I’m a people person. Always have been. I love meeting with people of all types and styles. I see every meeting as an opportunity to learn something. I have a sort of game that I play when I meet people. I purposely try to keep the conversation on the other person rather than on me for as long as possible. I try to ask probing questions that I hope will lead to longer and more sincere replies. If a response is brief, I follow it up with something like, “That sounds hard. How do you do it?” and then I wait until something else is disclosed. And then I keep repeating variations of “That sounds hard” or “That sounds challenging” or “Wow, how do you do that?” and, amazingly, everything starts to unfold. Paul Ford had a great post, How to Be Polite, that really got me thinking about this way of meeting others.
I’ve heard many entrepreneurs say, “Always be recruiting.” I couldn’t agree more. Hiring the right people is everything. It’s always about the team. Thus, I spend a significant amount of time networking. But, to me, it’s not networking. It’s not recruiting. It’s humanity. And, it’s learning.
I’m an ENFJ-type person on the Myers Briggs test. It’s not that hard for me to engage on a consistent basis with people. I do find, however, that I need a healthy balance so that I can recharge and have focus/me time.
If you did a search on my email for the phrase “grab coffee” you’d see what I’m talking about. I try to arrange about two coffee meetings a week. I think of these meetings as “slow recruiting.” Whether I’m meeting a former colleague, a new acquaintance, a current business partner, or an investor, I view it all as slow recruiting. I may not know why I’m even recruiting that person. It may be that down the line I need a favor and they are the perfect fit. It may be that I need an intro and they are the closest connection. It may be that I want to hire someone just like them. I don’t always know. Regardless, I have coffee or I arrange a walking meeting.
First and foremost, I approach every meeting as an opportunity to be of service. Secondly, I approach every meeting as an opportunity to learn. I love the process of hearing stories and gleaning morsels of goodness. Oftentimes I’ll hear a gem of feedback that can carry me or inspire me for a long time.
My schedule could easily get out of control with these meetings so I have a few simple guidelines:
- I try to limit my schedule to ~2 networking coffee or walking meetups a week. I allocate a certain percentage of my time to networking meetings, and then I create Google Calendar Appointment Slots that recur. Then if I agree to meet with someone, I simply email them an link and they can book any of those slots that are open. I just say “Please grab an appointment that works for you!” This way I’m not allowing external meetings to eat away the prioritized blocks of time that I’ve created, and I eliminate some of the dreadful back and forth scheduling.
- Each month, I review my contacts and determine who I haven’t touched base with in a while. I then reach out to a handful of people to reconnect. This is basically my pipeline.
- I try to limit work-related evening events to no more than once a week. I’m a homebody. Given a choice, I would much rather be home with my loved family.
- I give more room for women and people of color. The only way we will change the ratio is by making room for conversations. Honestly, it’s these conversations where I learn the most, so it’s really an honor to get to advise, mentor, or just meet with others who have more diverse perspectives than I can offer.
In the vein of Mark Suster’s “lines not dots” theory, I’m continuing my lines. By establishing a regular cadence of check-ins with people whom I respect and admire, I’m connecting more dots. More importantly, I hope I’m connecting dots that will eventually change the ratio, and perhaps lead to a future recruit or, better yet, a good, trusted friendship.