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Introductions gone bad…

January 11th, 2007

I read in Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone book about power connectors and knew that is what I wanted to work towards. The idea is simple – be a person that knows a lot of others, knows needs and talents, and tries to make connections to various people. I’m not sure if I wanted to be a power connector for selfish reasons, or just because I get a lot of fulfillment out of helping others.

Keith named various professions (such as realtor, headhunters, etc.) which tend to naturally create this power connector status. Funny that he didn’t name one of my early bosses, a mortician (I worked/lived in a funeral home for the first 14 months of my marriage – it was great! Quiet neighbors!)

So anyways, over the last year I’ve made a huge effort to be aware of supply and demand (or, people skills and desires and companies needs), and hook people up where appropriate. And it has been rewarding for me to see at least two people get jobs right away, and many others begin to develop great relationships with superstars.

But I’ve had a couple opportunities in the last few months to observe what others do with my introductions. I’m not talking about those that do nothing… because those that don’t reply to an introduction are just building their own personal brand (as being non-responsive, or not interested or whatever), and that is their choice.

I’m talking about those that do follow-up, but they do it in a way that is not appropriate. Here’s an example of an e-mail that may have been sent in both cases (and remember, my idea of networking is 100% based on building relationships – you tell me if this is building a relationship):

Dear John,

I am interested in x because of y. Please tell me what you have for me.

Thanks,

Jim

When I make an introduction I have a high regard for both parties. I think that each person could provide value to the other. I think about what could become of a relationship, maybe because that’s the way that I think about networking. I would never send an e-mail like that as a first introduction, and I forget that others would when I make the introduction.

The first time I got cc’d on the reply that said “we regret to inform you that this position is no longer available.” Immediately I cringed because I knew that Jim’s approach was not in building a relationship, rather it was the common job-search question of “here I am – what job do you have for me.” And John did the same thing that he does with all other job seekers.

The second time I got a private e-mail from John. It can be summed up in “why didn’t Jim figure out who I was, what my organization does, and approach me from a professional position? Instead I get just one more ‘what can you do for me’ e-mail.”

This is clearly not what my professional contacts are expecting from the introductions I extend. I admit that I’m not the best at all-things-relationships (just ask my wife). I hope you don’t think that I’m coming across as smarmy. These are just observations that I’m picking up on as I hook people up – and I realize that its all about education (in other words, they aren’t trying to come across as “rough around the edges”) – that’s one of the purposes of this blog :).

What do you think? Who should be doing something differently, and what should that be?

14 Comments »

14 responses to “Introductions gone bad…”

  1. Jason,

    You hit a sore spot of mine squarely on the head.

    When someone gives me the gift of a referral, I try my best to treat it as if it were gold. I learn all I can about the person to whom I have been referred, and think hard about what I might have to offer to help them get what they need.

    Stephen Covey tells us to “seek first to understand, and then to be understood.” That applies nicely in networking – figure them out first, before trying to force yourself down their throat. And a useful corollary might be, “seek first to help, and then to be helped.”

    I’ve had folks misuse contacts I gave them in the past. I am reluctant to give any more names to someone who acts like this, until he and I have had a long chat about my expectations.

    Kent

  2. Jason says:

    Thank you Kent, for validating this … no comments all day and I’m sitting here thinking that I crossed a line and everyone is wondering “is he talking about me?” ha ha :)

    The other problem is that when this happens you potentially lose value to either party. Please take care of my contacts – that’s all I ask 😉

  3. Jason – this is always a difficult situation because the people you refer are spending your relationship “capital”. How they go about using this capital reflects back on you. However, once you’ve given them the ok it is out of your hands and is a matter of trust. The key is to develop more than just a casual relationship so that you can trust them with your capital. The fact that you do this, in turn, makes that capital more valuable since all parties involved will quickly learn the value you place on it and treat it accordingly. That being said, there are times when you will still get burned — unfortunately there are no guarantees in life. All you can do is work to get to know your network contacts well enough that you can trust them.

  4. Jason says:

    Mike, I agree… but because I am giving them power to tap into my capital (or, currency), I should (1) be careful who I trust with this currency (in other words, my intro’s are carefully thought out, I don’t just hook up everyone, and (2) perhaps train/educate them (not a huge thing, but a proactive measure)… tomorrow (or soon) I’ll give a great example of this, one that I got from a lunch meeting yesterday.

