Networking tips for introverts

Recently we had a staff day including an afternoon of professional development and ‘team building.’ Gulp. Are there another two words in the English language that can bring such dread to an introvert?

For me, it’s a double whammy. Not only do I not enjoy being in a room for 40 other people (4 is about my limit), but I have such a high degree of cynicism when it comes to team building that I find myself coming up with various schemes which may get me out of this exercise.

As for networking, I’d rather poke myself in the eye with a stick.

Thankfully, the facilitator of the session – the value of networking – was remarkably sensible. Sandra Wood ran the session. The timing was perfect as there was a supporters event the following week. When asked about how I felt about networking, I freely admitted that the idea made me feel rather ill yet I also knew there was no way of escaping the function I had to attend.

Sandra’s advice was practical. Eat before you go. Hold your drink in your left hand and keep your right hand free for shaking hands. And my favourite – if you need to join a group, go for a group of 3 not 2. Her practicality won me over. Here was a woman who took the time to acknowledge that this is something many people do not want to do; something people dread and then set about trying to ‘lessen’ the dread. Over the years, I’ve met many facilitators of professional development and in particular ‘team building’. Nearly all of them seem to have the opinion that introverts just need to become team players. Few acknowledge the challenges and for that I really do give Sandra credit.

Through the workshop, Sandra tried to get us to re-interpret our thinking. I was sceptical to say the least. However by the end of the session, I had realised that given I had to go to this event, I might as well try to make it more bearable for myself. Could I feel comfortable in myself doing this – definitely not! Did I feel proud of the work my employer does – absolutely!

That was my key which took off the edge. If I just focused on the positive feelings I have about my job, then that would negate any lack of confidence in a crowd.

I’m pleased to say that I survived the function and even managed to have a couple of good conversations with a some major donors! For that I have to give credit to Sandra Wood Consulting. I certainly won’t be volunteering myself for such events in the future however when I do need to attend, I think I now have a few tricks to get me through them with better results.

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Posted on May 23, 2013, in Communications, Major Donors, Not for Profit and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. In August 2006, I was appointed to a senior management role within our organisation. While I had some experience in coordinating programs, I had not managed a team before, let alone one that was going through tumultuous change! While I felt I was able to do the job, I needed guidance in developing a positive management style to make the hard decisions, but also create a positive team environment. Sandra Wood had already worked with our organisation facilitating high quality outcomes, so I approached her regarding a Leadership Mentoring Program. Through the program I gained a holistic picture of my strengths and areas for improvement. More importantly I learned that being a better manager was not all about my management skills, but rather relaxing on the perfectionism and having balance in my life. Sandra’s ongoing tailor-made support and advice throughout the program, allowed me to handle many aspects of my job much better than I otherwise would have. I now have a long term development plan that will ensure I manage the staff and services well while looking after myself in the process! I was thankful to have done this so early in my career as a manager. I would recommend anyone looking to develop their management and leadership skills to participate in this program.

  2. Third gulp. I shudder when a workshop leader suggests an exercise where we have to stand up and role play.

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