find at least one thing (however, the more the better) that you admire about that person, and connecting with them surrounding that. The authors state: “In the end, though, empathy doesn’t involve finding what you like in someone else. It involves finding the humanity in someone else, even in their weakness, and connecting that humanity to your own” (98).

A study of over 38,000 leaders and their organizations (conducted by Hay/McBer), found that “leadership styles that rely heavily on empathy tended to create a more positive company climate {…}” (99), and as we can imagine, a more positive company climate will lead to positive company results.

This week, challenge yourself to connect with others, and especially to those whom you may know you’ll have trouble connecting with. See what a difference empathy can make on your path to developing your leadership presence.

Works Cited

Halpern, Belle Linda and Kathy Lubar. Leadership Presence: Dramatic Techniques to Reach Out, Motivate and Inspire. New York: Gotham Books, 2003. Print.

Before Your Next Trip Overseas…

Travelling abroad for work can often be an exciting and rewarding perk of your career. It is an opportunity to visit a new place, meet new people and see new sights. Often, traveling abroad for work isn’t always just about work, and usually involves some leisure time as well.

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You will be conducting business with those you are traveling to meet, and perhaps even travelling around the city or country with them as well during some leisure time.

As much as your mind is (and should be) focused on the important meetings to come, it is imperative that you take the time to do some research on the culture you will be visiting before you leave the comfort of your home. Ed Fuller from Marriott International, details the importance of knowing about others’ culture while traveling, in his article for Forbes Magazine.

Before you leave on your trip, consider completing some of the following exercises so that you can get the most out of your business trip, which will benefit both you personally, as well as the company you represent.

Watch YouTube videos

YouTube videos are a great way to see and hear about a foreign culture. Videos might be the most effective research tool, as you get both sound and movement, and can really start to appreciate the culture of a certain country.

There are also endless videos out there, and so finding appropriate ones should be fairly simple. For instance, you can search “traditional Peruvian meal” and watch how a meal might be cooked as well as consumed. You may also search things such as “traditional Indian dance” or “Moroccan cultural ceremonies.”

Learn your “hello’s” and “goodbye’s”

It is always a good idea to learn a few basic words or phrases in the language of the country you are visiting. Not only will it show that you did your research (this will likely be viewed as a sign of respect), but it is a great way to connect with others on a deeper level, which may help to foster and grow professional relationships.

If you don’t have a great memory, or if you don’t have time to sit and memorize how to say “thank you” in Swahili, create a cheat sheet before you leave that you can study on your 24 flight to Kenya. 

Pick up a small travel guide of your destination 

Many bookstores sell small travel guides to the majority of popular destinations. In them, you’ll find a plethora of information on the country in question in a(n often) very small package, one that you can likely take with you in your carry-on. It will outline many common phrases, places to eat, and sights to see.

The fact that this is a business trip, as opposed to a leisure vacation, indicates that it is important to learn as much about the new culture as possible. This will reflect extremely well on you as a business professional, which will also translate back to your company. Present your best and most informed self, especially when traveling for business.

 

How To Nurture Your Newest Contacts

If you’re a professional, you know the utter power and influence networking possesses. Networking isn’t always a formal event; it can consist of essentially any activity in which the opportunity to meet new people is present (a tennis tournament, your daughters skating arena, lunch with coworkers, or a family get-together).

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As a professional, it’s important to recognize that just about everything you do, and everywhere you go, has the potential to be a networking opportunity. In fact, grocery stores across Canada have picked up on the opportunity for young singles to meet while picking up their essentials, and have created “singles night” to encourage the behaviour (see this link for the detailed article). Opportunities exist all over, and it’s important to seize them.

But then what?

What happens after you meet someone new is more important than meeting them in the first place. It is one thing if you are a networking pro and have no problems approaching strangers and striking up a conversation, but it’s what you do with those new contacts that really matters.

Always follow up

It is important not to lose your new contacts’ card somewhere deep in your wallet, only to discover it a year later. No matter how important (or possibly, unimportant) you believe this contact to be, always follow up the following day with a short email. The email might discuss your first meeting, and a suggestion to go for coffee the following week. It is also an opportunity for you to connect with them on LinkedIn.

The idea here is to keep the conversation flowing; to build and nurture the relationship you just formed.

Keep new contacts organized

Having a huge pile of business cards on your desk will not help you nurture your new contacts. As soon as you receive a new card, import the information onto your computer or phone. This will also make it easier to send out greetings during a holiday (another great way to nurture your contacts). If you think you will not remember who the person is or the company they work for, file/tag them by event date or name.

 Remember, it’s a two-way street

 Networking and building your contact base is definitely beneficial to you and your professional career. You recognize the power and importance of having a large network. However it’s also important to remember how you can help your new contacts. Let your knew contacts know about the qualities you possess that may be beneficial to them, and offer your time should they be interested. We call this positive networking.

Don’t take networking for granted, and certainly, don’t take your new contacts for granted! Let them know that they are appreciated, and keep the dialogue flowing.