HAS business networking changed in the 21st century?
I believe it has. I think that changes in global business are driving changes at the ground level - right down to how you shake hands and acknowledge other people in your everyday work and social environments.
With so many more women and so much more diversity in the world's workplaces, people are learning to be more attentive to differences.
It is not just gender and cultural differences; it is about acknowledging your value to others.
Networking used to be all about getting something from someone, using people to one's advantage.
This century is all about the human network. It is about connections, and about connecting people for their benefit as well. What you do to help others succeed comes back around.
I have my own story to relate about helping others.
In 1997, I went through a rough period personally and professionally, during which I started a professional women's group in the American Pacific Northwest.
Within three years, the group grew to 60 members - all senior-level professional women doing business with one another and starting businesses among the members.
I wrote about the women, promoted them in newspapers and local media, introduced them to new contacts and helped them succeed.
The women also drew together within the network to help me get through my rough patch. The Hubbel Group was a diverse group of women, a mix of Polynesian, Hispanic, Asian, Caucasian, American Indian and African-American women.
Because of that, they taught me how women networked differently from men, and because of my own Fortune 500 background, I realised that big businesses needed to know about it.
I expanded my speaking business to include courses on how women networked differently from men, and adapted them for Fortune 500 companies.
Networking in general has changed for everybody. It is not just that diversity and the pace of business affect us all. It is that people are more sophisticated, and hard-core selling tactics do not work any more.
With so many people developing relationships as an essential part of their business model, you have to earn the right to do business.
You do not do that by forcing the connection. You do it by inviting people to want to know you and do business with you.
Ten tips for networking
1. Diversity has changed networking. It is now important to network relationally, not transactionally, and that is a different language and style of connecting.
2. The space in front of you is your living room. How do you treat people when they are in your house?
Treat people in your space with honour, regard, graciousness and courtesy, and your business and contact base will bloom and grow.
3. Treat everyone you know with the same regard. You have no idea whom you are talking to. Just because someone doesn't appear to have a title or power, it doesn't mean he doesn't. Be gracious to everyone.
4. Networking is about creating a space where others feel valued and powerful. It is not about selling or getting. It is about making others feel terrific in your presence.
5. Don't worry about trying to be witty or entertaining - that's not your job. Your job is to ask good questions, such as who, what, when, where, how, help me understand, tell me more. Let others shine in your presence.
6. Be charismatic. It's easier than you think. The trick is to ask a great question, then listen with great interest and make this person the absolute centre of your attention. Let him feel like a rock star while you are with him. That is your gift to him. Charisma is how others feel about themselves when they walk away from you.
7. Your social capital is all the people you know and all the resources of knowledge they represent.
Be quick to leave others with a tip, a referral, a reference - something to help them be successful.
It comes back around, especially when you do it without expecting anything in return.
8. Leave people feeling larger than how you met them.
Try to make sure people you meet is left with something more than when they came to you: an idea, a suggestion, a feeling about themselves, something that makes them feel bigger.
9. Compliment people. Every chance you get, leave people feeling complimented.
When you ask them about their businesses and how they got started, or their accomplishments, always be complimentary or use the words "I admire you for..."
This makes others feel powerful - and it makes you feel powerful to give power away.
10. Build your network by connecting people within it to their advantage. Always be on the lookout for ways to connect members of your network to benefit from meeting one another.
Make the introductions. This will pay off in a hundred different ways in the future for you and for them.