Recently I started watching season 2 of The Undercover Billionaire. I really enjoyed the first season and while this season is a little different, I still feel there are so many lessons to be learned. But there’s one key message that continues to show up over and over again as I watch. And to be honest, it’s the same thing I see happen with entrepreneurs and leaders that I cross on a daily basis. It’s all about connection.
The Undercover Billionaire example
If you’ve never watched The Undercover Billionaire, I recommend checking it out. The basic idea of the show is that someone who is a billionaire in real life gives up everything they have temporarily to take on a fake name in a city they have no connections in to see if they can build a business valued at $1 million within 90 days.
During the show, you get to watch what they do in order to work on building this business. But here’s the most important thing that I’ve picked up on, it always starts with making connections.
These billionaires come into a location they’re unfamiliar with and they understand the importance of getting connected. They’re not trying to build a million-dollar business on their own. They know if they’re going to make it happen, they need to connect with the right people.
This looks a little different for each of the four different entrepreneurs that have been featured on the show, but the bottom line is, if you want to succeed, you’re not going to do it alone.
This is why pride is so dangerous as a leader
If you’re too proud to admit that you need help and a strong network in order to succeed, you’re making your job a LOT harder. Connection matters. When you have the ability to learn from others and gain valuable feedback and advice, it helps you go farther faster than if you’re trying to do it all on your own.
I know it might be uncomfortable to admit that you don’t know everything that people might think you know. And I’ll bet that imposter syndrome might try to creep in and play with your mind. But if you want to be a strong leader, you have to push past that.
How to build connection as a leader
To be honest, there’s no real right or wrong way to build your network as long as you’re doing it authentically. It’s as simple as talking to people. Focus on learning about them and their business. In the reality show, the entrepreneurs don’t seek out people and immediately begin sharing what business they’re building to get people on board. That would never work.
Focus on the other person first
On the show, they first focus on connecting with the other person. They do a little research and learn about that person and what it is they’re trying to accomplish. This gives them insight into that person, the community, and finally how they may be able to benefit one another.
The founder of BNI (a business networking group that is located all over the place) once said, “Networking is more about farming than it is about hunting.”
That’s a great quote! When you’re building a strong network, it requires you to put in the hard work and time. It may take time to get the results that you’re after, but if you continue to sow and nurture, you’ll eventually reap a harvest.
If you approach networking selfishly, only in order to grow yourself and your business, you’re doing it wrong! Yes, if you build a good network, it will benefit you on a personal and professional level. But don’t make that your focus. Instead, focus on connection. Focus on making connections with people that can help you gain all different perspectives as you grow in your leadership skills.
Go to networking events
People tend to fall into two groups when it comes to networking events. They either love them or they hate them. If you love them, you don’t need to be encouraged to go, but you might still need to learn a few things on how to benefit from the group the most.
Don’t only talk to the people you know. Yes, it’s fun to catch up with your golf buddies and tease each other about who did better. But that’s not helping you expand your network. It is important to stay connected with people, but make sure you’re also introducing yourself to someone new.
Don’t try to talk to everyone in the room. If you move quickly from one person to another while snatching up business cards, you’re not really taking the time to connect on a personal level.
And if you’re nervous about going to a networking event, look for the people that are hanging out on the outside of the room. It’s just like being back in high school. Those that are outgoing, confident and love to be connecting with everyone are in the middle of the mix. Those that have anxiety about the whole situation are usually staying on the edges. They might be working up the nerve to jump into a conversation or they might be counting the minutes until they can leave. Either way, if you’re nervous, strike up a conversation with one of these people.
Treat them like a person
I’ve already touched briefly on this, but I want to go a little deeper. Sometimes when we do business with people, it’s easy to view them as a sort of transaction. It’s easy to miss the personal level. But remember that connecting on a personal level is going to be more beneficial for you than just trying to connect professionally.
People like to do business with people they like and people that care about them. Which reminds me of an episode of The Office where Michael Scott shares a color coding system he uses to write notes on the back of business cards. He keeps track of personal tidbits about his customers to help him connect with them. And while the show is definitely not about how to do business successfully, it makes a great point about the importance of connecting on a personal level.
Remember that people are people. And they want to be treated like it.
What’s your next step?
Find a way to start growing your network. Look for an event to attend. Ask another professional out for coffee. See how you can come along and support a mission that you care about and connect with others that have shared values.
And if you’re ready for help and guidance in your business growth and development as a leader, reach out to a SPEARity business coach in Milwaukee.