These last few months, I have had the opportunity to travel the country and speak to a wide variety of groups.
All the people I spoke with were united around a powerful thread: How to define, create and spread great work, individually and as part of an organization.
Fran Davis, President of the South Jersey chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners, (NAWBO) fired me up with her mission to build the leadership capacity and impact of women business owners in New Jersey. I was honored to keynote their annual gala.
Tech leaders Sarah Evans, Kat Manalac from YCombinator, Marlo Rencher from SnapSure, Kimberly Bryant from Black Girls Code and Alyssa Martina inspired me to do more to support young women leaders in tech when I spoke at Brand Camp in Detroit, organized by Hajj Flemings.
I was super energized at my mentoring session with Bizdom Detroit, where I spoke with startups that are helping to revitalize the huge and powerful heart of Detroit.
I was honored to keynote to a group of 250 talented artists at the Native Americans for Community Action (NACA) meeting on the Navajo Nation. We discussed creating a powerful artistic body of work and solid business while honoring your values and teachings.
I spent time with marketing students at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, helping to prepare them to enter the new world of work. My friend Bret Giles, a digital marketing agency founder and professor at ASU, had assembled a panel of his business colleagues who were “pitched” by the students, who explained why they would make great hires. This mix of business and academia was a great thing to witness.
My awesome panel mates at South by Southwest Interactive (SXSW), Nailah Blades, André Blackman and Abe Cajudo, educated brands how to connect with diverse communities in a respectful way that builds sustainable businesses.
(This panel will be published as a podcast by SXSW in a few weeks – I will be sure to share the link as sure as it is available.)
Great people are everywhere!
Working with these diverse groups all over the country affirms what I have always believed: awesome, hard-working, passionate and inspiring people are everywhere.
Working alone, isolated in our offices, sometimes it feels like an uphill battle to create great work, and build our organizations.
But every single time I leave home to travel to the country, I meet amazing people doing amazing things.
It is my job to energize my network, and connect all of you together.
A key part of what will make you (and your company or organization) indispensable in the new world of work is to meet with, support and celebrate your network. It does not have to be huge. You don’t have to travel far from home, unless you want to.
Here are 5 things I have done to build and activate my network that you can use to build yours.
5 ways to make your network a vibrant glitter ball of awesome
1. Learn about their strategic priorities and see how you can help
Every time I visit a new place or organization, I ask them “What are your top 3 priorities this year, and what kind of help do you need to complete them?” Gathering this information will help you know exactly the kinds of ideas, resources and people you might share with organizations and groups in your network.
2. Look for natural allies and connect them
Related to point #1, if you learn that a person or group in your network has a particular priority, and someone else in your network shares that same priority (or has resources or funds to support it!), make a connection. A simple email will do, like “Tim, I know you are working on increasing the diversity of your tech workforce this year. I just met Kimberly in New York, who runs a job board for African American and Latino engineers. You two should connect!”
3. Share photos and stories from your network on social media.
I cannot tall you how many times I have received emails from people in my social communities who tell me “Thank you for sharing the world of XYZ organization, I had no idea they were in my area!” or “I first learned about X person through a post you shared on Twitter. We met in person, and we are now doing a project together!” When you share the images and stories of those in your network, you open up all kinds of unexpected connections and opportunities. (You now know one ulterior motive for sharing the names and URLs of the groups that I visited these past few months in this article. Maybe you didn’t know about them, and maybe there are some mutual opportunities for you to explore!)
4. Mind the gap
As a longtime training and development nerd, I was always trained to look for the gap between current and desired behavior, then to build a solution to close the gap. Use this lens to look for business opportunities, events, products, solutions and people to aid your networks. Here in Phoenix, after the economic crash in 2008, we had a huge gap for people who had been laid off, and the skills, connections and personal branding they needed to get new jobs. So our local community, spearheaded by Susan Baier, organized Laid Off Camp AZ, where we gathered volunteers from across our business community to spend a day helping our laid off friends rework their résumés, update LinkedIn profiles, hone interviewing skills and learn about freelancing and small business.
5. Make things happen for your friends.
While at South by Southwest, hanging out in the PayPal Social Media Lounge, I saw my friend Ramon Ray, founder of Smart Hustle Magazine and Business Development manager for Infusionsoft. I was not there for 10 minutes before Ramon motioned over for me to meet his friend who was doing a video series for Cox Communications. “You should interview Pam!” Ramon said, and before I knew it, I was in the hallway, being interviewed for a Cox Business feature for their blog. I was so appreciative of that opportunity, and it made me want to reciprocate right away for Ramon.
Amplifying and connecting your networks has so many benefits. Personally, it will help you solve problems faster, get things done, receive many opportunities and feel strong and supported.
On a bigger scale, it is the thing that will fuel our economy, create jobs, increase innovation, solve big social challenges and feed our collective spirits.
Thank you so much for being part of my community. I cannot wait to get to know yours better!