Just about anyone in business has a specialty, or a technical skill for which they are considered an expert.
For example: A venture capitalist is skilled in knowing how to source, screen, and select high-performing investments. A transactional lawyer, on the other hand, is an expert in managing mergers and acquisitions.
However, as important as these core competencies are, many professionals will need to master another skillset—a skillset I call the Granted Skills—in order to create long-term success for their firm.
These granted skills are the art of managing and leveraging a professional network. Business relationships often don’t get the same attention or praise as the technical skills we offer and, as a result, it can be easy to take relationships for granted.
Too often, people think of relationship development as something that “just happens” over time; or a trait that some people are just born with. But the truth is, professional networking is a skillset and, like any skillset, it can be learned.
Here at Mindmaven, we’ve observed how powerful it can be to systematize professional relationship development. In designing a programmatic approach for our clients, we’ve identified five core skills behind successful business networking, and I’d like to share those skills with you today.
#1: Relationship Management
Here at Mindmaven, we believe that 80% of the breakthrough opportunities you’re going to encounter come from people who know, trust, and respect you. And, most often, these opportunities come in the form of referrals.
At any point in time, there are near-endless opportunities available in your network. But unless you’re effectively managing your relationships, you’re only hearing about a small portion of them.
The truth is, referrals and opportunities don’t just happen. They’re a process and, like any process, you can leverage it to your advantage. This process is driven by two factors: Timing and mindshare.
- Timing is when someone discovers an opportunity that would be valuable to you. You have practically no control over this factor.
- Mindshare is how top-of-mind you are, and directly influences someone’s ability to think of you when they discover an opportunity. You have almost full control over this factor.
Mindshare is driven by the interactions you provide to your network, and those interactions are driven by two factors: Frequency and experience impact.
- Frequency is how often you interact with a contact. This can be increased by simply reaching out more often.
- Experience impact measures how much of an impression an interaction leaves with your contact. This can be increased by upping the value you provide.
You can learn more about how to manage mindshare and interactions in 3 Traits of the Most Effective Founders, CEOs, and Entrepreneurs. But in the meantime, here’s what you can do to better leverage your relationship management skills:
Send one email a day to someone you wouldn’t otherwise have contacted. Just make sure the content is relevant and valuable for the recipient.
By the end of a year, you’ll have sent out 260+ more emails, and I can practically guarantee at least one of those emails will generate an opportunity you wouldn’t otherwise have had.
Not sure what to send? Click here to download our free email template collection, The Five Freebies!
I’m probably not the first person to say you need leverage. Most people know this, and many entrepreneurs are experts at creating leverage within their organization by hiring great people or creating efficient workflows and processes.
Usually organizational leverage is called scaling. And while many people are great at scaling their businesses, they often struggle to scale themselves. And for that reason, the skill of getting leverage on your time is vital.
But what does leveraging your time mean? Simply put, it means reducing the urgent, reactive chaos of your day-to-day life in order to focus on the truly important, proactive tasks.
So instead of spending all day responding to emails, scheduling meetings, and keeping on top of Slack messages, you’re able to focus on the strategic initiatives that move the needle most.
Here at Mindmaven, we deploy a wealth of strategies to help our clients get this leverage. For example: Our unique time management approach, Whitespace Time, has been hugely effective for many people. Click here to download our 27-page guide, Whitespace Time Management: The Proactive Entrepreneur’s Guide to Owning Your Time and Mastering Your Priorities.
In addition to Whitespace Time, we also teach our clients to invest in a unique resource we call an Engagement Manager (EM). An EM is a hybrid between a chief of staff and an executive assistant, and they specialize in getting you more leverage on your time, your resources, and your network through the art of delegation.
Why is this important? Just ask Richard Branson, legendary founder of Virgin Records, Virgin Airlines, and Virgin Galactic, among many others. According to Branson, “Virgin’s ability to grow and diversify successful was set in the company’s early days with my learning how to delegate and let go.”
If delegation and leverage was vital to Branson’s and Virgin’s success, it’s probably a worthwhile skill to master.
When I talk to people from all walks of life, the one thing they subscribe to across the board is the concept of lifeline learning; or wanting to improve and grow throughout their lives so they can look back and say, “If I’ve achieved one thing, it’s that I never stopped learning.”
This is an admirable and skillful way of living, and we at Mindmaven wholeheartedly support it. However: Learning itself is a skill, and one few people truly master. And in many ways, this problem can be traced back to our education system.
John Dunlosky, professor of psychology at Kent State, published an interesting article in which he states, “In our schools, the emphasis is one what students need to learn, whereas little emphasis, if any, is placed on training students how they should go about learning the content and what skills will promote efficient study to support robust learning.”
We teach our clients to master lifelong learning with a three-pronged Self-Regulated Learning (SLR) approach: Identification, practice, and reflection. Here’s a quick overview of each stage:
- Identification: Identifying the specific learning challenge and planning it out.
- Practice: Practicing the chosen strategy and evaluating your performance through intuitive questions.
- Reflection: Reflecting on what you learned and making ongoing adjustments that bring you closer to your goal.
Want to uncover more about this scientifically-proven learning process? Check out 3 Important Skills We Overlook When it Comes to Learning.
Empathy is one of those attributes many people don’t often think of as a “skill,” but rather a personality trait you either “have” or “don’t have.” This just isn’t true: While some people might be more naturally empathetic than others, empathy is a skill everyone can (and should) develop.
Empathy is one of the most powerful ways to form genuine connections and build meaningful relationships with others. But what does being empathetic mean, exactly?
A highly-empathetic person has the ability to sense the emotions of those around them, and is able to channel those same emotions within themselves. When you’re practicing empathy for someone else, you don’t just know how they feel; you understand how they feel.
When you express empathy, you’re delivering an experience to others that they’re not just listen to, they’re heard. And because they’re heard, they’re understood. When someone feels understood, they trust you. And trust is the foundation of all relationships.
There are a number of ways you can be more intentional about practicing empathy. For example:
- Actively listen more than you speak,
- Eliminate assumptions from your interactions, and
- Express vulnerability in your communication.
You can learn how to execute these strategies and others in 5 Actionable Tips to Develop Empathy and Become a More Empathetic Person.
They say change is the only constant in life, and yet we as humans often do everything we can to fight change and preserve order.
For example: When people cut their lawns to a near-perfect manicured state, they’re fighting change. The very nature of grass is change and growth, yet we spend an hour every week or two pretending that isn’t the case.
Change is constant and inevitable; and the less time we as leaders spend fighting it, the more time and energy we have to invest in harnessing that change for something great.
The easiest way to practice the art of change is to adopt what Stanford Professor of Psychology Carol Dweck calls a Growth Mindset. Here’s a quick look at what it means to have a Growth Mindset, rather than a Fixed Mindset:
- You fundamentally believe your abilities are like muscles that get stronged with practice,
- You tend to seek out and take on more challenges, even in the face of failure, and
- You understand that criticism and failure isn’t personal and, in the long run, will contribute to your overall success.
To learn more about harnessing change through a Growth Mindset, check out Do You Have a Growth Mindset?
What Got You Here Won’t Get You There
Our core competencies—the surface-level skills that make us successful—may have gotten us where we are today. But, as Marshall Goldsmith (@coachgoldsmith) says, “What got you here won’t get you there.”
To take things to the next level, you need to reach deeper than your technical skills. By mastering the five skills above—relationship management, leverage, learning, empathy, and change—you can create a remarkable improvement in your life and business.
If you haven’t yet made it a conscious effort to practice these skills, I encourage you to find ways to intentionally incorporate them into your professional life this week and see where they take you.