I’m baa-aack! I apologize to my (few) loyal readers for the radio silence, but life has been a bit insane. Moreover, I’ve been strategizing a more focused theme for this blog, and I’ve decided to take it in a more technical direction. That said, while you can all look forward to tons of fun (and frequent!) posts on cohort analysis, web analytics and the like, rest assured that I’ll still supplement my writings with the occasional qualitative quip – and that is what’s on today’s agenda.
If you’ve never undergone the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test, you sure are missing out (shockingly, I am not being sarcastic). Business teams regularly use MBTI to facilitate better working relationships: employees take the test, earn one of 16 different “scores” and get written personality assessments; from there, colleagues are asked to read about each other’s working/personality styles and the team attempts to contextualize the outputs. In other words, since I am an ISTJ (the “inspector”), we might talk about what my team can do to help me be as productive as possible – perhaps I like getting numbers/facts in advance of meetings so that I have time to make a data-driven decision (truth). My colleague – let’s call him Bob – is a classic ENTP, meaning he loves to argue; with his MBTI assessment in hand, I recognize that he’s actually not just an asshole (woohoo!) but just wired to be this way, so I find productive ways to have this kind of dialogue with him.
Yes, yes, chances are that you’re already well-versed in MBTI, but I’m writing today to discuss one of the most operative inputs to the formula – letter 1, or the E/I (extrovert vs. introvert). As I alluded to earlier, I am an ISTJ, meaning I skew introverted. A lot of people’s heads kind of explode when I tell them this; they insist I am wrong and that I am a classic E. As my AP Bio teacher used to say, “that’s a common misconception that is ABSOLUTELY FALSE.”
For context, here are some statements I dug up online around what distinguishes introversion from extraversion:
- I often prefer doing things alone or with one or two people I feel comfortable with.
- I feel comfortable being alone and like things I can do on my own.
- I prefer to know just a few people well.
- Sometimes I like the idea of something better than the real thing.
- I’m excited when I’m around people and I like to energize people.
- I often understand a problem better when I can talk out loud about it and hear what others have to say.
- I feel comfortable in groups and like working in them.
People think I am an “E” because I am constantly (and successfully) building my network by attending events, teaching, taking coffee meetings on my weekends, etc. Let it be known: I am merely overcompensating for my I-ish tendencies. In reality, I am probably one of the most independent and private people you will ever meet. For as transparent as I might be about my business knowledge and my network, I am the antithesis of that transparent when it comes to my personal life, my family, etc. I’m typically doing some kind of networking ~6 out of 7 days per week and have developed a plethora of strong business ties in the process, but most of these people do not know me well beyond my work exterior. People who do know me well know me DISTURBINGLY well.
Three of the classic “E” tenets are 1) “I have a wide range of friends and know lots of people”, 2) “I like to energize people” and 3) “I like moving into action and making things happen.” These qualities are not innate to me, but I embody them incredibly well because I have worked my ass off to get there (and also, I’m incredibly passionate about what I do, and that energizes people – if you hate your job, get out of it). Hell, I’ll toot my own horn – most people would tell you that I am one of the best networkers they’ve ever seen. Why am I telling you all of this? Recently, I’ve come across more and more people who have tried to, for lack of a better expression, use me for my network. I am always happy to make an introduction because I love this community (and karma!), but what grinds my gears is people who make no effort on their own. They’ll assert that they “just aren’t good at networking,” etc. Get over it, people. Like anything, success takes determination and practice. If I were a betting woman, I’d say these people are perfectly capable of being extraordinary networkers.
So for all of the “I”s out there, this is a call for you to show me your E-face. It’s uncomfortable and awkward and will be for a while, but you can do it! (And I swear, that’s the end of me playing the role of Tony Robbins here.)
