Aug 132008

Dr. Earl R. Smith II

I am a believer that when experiences come in ‘groups’ it is an indication that there is something to learn. Recently I have had such a series of encounters and they have started be thinking about the way most people engage in networking and the process of introducing people.

Patterns of behavior – something that most people call habits – are often either unconsidered or poorly thought through. Often they are limiting of self-sabotaging in nature. The costs of behaving in certain ways are what I have been rolling over in my mind.

Three separate conversations within the last week have followed the same pattern. I was talking to a relatively new acquaintance about my background and interests – and exploring theirs – in an attempt to find areas of common interest and mutual benefit. In each case our talk touched on an area in which I had had great success. The suggestion was made that “I know somebody who could really benefit from your help. I’ll send them an e-mail and introduce you to them”.

The first time that this occurred, I let it slide but the second and third my responses were focused on the relatively wasteful method suggested. By the time I had finished that third conversation, I decided to go back and ‘finish ‘ the first one.

Here are the problems that I see with such ‘casual’ referrals.

  1. The casual approach to such an introduction ‘brands’ it as ordinary – something that is of no great consequence.
  2. That branding is applied mostly to the person making the introduction.
  3. The lack of specificity which such a referral embodies places the person receiving the introduction in a difficult position – not knowing enough about the person being introduced nor the reasons why such an introduction is appropriate.
  4. The casual nature of the referral virtually guarantees that it will have limited or no impact on any or the parties involved.

It is probably my work as a coach and experience as a teacher that lead me to these conclusions. In fact, in each case I was concerned that the person making the introduction would not receive the proper credit or benefit from such kindness. There was a feeling that they were giving away something that should result in a better branding of them – as a person who cared to help others and as a source of meaningful introductions. I suppose that I could be accused of thinking that they were being ‘too nice’ – but that was not the point at all.

The natural result of having a wide range of ‘quality’ contacts is the ability to facilitate meaningful combination of them. It was the word ‘meaningful’ that stuck in my mind. The old saw ‘anything worth doing is worth doing well’ seemed relevant. So I began thinking about how such referrals could be done well. It seems to me that they should have several characteristics.

  1. First and foremost, the referrals should have substance and be something more than a good idea.
  2. they should be grounded in an extensive knowledge of the parties being introduced and have at their core a clear idea of the reason that such a connection is a good idea.
  3. the person making the introduction should be able to articulate that reason to both in a manner that makes sense and induces each to make an extended effort to build a relationship.
  4. the person making the introduction should see the referral as important enough to act as a facilitator in seeing that the new relationship finds its common ground and flowers.
  5. the person making the introduction should benefit from having taken the time and making the effort.
  6. the entire process should have a feeling of substance – well thought-out purposefulness.

The ease of making the casual decision to introduce can lead people to engage in behaviors which are sabotaging to the results and benefits of the efforts that they make. As most of these arise out of a desire to be helpful – the most positive of human efforts – they should be done well and the results of the contributions to the lives of others should be savored and helped to grow into something to be proud of.

When I teach, I get such gratification. The same it true of my coaching experience. To watch a person discover a skill or capability – to see them learn that they are much more than they ever thought – is a great reward. To stay with them through the process and watch them grow is the greatest return.

I think that same is true of making introductions. Some of my most rewarding experiences continually come back to me as I rediscover the symbiotic relationships that have grown as a result of introductions that I have made.

So when you decide to make an introduction – bring two or more people together – because you have seen a potential – go beyond the e-mail introduction and engage in the process – human to human to human. The rewards are vastly worth the extra efforts.

© Dr. Earl R. Smith II

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