You grab a name tag, a glass of white wine (thank goodness for wine), and scan the room for someone you know. It’s filled with women in smart dresses and men in layered sweater-shirt combos. The light is manageable but low.
Really, the fact that you turned up at this shindig without a fallback buddy is kind of crazy. All you can see in the room is small huddles of people vacillating between laughing politely and furrowing their brows, well, politely.
Finally, you spot another lone wolf. You slowly start walking toward her and nervously ask her a question. You make polite smalltalk until one of the initiated invades your little duo of sanctuary.
You try to move on to another group, another conversation, another opportunity. Each time you make your approach the butterflies in your tummy turn into bees. They buzz up to your head. Your brain is overcome by the swarm. Sooner than later, you bail.
You just put yourself through something akin to hell and don’t even have a business card to show for it, let alone a real connection with someone knew who can help you book a new client or land a new account.
Maybe this isn’t your worst-case business-building scenario (it is mine). Maybe yours is sales calls or speaking gigs or email marketing. Maybe you love being funny but hate the expectation to perform. Maybe you love diving deep but hate holding someone’s hand.
Business tends to create opportunities to take action that make you feel uncomfortable, disquieted.
Worse, business can put you in a position where you think you need to do things that are painful, unprincipled, or sleazy.
Even when you reject the worst of those things (really, don’t do anything that makes you feel sleazy), you succumb to good advice, solid plans, and tried-and-true formulas that just don’t sit right with you.
Case in point: “If high-powered entrepreneurs go to networking events, surely I should to. That’s just a good plan.”
I’m going to let the cat out of the bag early: you don’t need to do anything in your business that isn’t aligned with your personal values or guiding principles.
But you knew that.
You’re not one to compromise your beliefs, your values, or your principles. It’s part of what got you into business in the first place.
What you probably don’t know is that there is a strategic way to develop a plan of action that is aligned with your personal values and guiding principles. There’s a strategic way to allow what makes you most effective and compelling turn into tactics and then results.
In other words, when you’re clear on the strategy, you can reverse engineer the tactics that are going to work best for you. Better, you can innovate new ones that put you light years ahead of the rest of the market. It’s not a matter of finding the right guru, formula, or expert; it’s a matter of becoming your own expert.
Let’s go back to the example of the networking event. This is a nightmare scenario for me. It’s not as bad as it used to be but it’s still really bad.
I want to connect with people. I love finding kindred spirits and people who want to help me fulfill my vision. But walking up to people at a networking event is not a condition for success for me.
I’ve had to ask myself whether I needed to push myself to accomplish this “should” of business or whether I could find a different way to connect with people.
This is a core question on Quiet Power Strategy™: How do you want to connect with others?
Too often, we focus on how we should connect with others. Or we fixate on what will work best to connect with others based on what’s working for other people.
All the shoulds and best practices in the world aren’t helpful if they’re not helpful, effective, efficient, and fulfilling to you and your business.
When I coach clients through developing their business strategy, I ask them:
- How have you best connected with others in the past?
- What conditions do you need to really create a connection with someone?
- What kinds of conversations lead to lasting relationships?
- What kinds of people are you looking to meet?
- When do you feel most persuasive or compelling?
Then, we create a plan that creates those conditions, sets them up to meet those kind of people, and helps the feel more persuasive and compelling.
For me, that means space to think about how to approach someone, time to consider my responses, the ability to research people first, and clear expectations for behavior. I’m an introvert, can you tell? That means that I’ve relied heavily on Twitter to connect with others. That’s lead to speaking engagements at Etsy headquarters, CreativeLive, and Pioneer Nation, among others. It’s also lead to relationships with bestselling authors like Chris Guillebeau, Sally Hogshead, and Nilofer Merchant. I can say with confidence that trying to networking-event my way to those connections would have failed miserably. I’m just not suited for it. And that’s okay.
This kind of strategic workaround works for any area of your business that’s feeling especially uncomfortable (or, worse, sleazy). Step back and look for way around. It doesn’t mean you’re copping out if you don’t take the hard road, it means you’re smart.
That said, you can’t just ignore the hard road; you need a strategic plan to get the results you want without having to do the things you don’t want to do.
That’s what my new book is all about. It’s coming out on February 10 but in the meantime, you can pick up a special sneak preview by clicking here.