Steve Westall is a leading trainer and coach who co-founded Pansophix with his business partner, Ian Clarke.
What does networking mean to you?
To engage with new opportunities and keep the link going with existing contacts
Where and when do you do it?
Everywhere and a lot! Electronically I use email, text messages and the phone
For example I met a lady back in February this year (she was linked to us by another contact) – I dropped her an email yesterday asking how she was getting on, and we’re meeting next month to discuss our projects. I have many contacts within my outlook express folders – many who I would like to keep in touch with but work pressure can divert you away from doing this well.
When I’m using the phone, often someone elses name in the phone directory will catch my eye and I’ll drop them a text there and then asking how they’re getting on.
I tend to use the phone to get some commitment to meet up (there are too many occasions when people say “we must meet up sometime” and nothing ever materialises).
I’m a member on ecademy and linkedIn and use LinkedIn a bit to keep in contact with colleagues from previous companies – I might use these systems more if I took the trouble to understand them better.
Physically I tend to meet people around Liverpool Street or Holborn in the City, often in a Starbucks if the meeting is informal. I find the IoD in London is convenient – it’s air conditioned and has good Tube connections.
What specifically do you do?
Basically it’s a chat, gossip, update, explore common ground session which often leads to business (but this is not the overriding motivation – if it happens it happens). I normally allow between one and two hours depending on time constraints.
If you were going to teach me about it, what would you ask me to do?
Make a list of all the people you know (within reason!) – most people find that they know more people than they realise.
Choose 4/5 individuals seperately on both a social and business basis as a start and just contact them – don’t think about it too much – and do it from a perspective of being interested about how they are getting on.
Some people have a problem when they think about what they want to say. I recommend simply coming up with three or four generic questions in advance to help eg: What are you up to? Where are you located? How does that work out? Keep focused on them and eventually you will have a chance to say what you are doing – but keep it short.
The key aspects are:
Don’t talk too much
Keep it upbeat – Make it a pleasure rather than an interrogation
I also reinforce to people what they are good at; sometimes people are too close to what they do to realise they have some real and unique skills. It’s worth looking out for these and acknowledging them back to the person when you’ve found them.
How did you learn to network?
I’m quite shy but have a desire to chat to people. I seem to have developed a ‘toolbag’ of techniques that enables me to start. As I said previously I have a number of key questions to ask and I focus on it being a positive experience.
What do you believe about yourself when you network?
I’m a nice person to know
I can always help in some way; from being encouraging to introducing a new contact.
I don’t judge people
I have a good balance between seriousness and fun
What do you believe about the person you’re doing this to?
I can come away from speaking to anybody and learn something – however big or small
Everyone has unique skills and everyone can benefit from meeting me (not meant to be arrogant at all!)
Do you have a personal mission or vision when you’re doing this?
To share and help
How do you know that you’re good at this?
Mostly feedback. For example I just received an email from someone saying “It’s always a pleasure to see your emails in my inbox…my latest work has been inspired by a meeting with you.”
In turn this motivates me to do more networking
What emotional and physical state are you in when you do this?
I often think of myself as a ‘polite lunatic’ , – other describing words would be entertaining, listening, checking understanding, energised, inspiring.
I like to leave people feeling energised, inspired and with a smile on their face
What happened for you to be good at this?
I used to be in ‘serious’ finance (I am an accountant by profession) but had a secondment to work with some top marketeers during my Corporate life. Previously I thought they were perhaps a little “smoke and mirrors” and somewhat eccentric and flamboyant– but they had an inspirational quality that (I think) has rubbed off on me. They were extremely talented and creative.
What are you trying to achieve when you do this?
Enjoy myself and give value
I started by talking about a toolkit which can be a ticket to start, however I think too much of a structure can get in the way. It’s as much about business, personal and spiritual exploration – being able to help as an objective sounding board (and people have to have 100% confidence that what they share with me is never going to leak out to other parties. 99% is not good enough here – there must be total trust and confidence)
I want people to realise that if they have a genuine issue I would always take their call or meet them to disuss it with them
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