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Great Start To Your Overall Networking Life
on October 6, 2004
Harvey Mackay's book approaches the practice of networking in a wide sense: strategies for initiating and maintaining relationships at any stage of your life with as many people as possible from as many walks of life as possible in as many situations as possible for a variety of different ends, both for yourself and for the people you network with.
The book is divided into ten sections (Mackay calls them steps) which play upon the well metaphor:
1. Jump In, the Water's Fine! - reasons why you should network (26 pages)
2. Time To Prime The Well! - starting out with the right approach to networking (23 pages)
3. Start Digging! - building the foundation of your networking: the essential elements of a network and basic networking strategies (45 pages)
4. Sharpen Your Edge! - refining your networking skills (35 pages)
5. Excavate Your Unique Skills! - recognizing and using your personal uniqueness to your advantage to build your network (31 pages)
6. Dig Deeper! - refining your networking using your personal uniqueness (29 pages)
7. Don't Fall In! - networking pitfalls: how not to network (23 pages)
8. Minding The Well! - maintaining your network (39 pages)
9. All's Well That End's Well! - additional insights into networking (27 pages)
10. Drinking from the Well ... and Sharing the Wealth! - final thoughts/summary (7 pages)
The book is very useful as a roadmap for utilizing all your relationships: it prompts you to think about where you could go with virtually every relationship you've ever had. Therefore, the older you are and the more people you already know, the more this book will probably speak to you.
However, for people wanting to network to gain business prospects and convert them into customers in the near future, the book is limited. For instance, of Mackay's top 4 places for building your network (Alumni Clubs, Industry Associations, Social Clubs, and Hobbies) only one of them (Industry Associations) seems to be a viable way of getting business prospects sooner rather than later. A reviewer of Mackay's book on Amazon.com commented "this (book) is more an autobiography of Mackay's networking than the art of networking itself." It's challenging to keep in touch with people you've met at networking events and maintain meaningful relationships. Mackay's chapter on keeping in touch with your network speaks to maintaining ties that are already well established, but these tactics would come off as unctuous and inappropriate with people you barely know but want to have a greater relationship with.
Mackay does have strategies for establishing ties with new people. However, I find his approach distasteful. Mackay encourages establishing rapport with people you want to reach by finding personal facts about them and shamelessly initiating conversations with them. Mackay actually reads a periodical called Who's Who which details the personal lives and accomplishments of executive America. When he meets someone he's read up on he initiates the conversation with this personal information as if he were a good buddy ole pal come round to visit. In the same way, Mackay advises that when you meet a couple you have not met before, ask how they met; they will begin to tell you the story of their lives, and you quickly have new best friends. Does this approach really work with most people? Another Amazon reviewer has similar reservations about Mackay's sincerity: "His book reminded me too much in spots of the old Sicilian (i.e. mafia) saying: "I don't do favors, I accumulate debts." Or as that saying is illustrated in The Godfather by Mario Puzo in the wedding scene of the book, where Michael Corleone is telling his future wife, Kay, about Don Corleone; Kay says to Michael: "Everything you've told me about him [Don Corleone] shows him doing something for other people. He must be good hearted..." And Michael answers, "I guess that's the way it sounds. But let me tell you this. You know those Arctic explorers who leave caches of food scattered on the route to the North Pole? Just in case they may need them some day? That's my father's favors. Some day he'll be at each one of these people's houses, and they'd better come across." That's the mentality that is projected throughout much of DIG YOUR WELL BEFORE YOU'RE THIRSTY. But then Mark MacCormack, who wrote WHAT THEY DON'T TEACH YOU AT HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL, said that The Godfather by Mario Puzo is one of the best business manuals ever written. What's that tell you about the business world? Since that is perhaps the reality of the business world, this book should prove quite helpful for dealing with it."
