“Will You Marry Me”?

Building business relationships


You would never ask someone to marry you on a first date, so why would you expect someone you’ve met for the first time to refer business with you?

We have all heard the expression “It’s not what you know, but who you know,” and in many cases we use that expression in a less-than-complimentary way. In those situations, perhaps we should respond by assessing our own skills in developing relationships that can help us build business and careers. Professional relationships that help us along in our career do not happen by accident or without significant effort. They require nurturing, constant contact, and a host of other important ingredients that, when properly applied, can create a support team as dedicated to our success as we are.

We begin developing close friends early on in life. What we might not have realized in our developmental years is that the friend we sat beside while learning our ABCs may indeed be our doctor, tax adviser, or our children’s grade school teacher later on in life. However, as adults we can visualize that the people we meet at networking events may indeed end up changing our life—or more importantly, we may be able to change theirs.

Building career relationships is all about capturing relationships as an ongoing and fundamental part of our life plan. Life is about who you know; the common ground we find with our associates; and the commitment to engaging with our friends and associates, those we know now and those we have yet to meet. The most important relationship in the world may be just around the corner, or waiting for you to say hello at that next mixer.

5 Keys to Building Business Relationships That Should Be Considered When Networking

  1. Contact: Assess your availability to meet and be met by others. Are you in the right professional associations? Do you attend events regularly? Are you an observer or participant? How many people in your associations do you know on a first-name basis?
  2. Commonality: Seeking commonality with others is important, as it is the means by which you communicate in an interesting and outgoing way. Finding activities, interests, and even exercise plans that you have in common offers the easiest way to interact on different levels, broadening your communication.
  3. Credibility: Associates, especially new ones, need to see us as credible people. This means that we need to mean what we say, say what we mean, and always follow through with the commitments we make. When people say, “Do you walk your talk?” What they mean is, “Are you credible?” While we never know how many demonstrations of credibility we have to perform so that people believe we are who and what we say we are, there is a universal answer to how many times we can NOT be credible. One! That’s why it’s important to take our commitments seriously, each and every time we have the opportunity.
  4. Confidence: Only when we have had the opportunity to demonstrate that we “walk our talk” over time and with enough interactions will our friends and associates be willing to show confidence in us. When people have confidence in you they will follow your lead, your example, and your direction. They will allow you to influence their thoughts on particular issues and they may even see you as an expert in others.
  5. Trust: Most relationships never really make it here! You see, trust allows a relationship to flourish because it makes no difference which party leads and which follows. One respects the other in any given interaction and works to unconditionally support the direction, philosophy, and commitment of the other. When you achieve this level of trust in a relationship, you’ve made it! The relationship has achieved intradependence!

It takes time to cultivate relationships, which is why attending just one networking mixer won’t do it. It requires the dedication keep attending, having a plan when you arrive, and the patience for building those relationships over time. Next time you decide that networking isn’t worth the effort, think about this: People who have made time in their schedule to network have gotten results like these:

  • 87% of top-level executives network 2–3 times weekly
  • 80% increase their business development
  • 45% increase their sales
  • 95% build their business relationships
  • 90% increase their business opportunities
  • 80% have found their next job through networking
  • 65% receive a return on their investment
  • 76% get in front of the type of business that they would like to meet

Sharon Jenks is the CEO of 6 Degrees Business Networking, #sd6degrees

‘Tis the Season to be Jolly


For many people the holidays can not only be a happy and joyous time reuniting with family and friends but also a very stressful time. Personally I love this time of year because I love watching the Hallmark Channel and their stories of what the holidays really mean. Usually they end on a great note with a message to remember family, friends and our communities. I keep a box of tissues close by…not because of the stories but because of those Hallmark commercials that always tug at your heart.

During the holidays, you should feel festive, not frenzied! I think that our very own talk track in our heads can set us up for frenzy, stress and a lack of gratitude for the season.  Remember when you were a kid? Christmas couldn’t come fast enough. This was the time of year starting with Thanksgiving where we sit at the table and talk about what we are thankful for and vow to be good so that Santa would bring us everything on our Christmas list or the eight days of Hanukah! 

Today we have the Elf on the Shelf and the Mensch on the Bench to keep the kids in line. We now have someone who supposedly has eyes on the ground or better yet, hanging in some crazy place in the house, and all we need to do is as a reminder to the kiddies. So to that end, be grateful and appreciate that your children will give you about a month of un-naughty like behavior. Enjoy it!

