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Classifieds Classic: Networking Basics

(Originally published on Sunday, July 18, 2010; reprints previous original material published in this section.)

For every career professional, most especially entrepreneurs, networking is a skill that is definitely indispensable. In this fast-paced modern world where people often need to work together in loose partnerships in order to achieve their goals at the soonest possible time, the ability to know, develop, and maintain a network of and positive relationships with business contacts is surely a more important pursuit than ever.

Professional networking is defined as meeting and connecting with other people and getting to know their abilities and interests in the hopes that this may help each other acquire mutual benefit especially in the business aspect. To put it simply, it means talking to people who can help you get things done.

People who know the value of having not just broad but strong networks get things done more quickly and effectively. They learn from each other’s different knowledge or experience which help them do better in their careers. For those who are still in the process of building a new career, they are able to use their network as they seek to move on — whether it is a planned switch or brought about by a sudden career crisis.

Fortunately, networking is not that much of a hard task as long as you are patient. As a part of your professional progress, it can be one that is both enjoyable and rewarding if done properly. You might even be a part of numerous networks already without realizing it. It is only a matter of identifying the mutual benefits that can bring both parties and building from that point on.

So, how do you begin creating this much-needed asset? Here’s how to start and pump up your professional network.

Make a list of people whom you can talk to. People in your list need not necessarily be a personal friend or an acquaintance. They could be anyone who you believe you have enough of a common interest with to be able to initiate a conversation or someone whom is friends with someone you know. Keep in mind that all you need is a connection that would allow you to call and say who you are, obtain a nod of recognition and approval that there is indeed a connection between the two of you, and ask for specific details, information, and introductions.

Your possible contacts may include the following:

* Personal contacts – Your friends, acquaintances, neighbors, relatives, church members, classmates, professors, club or organization members, alumni or former schoolmates.

* Professional contacts – Your employers, supervisors, managers, colleagues, subordinates, clients, customers, fellow association members.

* Internet contacts – Any personal and professional contact that you might be able to get in touch with through electronic mail. Subscribers to mailing lists you participate in can also be included.

* Online social network contacts. Social networking such as Friendster, Multiply, and Facebook is a trend nowadays. You can definitely make use of your online contacts as long as you know that they are trustworthy in handling the transactions you need.

* All the people your contacts know. Just as you have hundreds or even thousands of people connected in your network, so each person is also connected to others. In case you need to get in touch with a contact of your contact, you can easily do so through referrals.

Maintain a give-and-take relationship. Probably one of the biggest flaws you can commit in your networking pursuit is to constantly ask for help or expect something in return every time you interact with them. Furthermore, avoid making it your initial point of contact whenever you meet or talk to someone for the very first time. For example, you do not directly approach someone and ask for a job; rather, you should seek for advice, leads, and suggestions.

Build your network ahead before you need it. It is important to invest in your network even before you actually need it. Building a beneficial professional network may take a lot of time. After all, you do not easily gain other people’s trust especially when you come to them and ask for something. Therefore, even before the situation calls for it, it would be more advantageous if you know that you already have someone whom you can turn to and assist you in times of career-oriented needs.

( Get more networking tips next Sunday: learn how to build your network even if you’re shy!)

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)

Wide World of Work: Office Danger: E-mail

(Originally published on Sunday, July 18, 2010)

By L.M. SIXEL

Being professional includes your email—and text messages. Beware; what you write may come back to haunt you professionally

Houston – If you’ve got an e-mail account at work, chances are you’ve watched the training videos, signed the pledges and heard the warnings about never sending anything you don’t want your mom to see.

But do we pay attention to the warnings? Apparently many of us do not and are stunned upon discovering—typically after a lawsuit has been filed or a complaint has been brought—that the e-mail we thought we deleted has a very long shelf life.

In the days before computers, people burned or ripped up the love notes they didn’t want anyone to see, said Steve Roppolo, an employment lawyer with Fisher & Phillips in Houston.

But with today’s technology, it’s memorialized forever on computer servers.

And like other employment lawyers, Roppolo is continuously amazed that intelligent folks like Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal are caught sending potentially embarrassing e-mails to their secretaries or others.

“People don’t always think straight when love is in the air,” Roppolo said.

On the other hand, he said, Rosenthal’s references to wanting to kiss his secretary behind her ear are relatively innocent compared to what Roppolo normally encounters. And with this being a family newspaper, I’m not going there.

So why is it that normally rational people say things in e-mail that they shouldn’t?

For many folks, it feels a lot like a call. A few breezy comments and then hang up—or hit the send button. Who thinks much about it?

“It’s how we communicate,” said John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a Chicago-based firm that counsels job seekers.

But unlike the federal and state laws governing the taping and eavesdropping of calls, electronic messages don’t have that same kind of privacy protection, he said. But people forget about that.

Challenger said that he was guilty of having private conversations over e-mail with friends and relatives that he wouldn’t want to ever be broadcast. But a steady stream of headlines—especially when the news broke three years ago about the then-Boeing Co. CEO’s affair with an employee and the steamy e-mails between them—has made him much more cautious.

Now Challenger pretends that someone in IT is reading every e-mail. That way, he won’t be embarrassed.

It’s not just e-mail these days that’s causing problems. Roppolo said he’s seeing more cases involving text messages.

“People think of them as throwaways,” he said. “They’re just as retrievable as e-mail.”

One recent case involved two female employees who received sexually suggestive text messages from a male supervisor.

The case was settled pretty quickly, said Roppolo, who was representing the employer. The messages—which were easily retrieved for evidence—bolstered the women’s case.

Helen Carroll, a human resources director for the Achilles Group, said she regularly reminds her employees and clients that whatever they put in an e-mail, they have to be comfortable with the possibility it could show up on the evening news or the newspaper.

