Many people, no matter what age or gender, tell me that they hate networking. Yes, it does seem like work at times but the bigger issue for most people seems to be striking up a conversation with a stranger. Some also feel that it is a waste of time because it really doesn’t lead to meaningful connections and future business.
As women leaders, it is important to continue to build our Rolodex of contacts. However, I question if we are developing the right circle of people. I admit that I have gone back to my office with several business cards from people I have met and sometimes wonder if these individuals will have lasting relationships with me, or if they are just one hit wonders (if even that). I dutifully send them LinkedIn invites and add them to my CRM because I have the attitude “you just don’t know”.
Then there is more follow-up with some of these contacts. I am not a coffee drinker so if I can’t get my usual Diet Coke (I am fully aware I should not drink the stuff), I opt for tea. During these teas, especially with other women, I do learn all kinds of things – where to buy a certain piece of clothing, restaurant recommendations, and other helpful advice related to our respective children. Rarely do conversations focus on such topics as how to close a deal, what projects are challenging to them, etc. If tea is with a man and I bring up a business problem or issue, it will be discussed briefly but then idle chatter starts up again.
To make these teas more meaningful, I am starting to think that I should send a detailed agenda ahead of time. It would start off by saying Hellos, and then would allow no more than five minutes of “fluff talk”. Topic A would include x with the accompanying document. Topic B would cover y. Of course allotted times for each item would be indicated with five minutes left for a farewell wrap up.
I realize that I may sound facetious but life is short so why not be more proactive and leave the “girly” topics for GNOs with your besties? I am sure the other person would actually be thankful that you took this initiative and kept tea for two to under an hour and not make it a full day event.