All those holiday parties are next. Why do we make them so stressful? The actual definition of the word “party” is a social gathering of invited guests, typically involving eating, drinking, and entertainment. We attend parties all year long and live the definition just fine. It’s what we tell ourselves that makes the holiday parties something we hate to love.  Instead, treat them and those invitations you choose to say yes to, as a time to thank family and friends for their support and friendship. Some people will be lonely this time of year and won’t receive any invites. Perhaps their loved one is serving in the military, or recently passed, or lost their job making this holiday season difficult. Perhaps a way to feel more joy is to reach out to someone in need.  Doing “good” for someone else typically reminds us of how fortunate we are.

Pot-luck dinners always crack me up because if you are someone that wants to make a big impression, you make a recipe for the first time and uh-oh it doesn’t look like the photo in the cookbook. Now you are stressing yourself out. If you have been invited to a pot-luck, make that signature dish that everyone talks about even if you are bringing the same one every year.

Office parties….watch your alcohol intake and use the opportunity to network with people you normally don’t have time to talk with and find out more about them.

And lastly, stay connected to your community. This is a time to attend a social event and thank people you have networked with all year for their support. Meet new people to begin a relationship with for the coming year and by all means….have fun! It’s about being a kid again in many ways. Sing some carols, drink some egg nog, make an underprivileged child happy, and then see the holidays through their eyes. There will be nothing but gratitude and no stress there.

Oh yes and one more thing….turn on the Hallmark Channel for inspiration, or set your DVR and watch it by the fire with your family. They are pretty much family friendly and will leave you feeling grateful for those around you. – Sharon Jenks

Gender Diversity: It’s time to step up

Gender Diversity

The business case for leveraging female talent to create a competitive advantage has been proven time and time again, yet almost halfway through the second decade of the 21 century the goal of meaningful diversity in our boards and corporate executive teams remains as elusive as ever.

It was only a few years ago that New Zealand was in the unique position of having a female Prime Minister, Governor General, Leader of the Opposition and Attorney General all at the same time.

This, combined with the fact that we were the first country to give women the vote, is why possibly New Zealand is perceived to be a very progressive country when it comes to providing equal opportunities for women.

But when I look around the executive teams and boards of our largest organisations today, I have to say I’m disappointed that New Zealand business appears to have lost some of its early momentum. Because, despite all the research and evidence proving that companies with higher percentages of women in their leadership perform better financially, the highest levels of corporate New Zealand continue to be a largely male dominated domain.

And the news doesn’t get any better when it comes to equal pay. The reality is that the gender pay gap and lack of women in senior roles on boards and executive teams in New Zealand is having a negative impact on our performance and productivity. The strong evidence is that having women in senior roles improves your economic performance. A report by Goldman Sachs concluded that New Zealand’s economic output could rise by 10% if women’s labour and talent were fully tapped.

In my view there are a few key areas that need to be addressed in order to improve female representation at the highest levels of corporate New Zealand.

Firstly, it’s important to frame diversity as a serious strategic issue, not just a problem to be solved by HR. By elevating diversity to an executive management level, companies are better able to give it the appropriate focus and in turn marshal the necessary resources to break down the barriers holding women back. If I had to list one factor that, in my experience, makes the difference between success and failure it is executive sponsorship at the highest levels. Only when senior leaders commit themselves to gender diversity and challenge old forms of behaviour at every opportunity, is meaningful change going to occur.

Secondly, appropriate and achievable targets need to be put in place around diversity. This is absolutely what drives real business change. If a key component of executive and management performance evaluation is improving their diversity metrics, those metrics do improve.

Thirdly diversity considerations should be instilled into the corporate HR and recruitment processes, particularly the early identification of female leadership talent combined with thoughtful targets that push women into the consideration set for key roles. There are some simple processes that can be put in place to get the ball rolling without enormous cost and effort. For example, one of the things we have introduced at ASB is a policy whereby interviews for senior roles for female candidates must be conducted with at least one female interviewer. In this way, it’s possible to reduce any unconscious bias in the interview process to provide more of a level playing field for women. And I would argue that this sort of initiative is not only relevant for large organisations like ASB. Many of the smaller businesses and operations that dominate the New Zealand economy would also benefit by adopting a more inclusive approach to recruiting women.