However, Mackay offers a number of interesting strategies and insights for networking for prospects. Mackay says the greatest networkers of all are American presidents, providing anecdotes about the strategies of George HW Bush Sr., Clinton, Nixon, Eisenhower and Lyndon Johnson. He notes how small countries like Israel and South Africa networked their way into media prominence whereas larger countries who lack such media savvy are routinely ignored. One of Mackay's most striking insights is that "its lonely at the top" and how you can take advantage of that. He relates the story of Scoops ice cream shop who offered Hollywood stars only "a scoop of ice cream" for attending their store opening. They received signed pictures from stars like Frank Sinatra and Robert DeNiro. By the same loneliness token, many executives are more communicative and approachable than you'd think. Consquently, when Mackay tries to reach an executive's office and encounters a gatekeeper receptionist, he discusses strategies for working with the gatekeeper rather than circumventing them to access the executive.
While it's questionable how much you can learn about and access the executive through the receptionist, it's a strategy worth trying a few times. It's certainly good practice to get to know better placed people in a company who aren't necessarily decision makers. Virtually every person I've ever met at networking events who call me afterward, wanting to reach the company president, do exactly the opposite. They only want to use me as a company directory and hurdle me. I find this offensive - why would I refer a complete unknown to the president and put my reputation on the line in doing so? But more importantly, these people are passing up an excellent insider source of company information: me. I've found the tell-tale sign of these sorts of people is their reaction when you ask them to give in some way: give me an indication that you are skilled, trustworthy, reputable, know your industry; show an interest in wanting to know about me, the company, what we do, etc. I remember one person who really showed her colours when she tried to `hurdle' me on her way to the president. I even offered her a lot of information on what the president would probably want for a PR campaign, and asked for her input. Yet she still didn't do a single thing to work with me and develop the plan and disappeared completely. If she had shown a willingness to work with me rather than against me, I surely would have given her a personal referral to the president, and she would have had insider information for the basis of a PR campaign to approach him with. Another guy e-mailed me, asking to access my network because (according to him) I could offer them the benefit of his fine financial advisory services. I wrote back to him, asking if we could discuss some sort of trade of contacts where he could tap only the people he needed in my network (IE the people I knew would want to hear about his services) and I could tap only the people I needed in his network (people who need my products/services). I never heard back from him. He showed he was purely out for himself, uninterested in any reciprocity. Why would I refer someone like that to my contacts?
Despite Mackay's questionable sincerity in forging new relationships, his networking ethics are sound. For instance, I agree with his four basic elements of networking, encapsulated by the acronym RISK: Reciprocity, Interdependency, Sharing and Keeping At It. Further, he illustrates the importance of honesty and full disclosure with his anecdote of keynoting a meeting of the top 500 customers of Corning, the glassware company. Before Mackay's speech, Corning surveyed the audience on virtually every aspect of their product line via a push button, anonymous poll. After the poll, Corning actually laid all the poll results bare in front of that audience, favourable or unfavourable. The Corning rep then said that they now knew what work had to be done. Mackay said it was the first time he'd seen customers "who were ready to climb over their chairs to place their orders." Mackay also notes Dale Carnegie's truism: "You can make more friends in two months by becoming really interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you. Which is just another way of saying that the way to make a friend is to be one."
Closely related to being honest with others is being true to yourself. Mackay strongly advocates doing what you love and using it as a way to network, in his case golf, and how far that alone took him in building his network. Not coincidentally, Mackay says that the greatest networking organization in the world is also one of the most personal: Alcoholics Anonymous. An anecdote from Muhammad Ali has him meeting a photographer from Life magazine who specialized in underwater photography. He said that the recently turned pro Ali had no chance of getting in Life. Ali used this man's speciality to his own advantage, telling the photographer that he practiced his boxing underwater as a training method, even though he barely knew how to swim. The result was an innovative picture spread in Life of Ali shadowboxing underwater.
In a similar way, Mackay is also emphatic about another way of being true to yourself and using it to your advantage: networking with the people close to you. That includes neighbours, colleagues, relatives, even those close to the people you want to reach - wives, children, and so on.
Mackay has good advice on how to approach networking as a newcomer. He advocates joining a Toastmasters chapter as a great preparation for networking. He prescribes 16 types of people essential to anyone's network. He mentions a few preferred contact management software titles. He also helps you distinguish good from bad networking - networking vs. gossip, social vs. business networking. He provides a networking self assessment test and even points how the differences between how men and women network. Perhaps the book can be best summed up with a quote Mackay provides:
"Press on. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education alone will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent" - Calvin Coolidge