  5. Susan says:

    I’d also add that sometimes I’m eager to refer people I shouldn’t. It’s like Malcolm Gladwell’s concept of Connectors–sometimes we have natural tendencies to be connectors and it becomes so habitual we lose sight of screening the referrals. I also think there’s nothing wrong with telling people who perhaps you’re just meeting, or, who are second, third or fourth degree connections “I have a few parameters I’d ask you to follow as I make this connection for you…”

  6. Deb Dib says:

    Another great post, Jason…and some great comments from Kent, Michael, and Susan! Bottom line for me is that networking is always, at its foundation, a “give-to-get gig.” People who don’t have giving as thier mission will not do the pre-meeting due diligence needed to become a resource for the person to whom they’ve been given an intro. And that’s ulitmately their loss. Problem is “bad mannered” networking could reflect on the “introducer,” so as Susan suggested, maybe a quick review of perameters would be in order when connecting folks.

  7. Having been on the receiving end of Jason’s indtroductions, I can tell you that I really appreciate his approach. [I don’t know how the heck he came to think me worthy of being introduced, but that’s another story 😉 ]

    Jason is teaching me a lot about networking, since I never did much of it until recently. This article is another among many where Jason shows he “get’s it” and is helping others to “get it” as well. Hey isn’t that what Jibber Jobber is all about? :-)

  8. Daniel Sweet says:

    I can’t really comment on this without going on a tirade….so I’ll just say, “Yep.” (That’s complete and utter agreement from a Texan, in case you foreigners didn’t know.)

    Fool me once….

    Dan

  9. […] Yesterday I presented the problem, today I present a quasi-solution (my life is all about quasi-solutions). Read the problem here (make sure to read the excellent comments)… the following is an example (with real people, real stuff – this assumes that Carl Chapman introduced me to Susan Strayer). If you are a blogger I invite you to write your own example on your blog and my readers can benefit from your wisdom (here’s one from Noah Kagan at OKDork.com (thanks for the link Phil!)) Hi guys, […]

  10. Jason says:

    Dan claims he won’t go into a tirade but I know that he is stewing over a blog post of his own and won’t let it go until he puts it up! Go for it Dan!

    Thanks all for the comments – it was hard to write this because I didn’t want people to think “oh no, was it me?” but this is obviously a huge issue, inciting tirades and all kinds of cockamamie activities :p

  11. Mike Murray says:

    Not being a Texan like Dan, I can’t just let this one go with a “Yep”. So I’ll ramble a bit.

    (I have to admit, I had a moment of thinking about the people that Jason has introduced me to and wonder how I could have done better… the “is he talking about me” moment. But, then, that could just be my inner “not one of the cool kids in high-school” voice talking… 😉

    Seriously, I completely agree with this one. The extension I’ll make to the point is one that I’ll talk about more on my own blog at some point in the next couple of weeks (as I’m busy putting the finishing touches on a new book). Especially with geeks, the failure to make the most of this type of introduction appropriately is endemic.

    There’s a positive part there, too. The failure can be a great opportunity to DEEPEN a relationship if you do it well. The first question I find myself asking in this situation: did this introduction go badly because of a lack of skill, or a lack of caring? If it’s a lack of caring on the part of the person I made the intro to, then shame on me – this was an intro I probably should have known better than to make.

    But, in the case of lack of skill or knowing how to handle it, I’ve found that it is often an opportunity for me to create real profundity within my relationships with a really simple reply:

    “Hey… you seemed kinda uncomfortable in your response. Things okay? If I can help out or offer some tips on responding to this type of thing, let me know.”

    This is a big win on both sides – you show your caring for the person you’re in relationship for, while ensuring that it doesn’t happen again. And you get to know a bit more about what makes your friend tick.

    Which is always a good thing for me.

    Okay, done rambling. As I’m sure Dan would point out, we Canadians sure are long-winded at times.

    -Mike

  12. Cindy Kraft says:

    I agree with Deb that networking is about giving to get, and the sooner that folks buy into that concept the more they will get!

    Reading your post, Jason, I immediately thought of the invites I get to connect to others on Linked In. Even people who have read my posts on MLPF will send me an invitation to connect using the standard canned greeting. Wouldn’t it make more sense from a networking perspective to at least personalize the greeting at little bit? A little bit of professionalism and courtesy can go oh so far.

  13. […] I remember reading about power connectors in Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone a couple of years ago. Last January I blogged about it, stating that I wanted to become a power connector. You can read my thoughts (and Ferrazzi’s ideas on which professions are naturally inclined to be power connectors) here. […]

  14. […] and receiving virtual introductions, and the problems I was experiencing with both.  Check out Introductions gone bad… and Solution to Introductions gone bad… […]