The prize in solving the diversity challenge is a big one for New Zealand businesses. In terms of female executive engagement, New Zealand currently lags behind our global competitors and we are failing to optimise the economic benefits that diversity brings.

Clearly there are solutions that legislation and regulation can also offer but the first step needs to be a personal commitment to address diversity by the men and women with the ability to influence executive appointments and assist with success.

It’s time for us to step up. – Barbara Chapman

The First Step to Hiring Good Employees Is Stop Looking Down on People Who Just Want a Job



I work almost exclusively with entrepreneurs, or people who want to be entrepreneurs. In fact, I network, hang out, have dinner and connect on social media almost exclusively with entrepreneurs or people who want to be entrepreneurs. My life partner is an entrepreneur. I suspect even my cat has the entrepreneurial spirit.

So I answer a lot of questions from entrepreneurs. Want  to take a guess at one of the most frequent questions I answer? “How do I know when I’m ready to hire an employee?”

First step to being ready for your first hire is change your attitude about people who want a j-o-b.

Most of the entrepreneurs I know are genuinely baffled by people who really want to be employees. Many of them have walked away from high status, well paying, moderately secure positions for the siren’s call of being their own boss. They have at least a subconscious attitude that says anyone who isn’t aiming for entrepreneurship isn’t ambitious, is settling, has a dream that is several sizes too small. For many of them, the elitist notion that entrepreneurs are a little more clever, a little more savvy, a little more cool isn’t something you glimpse under the surface, they express it freely and adamantly. It’s a club they believe everyone should want to join.

Yet, the typical entrepreneur couldn’t reach their goals without depending on people who have no desire to be an entrepreneur. Even those of us with no employees hire companies whose services depend on their workforce.

Here are three reasons why the “working stiff” deserves your respect as well as a paycheck.

1. They’re taking a risk too.

We all know that being an entrepreneur requires taking risks. Sometimes big risks. But working for an entrepreneur is risky, too. You have a lot on the line as an entrepreneur, but you have the reins in your hands. Your success depends on the decisions you make. Ultimately, so does the success of your employees. While their performanceinfluences your success, they take the risk that they will turn in a stellar performance and still lose their investment if times get hard or business gets slow and you decide you have to do it without them. Don’t belittle their risk by constantly reminding them of yours.

2. They have big dreams too.

Their career dream might not be to own and run a business. It might be to help someone own and run a business. Or just to work for someone who owns and runs a business that they can be proud to work for. Someone who appreciates them, someone who treats them as an equal, someone who believes their dreams are just as valid as anyone else’s. If they have those kinds of dreams you can make their dreams come true at the same time they help you realize yours. But only if you’re willing to be that kind of employer. Don’t belittle their dreams by treating them as anything less than worthy of pursuing.

3. They’re everything you aren’t.

Every strength you have represents a gap in the strengths of your business. If you’re a natural juggler who is comfortable with having 20 balls in the air at once, then there’s no one in the business who is a natural at following the system A-Z and staying hyper-focused on the task at hand. If you’re a natural risk taker who finds change exciting, then there’s no one in the business who is a natural at holding steady and maintaining status quo.

When you find an employee whose strengths compliment your own it frees you to do what you’re best at doing. But only if you fully appreciate the value of what they’re best at doing. If you’re one of those employers who believes that the entrepreneurial traits and talents are naturally superior you’ll shrivel your employee’s morale faster than a well-placed thumbtack can deflate a balloon. Don’t belittle their talents by treating them as anything less than vital to the success of your own goals.

Now, if you’re filled with awe and appreciation for those folks whose dream of serving the world includes working for a passionate, driven and fair-minded entrepreneur who will support and reward their own pursuit of excellence in their career, there’s good news. You’re already on the path to finding one.

Entrepreneur Magazine- Dixie Gillaspie Contributor

Sometimes, the boss is the one lying in the job interview….

one-skill-job-candidate-blanda-openforum-338We often hear about job candidates exaggerating their accomplishments. Somewhere between their resume and the interview, the truth takes a back seat.

