This quarter’s Book Corner examines Keith Ferrazzi’s book, Never Eat Alone. It explores how to make the most of our work connections.
The word networking strikes dread in the heart of many of us. It sounds so time-consuming, formulaic, and—let’s face it—fake.
Ferrazzi challenges the traditional take on self-serving networking and instead encourages us to think of meeting new people as a chance to connect. Here’s how the author defines connecting: “sharing my knowledge and resources, time and energy, friends and associates, and empathy and compassion in a continual effort to provide value to others, while coincidentally increasing my own.”
What stands out is the emphasis on sharing and providing value, not personal gain. He goes on to explain that being a connector is not about managing transactions, but about managing relationships.
Ferrazzi sees this ability to connect with others and manage those relationships as inextricably linked to success.
His experience is that success in life is a product of the people we meet coupled with what we create together. In other words, if we choose to see everyone we encounter as a potential person to whom we could provide value, we will manage that relationship differently—and naturally, both people will benefit from that.
Never Eat Alone has a strong emphasis on using our connections to help others… and ourselves. Ferrazzi writes, “It’s a constant process of giving and receiving—of asking for and offering help. By putting people in contact with one another, by giving your time and expertise and sharing them freely, the pie gets bigger for everyone. … The more people you help, the more help you’ll have and the more help you’ll have helping others.”
It's possible to feel that what Ferrazzi describes is just mutual backscratching. But the author addresses that concern by reminding us of what our intent should be. He says, “The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity.”
But what about those times when we need to use our network for our own benefit? Ferrazzi freely acknowledges this part of connecting: The more people we know, the more people who might be a resource for us.
Here’s what the author says about being prepared to use our connections: “Nothing in my life has created opportunity like a willingness to ask, whatever the situation.”
Often, asking our network for help will lead to introductions to people we don’t know, which can be awkward. Ferrazzi explains, “Mastering the audacity to talk with people who don’t know me often simply comes down to balancing the fear I have of embarrassment against the fear of failure and its repercussions.”
My favorite part of the book was what Ferrazzi calls the art of small talk. Many of us struggle with the polite, banal conversations that often occur when meeting someone new. But he reminds us, “[O]ften the most important people in our network are those who are acquaintances.”
Here is a collection of Ferrazzi’s thoughts about how to really make a connection and get past meaningless small talk:
· Be yourself. Being up front with people confers respect; it pays them the compliment of candor.
· The truth is everyone has something in common with every other person. And you won’t find those similarities if you don’t open up and expose your interests and concerns, allowing others to do likewise.
· Vulnerability—yes, vulnerability—is one of the most underappreciated assets in business today.
Forget networking! Begin 2024 by choosing to see meeting new people not as drudgery but as an opportunity to connect and create something together. Offer to help and ask for help; use your connections!
Join us in the new year on February 16 for our related course, Political Acumen. It’s part of CPS HR’s Women in Leadership series. See you there!
Allison Horak is a speaker, trainer, and attorney. She helps organizations work more efficiently through better leadership and communication practices.
CPS HR Consulting is a self-supporting public agency providing a full range of integrated HR solutions to government and nonprofit clients across the country. Our strategic approach to increasing the effectiveness of human resources results in improved organizational performance for our clients. We have a deep expertise and unmatched perspective in guiding our clients in the areas of organizational strategy, recruitment and selection, classification and compensation, and training and development.