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Networking is Like Gumbo

August 23, 2014 by     Leave a Comment

I love to cook as much as I love to coach. I have read more cookbooks in my life than any other type of book and will take every opportunity to hang in the kitchen with chefs of all stripes, including the wonderfully inspiring Leah Chase of Dooky Chase in New Orleans (that’s her in the picture).

Sometimes my two worlds collide, like when I led a marketing workshop for a DeAnne with Leah Chase, 2010group of solo-practice lawyers. We covered many things, including how to reach their clients through networking. As soon as I uttered the word “networking”, I got some eye rolls, wrinkled noses and sighs. Networking has really gotten a bad reputation, thanks to the rise of direct sales companies and social media. You know, the “Let’s do coffee, but I really want to sell you something” meetings, and the social media over-connectors who have gotten caught up in a race to gather likes, connections, and “friends.”

The problem is that networking is not about adding another pelt to your belt, at least not for those of us who really care about connecting with and serving others.

During that workshop, I asked the group to look at networking in a different way – similar to a good gumbo. Why? Because just like that spice-rich stew I love so dearly, networking is based on a trinity. Instead of the combination of onion, celery and bell pepper that gumbo and lots of Cajun and Creole dishes rely on, meaningful networking is built on a combination of “know, like and trust”.

The first place you need to develop the KNOW is with yourself. Yep, you! Are you someone you would want to do business with or hire? Are you honest with yourself? Do you know what you do best, and what you screw up every (or every other) time? Do you know the difference you make in your business or in your current position? What do people look to you automatically for? In what instances do people bypass you? How well do you know you?

Now, do you LIKE yourself? Do you like what you do? What aspects of your work do you like, and which would you prefer to farm out to someone else? Why would you farm out those tasks? What does that tell you about yourself and your next step?

And finally, TRUST. Do you trust yourself to make the right decision? Do you trust your gut? Do you have a vision for what you want, but don’t trust that you can get it?

After you adopt the know, like and trust thyself model, then your goal is to get curious about the other guy and focus on building relationships based on mutual understanding and appreciation. You see, if you never realize that you are a unique and valuable contributor then you will never realize the connections that can be made and the possibilities ahead.

Once you take the gumbo approach to networking, you are constantly weaving a safety net that can support you and the other people in your network now and in the years ahead. Life and work are so much more fun and rewarding when they are shared!

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