This stretching of the truth, however, is not a one-way street. Many new employees have told us that they felt they were misled in interviews about either the responsibilities of the position or the culture of the company. Small untruths on working hours, flexibility, dress code, or employee numbers can even translate into big slights for a gung-ho new hire who feels he’s been deceived.
It should be obvious that a false start is no way to start a professional relationship.
We’re not suggesting that employers intentionally misrepresent their company or the opportunities for new employees, but somewhere inside the ritualistic dance where applicants and employers are both trying to put their best feet forward, they can wind up tripping over each other. And that can lead to an atmosphere of distrust for new employees.

So how can leaders build a foundation of trust with new employees from day one, and ensure their long-term success and satisfaction?


Start with the job description

When it comes time to filling an open position, hiring managers are often in a mad rush. Someone has just given a two-week notice and there is a chair to fill. And from the employer’s perspective, that empty chair is seen as costly. So the old job description is quickly dusted off and posted in the hopes of attracting a top-flight replacement. That’s where the first mistake occurs.

What this approach does not take into account is that today’s jobs are constantly evolving. A job description that is a just few years old may have long become irrelevant. As a hiring manager, it’s critical to ask yourself questions about the position, such as: How has it changed since we last hired for this job? What new tasks are critical to the role? What would I like a new person to do differently? How will success at this job be measured?

Revisiting the role before the hiring process and having a clear grasp of its responsibilities and expectations are the first steps to ensuring that you find the right person. This also makes it more likely that your new hire understands exactly what he’s signing up for and won’t hightail it out the door the first chance he gets.


Don’t rely on the resume

Resumes, understandably, are a key indicator for many hiring managers to determine whether an applicant will make the short list for a particular position. But resumes are just advertisements for the past. What you are really looking for is a crystal ball into the future. In fact, it is important to keep in mind that you are not just hiring someone for a particular job, you are hiring them to grow with your company.

 So, what will success on the job look like? You need to be upfront with job applicants and explore that question during the hiring process. Tell candidates what will be expected of them and ask them what their definition of success is and how they hope to attain it at your company.

Look for insights into what makes applicants tick, which will provide clues to their potential, strengths, and development opportunities. Those attributes, which can be further gleaned from an in-depth personality assessment, will help hiring managers identify individuals who can succeed in the job and thrive in the company’s culture. Combine that with a behavioral interview and referrals, and you get a comprehensive, integrated approach to hiring. When expectations are clearly defined in the interview process, it’s an exercise in trust building.

Build trust upfront

Once a new employee is hired, it’s important to start off on the right foot. Particularly in the first week, it is important that the new manager takes the time needed to create a real connection and ensure that trust is firmly in place.

job interview, culture
The first few days on a new job are what you might call “the Goldilocks time.” New employees are trying not to be too hot or too cold, but come across as just right. New hires are keenly aware that they are being evaluated by their colleagues, so there has to be someone who can provide a solid understanding of how a worker can best contribute in her new environment.
Trust between a manager and new employee doesn’t happen overnight, but the first impression can be a make or break point. Be clear about the requirements and expectations of the job. Be genuinely interested in who they are (don’t multi-task when you are talking to them), and let them know you are interested in their aspirations and their growth within the company. And be open about how you like to work—your habits, quirks, strengths and the things you are working on improving. -Patrick Sweeney

The Interview Question That Can Seal The Deal

Interview best question

I’m in the middle of hiring someone to replace my irreplaceable executive assistant, a title that barely does justice (as any executive assistant will tell you) to the extraordinary intensity and intellect of such a job.

The job search has yielded several excellent candidates, meaning that I’ve once again had the opportunity to ask my favorite interview question:

What did you do to prepare for this interview?

Oh, the answers I’ve heard – the good, the bad and the ugly, and so powerfully revealing in each regard.

“I’ve been stalking you for three days,” was one. I loved it! Especially after she described what that stalking involved: Reading virtually everything she could find ever written about me, plus reading or scanning everything I’ve ever written online and in print, including two books. As a result, she came to the interview ready to talk not just about her fit for the requirements of the job – but my interests, values, and, perhaps most impressive, the intellectual content of my life’s work.

Another candidate had this impressive response: “I looked at all of your social media platforms and tried to back out of that what your communications strategy is, and how I would advise you to change or refine it. I also evaluated the marketing plans you appear to have in place for your new book launch, which led me to put together a list of questions.” She opened her folder to reveal just that — a full page of them.

