We’re in the same room – but are we doing the same thing?

A copy of my article published in the Sunday Times of Malta today

Julila Mcdaid article in Sunday Times Networking, for many, is a fundamental part of their business life. Whether they like it or    not.    And some do really love it, others tolerate it and some are overwhelmed. So does it make a difference whether you are a man or a woman?

I can remember way back when in the days when I was a young accountant, I used to go to business networking events and they could be pretty stuffy. The attendees were mainly men in suits. I got quite used to being a woman in a man’s world.

But is that what it’s all about? Is networking a man’s game?

Traditionally business networking certainly was a man’s game, things like the Masons, Rotary, Lions Clubs and so on were men only. And it’s not so long ago that the same applied to golf clubs, yacht clubs and similar places.

That’s not to say that only men networked, you would see men networking at these business groups as well as in the coffee shops, at the golf club, the sports club and so on. And the women would be networking at the shops, in each other’s houses, at school and more recently in places like the gym or spa.

Over the years though business has changed, it’s much more open and mixed so you have to play things differently. As a result many organisations have opened up and are much more balanced between men and women. And of course there are also women only networking groups too.

So how does it all affect you as a business person when you want to network?

Well the thing is we are different. We’re all human beings and all business people but the masculine and feminine think and act differently.

Just as in sales it pays to understand the customer and speak their language, so it is in networking. At the end of the day it’s a all about communication, so the better you can understand how to communicate with different people the more effective you can be.

So don’t limit yourself to only half the marketplace, make sure you can connect with both and so maximise your target audience.

And the way to do this is to understand how we do it differently so that you can then adjust and communicate to the other half of the room. None of us can expect the others to communicate like we do, men are more direct with fewer words, whereas women like to chat. Women naturally read non verbal signs better, men are naturally more competitive and look for recognition.

 

We perceive it differently

We tend to have different priorities generally, men do what they need to do to succeed, including being where they need to be and putting in long hours, its built into who they are. Women typically have other priorities and want more a flexible business.

And we define it differently too. Men call anything networking where they could get business, whether it be golf, a formal networking event or whatever. Women on the other hand call all non official networking events, socialising. So to them voluntary groups, school meetings, sports etc is social and not networking (even if they are networking without realising it).

We also often have different business goals and reasons for being in business, which will affect our networking goals and so the way we network.

We are made differently

As you would expect women tend to display more feminine traits and men more masculine traits. So when they are networking women are often better listeners, more likely to actually hear what is said. They want to collaborate so are looking to work together. And they will place a premium on relational aspects of networking, feeling that it is important to get to know fellow attendees.

Men typically are problem solvers and tend to be task oriented and will likely also be interested in status.

We may be looking for different things, the women are often looking beyond just the networking, the men are on a mission, they have a plan and a strategy. They are there for a reason and want to achieve what they set out to do.

These differences are also noticeable in terms of preparing for networking when new to it. Whilst men have a tendency to want to learn to do things on their own, so will dive in to networking and learn on the fly. Whereas a woman is more likely to learn some skills before she goes.

Build on the differences

The bottom line is we are the same but different. We see things differently, are motivated by different things and have different targets. As a result the way we approach networking varies, not only between individuals but between men and women.

If we take the time to understand and learn from each other, we can utilise this information to improve our own networking and communication skills, and ultimately our business results.

 

First published in the Sunday Times of Malta on 22 February 2015. Copyright Julia Mcdaid – author

 

What does it mean to be authentic in business?

Have you ever stopped to think about it? Are you authentic? Do you have a meaning for that?

Greet authentically, be you

To me authenticity is about being real, it’s about being who you really are. And that doesn’t mean “my way or the highway, take it or leave it”, that sort of attitude will no doubt drive readers and customers away.
Being real is being honest and genuine, not putting on a front, because it looks good, or because that is the way you think you have to be or look in business, or in the field you operate in.

Do you ever find this at networking events, have you met the people who plaster on a fake smile, are all charm and high energy, yet it doesn’t feel genuine, have you seen them when they go outside and their whole demeanour changes? the armour comes down. I have, I know people who do that, what they don’t get is that on some level we all detect a fake, we detect when someone is not being genuine.

What do I have to do to be authentic?

Just be who you are. Really, it’s that simple. Though I would add that if you know you are in a bad mood or in your stuff, if you are having one of those days when things re getting to you and you know you have a lot of negative emotions, that is not who you really are.
To me who you really are is the you you are deep down inside, the person that comes from the heart and wants to connect with others.
I do appreciate that we are all both sides of the coin, and the bad days are as much a par t of us as the good days. All I’m wanting to highlight here is that when we have those days that is when we tend to lose sight of the authentic person, the person who lives for and from our heart.

So what are the benefits?

At the end of the day people buy people, you’ve heard that one before I know. And it’s true. So if you are who you are, when people like you they will be happy to do business with you. If you are pretending then you may find when you start working with someone the real you slips out and then they don’t like it and so problems rise, and you won’t have a good working relationship.

What about online?

These days a large part of our business presence is online, so we might also consider how we can be authentic in our dealings on the web. In many ways the behaviours are the same. What might you do? Just as an example, if you like something acknowledge it, tell the person you like it, compliment them, any genuine comments will be well received. If you don’t like it don’t share it, that doesn’t mean you have to be rude and announce you don’t like it. Do you see the line, its a subtle difference.

Equally when you recommend people don’t do it if you don’t know them or have nothing good to say, don’t make it up. One simple positive sentence that reflects your true experience and the benefits you received is far more value to a business than made up blurb written because you feel you “should” (or just for money).
You don’t have to live up to other people’s expectations, do what is right for you. And be the same person you are offline, don’t have an online personality and an offline one.

One thing I think is very true, it is so much easier and less of an energy drain to just be real and not be keeping up pretences all the time.

Be courteous and polite, follow sensible etiquette on and offline, there is no need to be rude or abrasive ever, and it wouldn’t do your reputation any good. Within these guideline be as genuine and honest as you can, respond from your heart, do what is true for you, and you will find people honour and respect that.

What if I’m not feeling it?

What if you feel you are not connected to the real you? if you feel you are too caught up in “life” and all the stuff it throws at you. Well I would suggest you just take some time out, it may only need a few minutes or an hour, just allow yourself to let go and slow down. Take a walk in nature, breathe deeply into your heart, write a journal , do some exercise, or meditate. Then choose to be more aware of what you are experiencing in your view of life, when you feel disconnected just bring yourself back.

It’s also good to really get connected to what life is about for you and what your business is about for you, beyond putting bread on the table. We all have a bigger reason for doing what we do. If you are unsure there are a number of ways you can connect more easily to why you do what you do. Use outside support if you need to.

It’s really not about having the most expensive car or computer or the fanciest business cards, they don’t get you business. These days our world is moving more and more towards appreciating and demanding authenticity, being who you are; and connecting to people in a genuine way is going to take you far.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

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