Professional Networking The Introverted Way

21 December 2013

I am by no means a professional inclined to give authoritative advice on the subject. I am however wishing to give my thoughts and experiences on the subject as I see it.

Looking over my professional career, still in it's younger days, I can easily see how my quiet ways have influenced direction, policy and even the actions of others. Mostly I am not an extroverted, aggressive person and prefer to work out differences in a calm civil manner with discussion, plenty of listening and well-thought-out and placed questions. Whether it be a decision on which product or service is right for the company or when in dealing with personnel issues, a quiet, introspective approach has served me well.

I find that asking leading questions is a better method of counsel than giving forthright advice and pouring on someone. If I can give my thoughts to someone and then ask them questions to enhance my thoughts, making them think about the issue and helping them come up with the answer from their own mouth, it plays out wholly different than dispensing my advice to them and attempting to force them to take it. The latter, by nature, seems to always put up a wall of defense between the two people speaking. I try to slip into the castle courtyard before that wall goes up by being friendly and inquisitive. This makes for great non-confrontational conversation where both parties can freely exchange thoughts and ideas on how to resolve a particular problem.

I enjoy making well-placed phone calls or office visits with folks and having those one-on-one personal conversations. I feel like that's where I do my best work. I don't feel as effective in meetings or large groups of people where ideas or discourse is thrown around the table as food for a pack of lions. In a way, it's a form of politicking but only in a more private and personal way. I'm not the one who's going to be in the town square on a soap box shouting out things for large groups to hear. Rather, I enjoy being the person behind the scenes, quietly influencing others and giving ideas to them.If I am successful with my endeavors I get to sit back on the sidelines and watch the fruits of my quiet labors unfold before my eyes.

By having personal conversations with people, one person at a time over the years, I've gained a large network of trusted peers in my career - both people I trust and of those who trust me. Part of gaining that trust with them is to always be honest, never lie and if I mess up, fess up. It's better to own up to your mistakes than to try and cover them up. Others will have far more respect and forgiveness for someone who claims responsibility for the good and the bad things they do than for someone who lies about it. Usually those who lie and cover things up aren't good enough at it and everyone knows what you did and won't forget it.

Be nice to people, listen to them, be real with them and show a genuine interest in them and you'll quickly gain their respect and trust. Then over time you can build on that and do great things together.

Download the pdf version with pictures here.