Hello! You’ve walked in the door over-delivering. I like you very much.

Other answers have been rather less mind-blowing.

“Well, I drove here last night with my boyfriend to make sure I didn’t get lost today.”

Another candidate answered, “I read your Wikipedia.”

Both OK, but hardly enough to demonstrate the kind of passion and curiosity I’m looking for, or, most importantly, the resourcefulness. Look, there are plenty of great interview questions out there, and there’s no doubt about it, you need to ask a slew, as well as carefully check references. (I also give candidates a good, old-fashioned editing test.) But this single query has proven its worth to me time and again.

Half the battle in business is being prepared. Make sure the people you hire don’t have to learn that on the job. – Suzy Welch

Books to Read to Boost Your Networking Skills



“It isn’t what you know but who you know” is an old saying that still holds true today. In fact, good old-fashioned networking can be the best way to land a new job.

In a survey of nearly 60,000 clients by Right Management, part of Manpower Group, 41 percent responded that they got their current job through networking. When you combine online social networking with the traditional face-to -face approach, you can widen your success rate. One way to do this is by finding former classmates or associates through a site such as LinkedIn Corp (NYSE:LNKD) and then requesting to meet them in person.

Books to help boost your networking skills

If that sounds easier said than done, maybe your networking skills need a little brushing up. Here are some books to help you do just that.

Books on networking skills – Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi (2005)

The secret to networking is building relationships wherever you are and whatever you are doing. In this interesting read, Ferrazzi offers concrete ideas for expanding your network by reaching out to other people in everyday encounters, such as at the health club or at the local store or restaurant.

If you follow Ferrazzi’s plan, it can be life changing. Rather than suggesting you only network with those people who you think can help you get ahead, the author recommends developing a network of genuine relationships in all aspects of your life.

Favorite Quote: “I came to believe that in some very specific ways, life, like golf, is a game, and that the people who know the rules, and know them well, play it best and succeed. And the rule in life that has unprecedented power is that the individual who knows the right people, for the right reasons, and utilizes the power of these relationships, can become a members of the “club” whether he started out as a caddie or not.”

Books on networking skills – The Skinny on Networking by Jim Randel(2010)

Using his trademark stick figures, Randel uses humor and directness to share his views on networking. This is a quick read, but it offers some clear and easy-to-follow advice on creating and maintaining a solid network.

The book features lessons the author shares with a fictional young couple, Beth and Billy. Along the way, you will gain some simple and effective tips that you can put into action right away.

Favorite Quote: “Networking is not just about business. Networking is about increasing your depth and breadth as a person. What starts out as a business relationship may well end up as a friendship.”

Books on networking skills – Winning with People by John Maxwell (2004)

Would you like to see yourself as others see you? If you could, what would you change? Maxwell takes us on a journey of self-inspection in this book, and his no-nonsense approach may just help you be a better at building relationships.

Maxwell uses examples from people from all walks of life and from his own personal experiences as a pastor to drive his 25 People Principles home. If you are a fan of Dale Carnegie, you will see the two writers have a similar style.

Favorite Quote: “I believe that attitude is the second most important decision anyone can make. (The most important is faith.) Your attitude will make or unmake you. It’s not the result of your birth, your circumstances, or your bank account. It’s all a choice.”

Books on networking skills –Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty by Harvey Mackay (1997)

How many people could you count on if you called them at 2 a.m.? Harvey Mackay uses this question as way of asking his readers to consider the strength of their networks. In this practical book, Mackay shares his own career experience and gives tips on how you can develop our own reliable network. One of the most useful parts of the book deals with small talk and how you can improve this useful but often awkward skill.

Favorite Quote: “Before you meet new people, before you make that call, do your homework. Find that common ground. Determine where their needs and interests lie. Make that connection.”

Books on networking skills – Highly Effective Networking by Orville Pierson (2009)

Networking is simply “talking to people with a goal in mind,” according to Pierson, and he uses this simple definition to broaden the way we look at networking. Pierson encourages us with the idea that we already have a network. We just simply need to know how to use it to get ahead.

The concise book provides a three-part “project plan” for an effective job search, with using your established personal and professional network as a valuable part of that action plan.

Favorite Quote: “When the economy is good, networking is important. In tough time or tough job markets, networking is essential.”

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