Or the CEO’s in-box, said Carroll, whose firm serves as the personnel department for small and midsize companies from restaurants to accounting firms.

She recalled one instance in which a manager had sent an e-mail to a co-worker making fun of a subordinate with a negative racial comment. Unfortunately, the manager also accidentally sent a copy to the employee.

“There was no way to explain away the e-mail,” said Carroll, who said the manager was put on notice that if anything bad happened again, she’d be terminated.

The manager was shocked and tried to brush it off, Carroll recalled. However, it became apparent that she was so used to making fun of employees that she didn’t even think twice about putting her thoughts down in an e-mail.

“With e-mail, you have no control over where it goes,” Carroll said. They’re just so easy to pass on.

In an office environment, that gets played out when two managers are feuding. One gets frustrated, snaps out a response and hits the send button. The other manager then forwards the nasty e-mail to their boss as an example of the co-worker’s bad behavior.

People don’t see the receiver, so they’re often nastier in e-mail than they’d ever be in person or on the phone, Carroll said.

“I tell them it’s not a phone call,” Carroll said, recommending that they step away from the computer, calm down, and walk down the hall and sort it out.

“Don’t just hit send. You can’t take back the e-mail.” (NYT)

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin and The New York Times. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)

Biz Maker: How I Learned To Manage People

(Originally published on Sunday, July 18, 2010)

By MARK SO

In my earlier years, I never really thought of myself as a manager of people; truth be told I never really understood how important managing people really was until I became an entrepreneur. And even when I embraced entrepreneurship full time, I made many, many mistakes in this field which taught me huge lessons not just in business but also in life.

You see, back in the day as an inexperienced entrepreneur, I thought that people management was simple: “If you want your business to succeed, you must hire people who have the background to run your business for you.” Little did I know that those thoughts were the most devastating thoughts ever to cross my mind. Why? Because no matter how good the people you hire, or how much money you offer them, the truth is, no one can ever run your business better than you.

I learned the hard way that being a business owner did not mean that you hired people to think for you and run the day to day operations for you; it meant that you needed to first know what you really want your business to become, and to do that, you need to be employee number 1. Because, remember Murphy’s Law: If something can go wrong, it usually will. And if you are not there to steer the business clear of problems, you should never expect employee number 2, 3, or 4 to do it better than you.

The greatest mistake I made with my first business was to hire a general manager and her managers (employees 2, 3, and 4) to run the business. I was still working for a big multinational company back then and subscribed to the excuse, “I’m too busy to handle my own business.” So I relied on the salaries that I was paying my people to make them grow my business, solve problems, and make me rich.

Of course, reality is never that easy. Because people that you pay but do not manage usually result in these people taking their salaries and ending up making excuses for why things didn’t go as planned.

(To read more about my problems with my first business and how I solved them, go to my blog, www.markso.wordpress.com and search for “Business and the start of a beautiful relationship, parts 1 to 3.”)

In hindsight, I realized that my biggest mistake was that I “abdicated” instead of “delegated.” Abdication is what happens when you are not there to guide people and as a result fail to fulfill your responsibility as the founder of the business. Delegation is when you slowly give some responsibility to the people you hire so that they can eventually do the work for you over time. Take note, the operative words here are “slowly” and “over time.”

So in my next business, I tried “delegating.” I was more hands-on in the business, but there were still big glaring problems. The biggest problem of all was my attitude. I was either too nice, or too strict, or too tyrannical, or all of the above. So as you can imagine, some of my people were complaining behind my back. I wasn’t consistent in my approach and my moods got the best of me, because—and this is not an excuse—as an entrepreneur you are faced with an extreme amount of stress on a daily basis.

So how did I learn to manage my people better? Well, three things.

First I had to learn to be better than the normal guy. As an entrepreneur, you will really face a lot of hard and stressful times but even during those times, I had to learn how to become more “presidential,” which meant I needed to stop being dramatic, and to learn to act from my head and not from my heart. It wasn’t easy, but I (with my wife) realized that the solution to achieving this was to slowly and painstakingly build a system to address the needs of our people. This is where my wife Jhoanna really excelled; she built our human resource system almost single-handedly. It did not just address the concerns of our people but also replaced impulsiveness and drama with solid procedures for addressing our people’s problems.

Second, and simultaneously, I had to weed out the bad apples in the bunch. You see I believe that the business owner has to do his/her part in becoming better at managing people, but the people themselves must be willing to be honed to become even better for the sake of the business. Unfortunately there are those who just do not have the right attitude and the only answer is to remove them from the equation.

Once I cleared the ranks, replacing them with better people was the next task, and to do this, we created criteria for hiring people, and these criteria were the most important of all as they helped us hire those who believed in what the business wanted to achieve. This unified belief is what bonded our people together to act as one with the business owners themselves. Without this bond, you can never really build a team with a common purpose.

Third, and finally, I realized that the first two things will not matter at all if I did not show them exactly what it was that the business wanted to achieve. So the last and final ingredient of how I learned how to manage people was to lead by example. I am employee number 1 and as such I must show the rest of the team how to do it the first time, the second time, the third time…until they can do it on their own. Today, I can honestly say that I have come a long way when it comes to managing people. Today I can honestly say that my wife and I are better managers of people.

About the Author: Mark So is a fervent businessman, forex trader, marketer, sales consultant, and educator. He is the chairman and CEO of Businessmaker Academy, a business, finance and corporate training center. He is also the Chief Forex Trainer of Forex Club Manila. Mr. So is slated to conduct his “7 Point Formula Seminar” on July 31, 2010. If you are interested in attending this seminar, email Mark directly at markso@zerocapitalclub.com. To read more of Mark’s interesting and life- enriching articles you can go to his blog at http://www.markso.wordpress.com.

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin and Mark So. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)

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