Introverts CAN Network!

It can be easy to hide behind the “I’m and introvert” excuse when it comes to networking. But that doesn’t help you develop your skills or your business. While it may feel uncomfortable to mix and mingle at social and business meetings, there are steps each of us can take to make networking feel less risky. A good article I read gives six networking secrets:

1.  Introduce Yourself – Make the first move. Say hello and initiate conversation. Chances are there are other shy people there, and you just may be helping one of them get engaged.

2. Choose an Easy Title – No matter what title is on your business card, start out telling people what you really do. Instead of “Vice Coordinator in Charge of Client Experience,” it’s probably easier to introduce yourself as being in “customer service.” And more people can recognize your job or position.

3.  Listen and Repeat – Repeating the concept of a conversation, not verbatim, helps to keep you in the moment.

4. Stay Off Your Phone – While this should be obvious, it is one of the biggest problems for introverted networkers. Instead of hiding in the corner, they hide in their phone – searching, digging, checking the weather. Anything to avoid meeting someone!

5.  Don’t Fear Silence – Lulls in conversation happen, not a big deal. If the lull turns into ackward silence, jump in and save the day with a comment germaine to the event or your industry. If the conversation is really over, say how glad  you  are to have met and move on.

6.  Show Up – It is more than half the battle! Like many other things, improving your networking skills takes practice.

Need more help? Check out my Building a Stronger Professional Network course.

Happy New Year!

2013-happy-new-year-wallpapers-15For many accounting professionals tax season marks the end of one year and the beginning of another. Let’s bring the new year with a few resolutions that will help drive your business.

A big obstacle to ongoing business development is networking with purpose. Here are a few ideas that may help you and your team focus on business development as a positive part of your life, not a chore.

Set goals:  What are your objectives when you go to an event or a meeting or interact with clients? It should be more than passing out your business card. Plan to meet 2 people, ask 2 people about their work, learn more about 2 people’s hobbies. Meet, ask, learn, and listen.

Make a difference: Rather than passive networking events, be strategic about how and where you spend your time.  Get involved with organizations that you believe in – share your expertise with your community, offer valuable advice to a charity or join a service organization that shares your values. You can help others and grow your network.

Stay in touch: Deepening relationships with acquaintances and clients is more valuable than meeting new potential clients. Just as in other service industries, excellent customer service counts. Make a phone call, send a note or email, whichever you prefer…get connected, stay connected.

The C-Suite Is Getting Smaller

ON24-C-suite-communications-300x200There is a trend at Fortune 500 and S&P 500 companies that impacts the career path for some financial professionals. A recent study shows that only 35% of those companies had a COO on staff last year, a drop of 13% since 2000.

According to Chris Baysden’s article in CGMA Magazine, the reduction in payroll (or at least positions) at the top could mean that CFOs and other aspiring finance professionals need to expand their horizons, broaden their networking skills and develop a less linear career trajectory. Competition for top jobs will be even more fierce, responsibilities broader.

If you are an ambitious CFO aspiring to a big COO job, you may want to rethink your career goals. With fewer COO positions out there, more companies are looking for talented CFOs who understand both their financial world and the full scope of the company’s business, from strategy to supply chain, human resources to operations. Soft skills training is becoming more critical, too. No longer are professional acumen and aptitude the final determination points for promotion. It is a who you know, what you’ve done and the depth of your experiences that matter.

Networking for all professionals is not just about meeting new people, garnering interesting connections and collecting business cards. In this case, the real value is reaching into your own organization, learning about diverse business groups where you work and delving into initiatives and projects outside of the realm of finance.

Using Your Moral Compass

DougWarren_AICPARecently I attended the AICPA instructor symposium, and ran into Doug Warren, who I met last summer at the Tennessee Society of CPAs annual convention. At that time, Doug was a participant in my keynote presentation: Embrace Your Inner Superhero. Doug is managing partner in the firm of Warren and Tallent, CPAs located in Sweetwater Tennessee and teaches fraud and ethics for the AICPA. While catching up, Doug shared a very interesting story with me.

Doug and his grandson Hunter’s birthdays are one day apart, and they enjoy celebrating the occasion together. This past year they made plans to hike a section of the Appalachian trail. As they got ready to head out, Hunter realized he forgot his compass. So they went to the camp store, purchased a compass, and arrived at the starting point for the hike.

At that point, the grandson noticed the new compass was broken – the needle pointed  in one direction only! Doug explained that compasses work that way, they always point only in one direction, north. If you lose your way, Doug explained, you can point your compass to help guide you to your original path.

Doug realized that this story could be a great analogy for ethics. As he works with participants in his ethics seminars he underscores the importance of using a moral compass. If you veer off the ethical path, use your moral compass to get back on track.

Have you checked your moral compass lately?

Networking – The Mindset

In my blog posting titled Networking: Even Accountants Can Mingle, I discussed four networking tips that you can use immediately. I would like to discuss in greater detail some things around tip number one – the Mindset.

The Mindset is all about attitude – having the right attitude, believing in yourself, having a plan, and the simplest thing of all – remembering to smile!

In the months of May and June, I spoke at eight conferences and two in-house workshops that stretched across nine states.  I recognized that I would have the opportunity to meet over 1,000 individuals during this journey. So I devised a plan where I would meet at a minimum five people at each one of my stops. My plan was simple –I would simply introduce myself to people that I didn’t know either at the breaks or after my presentation ended. (You thought my plan was going to involve a lot more than that, didn’t you?)

In early July, I counted the number of business cards that I received over this timeframe, and I have 65 business cards. Wow! (65 cards divided by 8 stops = 8.125 cards per stop. I beat my goal! Now I just need to figure out who was the .125 person I met.)

I started thinking about these people that I just met and a few really stood out:

  • At the Association of Accounting Administrators Conference in Detroit, I met a woman who is a partner in a CPA firm, whose role is the office administrator, and she not a CPA.
  • At the Maryland Association of CPAs Innovation Conference in Baltimore, I met a gentleman who is the managing director of a technology company, which is located in Honolulu and he is a speaker for the AICPA.
  • At the National Association of Black Accountants Annual Convention in Nashville, I met a woman who is from Ethiopia, who is a US CPA, working for a CPA firm in Nashville.

These are just three of the fascinating individuals I had the opportunity to meet and learn about – all in a matter of two months! And all because I made a commitment to open myself up to networking. I had a positive attitude, I believed in myself, I had a plan, and I smiled! Networking really is all about the Mindset.

As the conversation would come to a close with each person I met, I would always end by saying, “please feel free to contact me at any time if I can do anything for you.”

Treat every gathering as an opportunity to meet someone fascinating.  With the right mindset, I know you will.