Here are a few tips that have helped me out along the way – hopefully they can be of service:
- Focus on 1:1 networking vs. 1:many. I love a stiff drink, but I hate big happy hour events. I am also 70% deaf in my left ear, which makes these events even more challenging for me than for your average bear. On account of that, I try to build my network by having 1:1 conversations vs. going to endless happy hours (where the conversations are generally fleeting anyhow). The downside to this approach is that you’ll lose a lot of morning/night/weekend free time, but it’s highly effective. To draw a dorky comparison, this is like sending a triggered behavioral email vs. a mass broadcast campaign – engagement is going to be way higher in the former.
- In your initial conversation, build goodwill and interest by offering introductions or free advice. When I meet with people in the space, I try to “hook” them with some impressive functional knowledge (mostly surface-level stuff, but it’s still enough that it’s earned me several invitations to advisory boards). I also ask them to give me a download of their business and typically then ask about what’s keeping them up at night – from there, I’m pretty good at thinking of on-the-fly recommendations for other people in my network they should talk to, and I’ll offer to facilitate those introductions on the spot.
- Establish the relationship in person and from there, you can actually nurture it via email. You don’t have to ALWAYS network offline. Once I meet someone, I’ll typically see them occasionally at industry events, but I’ll primarily maintain the relationship through email. How do I do this?
- Newsle – this tool is amazing. I have all of my contacts in Newsle and the platform sends me alerts whenever someone is in the news/blogosphere/etc. I’ll take that alert as an opportunity to reach out to someone to congratulate them on good press, a capital raise closed, etc.
- Industry articles – for the love of GOD please don’t just send people articles for the sake of sending articles. However, if you see something that immediately makes you think of someone, send it. The immediacy test is critical though. (Example: a few months ago I was in a business discussion where the person on the other side of the table shared his beliefs on Christie’s inability to become president because of his obesity; there were a number of national articles about this last week, and I immediately thought to send to him – tertiary point: you don’t always need to have serious exchanges!)
- When someone offers you a potentially valuable introduction, you take it. I was recently communicating with an HBS student over email, offered her a valuable introduction, and she told me she’d circle back in a few weeks if she needed it. Ridiculous. If the meeting is about a potential job and you have no interest in the job, certainly don’t take it (no one likes to have their time wasted); however, if the meeting is about anything else and the contact is potentially valuable, you get to the bar an hour late that night and take the damn meeting. I know it can be difficult to qualify what constitutes “valuable,” so you can go ahead and use my ridiculously elitist rule of 3 (somewhere in NJ, my mom is cringing right now) – 1) schools, 2) company and 3) past experience. If any of the three look interesting/impressive, I repeat: take the damn meeting. This can be very tough for “I”s, but it’s critically important.
- Farm candidates for your contacts. For some reason, it feels as though everyone in my life is trying to make the transition to a startup right now; some are certainly more qualified/fit to do it than others, but that’s besides the point. When I see good candidates, I’ll think about their backgrounds and interests and will try to match those to a company where I know someone. Good CEOs are always managing their talent pipeline and really appreciate this kind of proactive outreach.
- Enhance your LinkedIn profile/build out your network. I probably get 2-5 “cold” requests from really impressive people a month via LinkedIn and my understanding is that it’s generally through “People You May Know” – so the more people you know, the more who may know you! More generally, follow my advice to “ABLI” – Always Be LinkedIn’ing!
- Teach. It turns out that lecturing is a great way to network. I teach 2x per month with Skillshare, hang out for 30 minutes after each class to meet some folks and then I make a concerted effort to keep in touch with my students; this got completely out of hand at first with people asking for consulting work, but now I clearly state my “rules of engagement” and just help these people out via quick emails however possible. Some of the best introductions I’ve gotten in New York have come through my Skillshare students, and there’s no “annoying” or uncomfortable networking involved. Teaching is also an incredible “halo effect” opportunity to build your own personal brand.
- When you do have to go to the bigger events, make sure you know 2-3 other well-connected people in the room. This was my M.O. for a while (now, much to my own shock and awe, I am one of those really connected people). Don’t use these people as crutches, but use them to make a few initial introductions so that you at least feel comfortable working the room.
Did you see that? It was my empathy flying right out the window. SHOW ME YOUR E-FACE!