Value in Networking – Learning to Lead

Sometimes it’s rough putting yourself out there. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is taking some pretty “mean girl” hits for saying that women are not doing enough to take on leadership roles; others are defending her. While I have not read her leadershipbook yet, I’ve seen some of the interviews with Sandberg. She makes a lot of valid points. Women think differently; we analyze and look at many different sides. Men often look at things straight on; compartmentalize their thoughts (or feelings) and make a decision focused solely on the prize or goal.

When women put themselves out there and take those leadership roles, sandbergthey are often bashed or called the “b” word. They lead by example and then they’re called “cold” and “calculating.” Women who let their talents speak for them are often passed over or left aside. They have to balance “tooting their own horn” with coming on too strong. This – I know.

A lot of success in the business world comes from networking. A lot of that networking happens by listening. I attended a symposium today focused on sustainability. There was so much information shared in less than four hours that my head continues to spin. I gathered many business cards and plan to follow-up on several different levels with people I met today. A LOT of what I did today was listen. While I did moderate a panel, it was important for me to really listen to the experts who were presenting their cases for sustainable communities and progress being made in their worlds.

It’s easy to jump to – “Well, how can MY business help?” It’s more important to listen and learn during these networking opportunities. Then follow-up during a less busy time with a suggestion for a morning coffee with someone or a lunch. Whatever is appropriate. One thing I did do immediately after returning back to the office was to write a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to the people who I worked with on the panel. I admired their expertise; thanked them for their presentations and let them know that they certainly provided the standing-room-only crowd with a lot of food for thought.

Several years ago when I started by consulting business, I had a very difficult time in networking situations. I felt along; ill-informed; unable to measure up to other people and their expertise. Networking is like anything; practice makes perfect. While I never profess to be perfect at anything, I am comfortable in my own skin now. I feel confident in the work I do and what I can take on. I believe this, in part is what Sheryl Sandberg is trying to express to women today: Know yourself; let others know you. Learn your craft well and lead others in your field.

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