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Using LinkedIn for Business June 21, 2009

Posted by David Dirks in Networking, Relationship.
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David DirksI’ll tell you flat out: I love Linkedin as a business networking tool.  Each week I devote some time to reviewing what some of my network contacts are doing and look to add additional contacts to my base.  In a few short months I’ve been able to add several hundred contacts to my LinkedIn network…and these are people that I know already.

I also see a number of people I know, people who have established businesses, using LinkedIn as well.  A few seem active and engaged with LinkedIn.  Many others seem to start and then stop.  They lose faith in the art and science of networking.  They might gather a few names but they don’t seem to be adding any contacts.  Is it because they just ran out of contacts and stopped at let say , 20?  Not likely.

It’s more likely that they just don’t invest the time that it takes to grow and engage a group of contacts.  It is often difficult to see any results as you are building your network.  Some people will stay stalled because they cannot see the value of online social media platforms like LinkedIn.  What’s the point?  How will it help them grow their business?  Will it make them money?

High performing Big Dogz, both individuals and businesses, understand the value and power of social networking sites like LinkedIn.  They get the point.  They seem to understand better than most that business networking is an investment of time that will pay off if you do it effectively.

Social media platforms like LinkedIn are another way to communicate and engage many different layers of business contacts.  Look at it this way: LinkedIn is a very efficient and effective tool for acquiring and managing business contacts on a far wider and deeper basis.

I’ve been working with LinkedIn for a few years now and I keep learning more everyday.  Here are a few things I’ve learned so far that might make your experience more fruitful:

  • Invest a consistent amount of time each week to working your LinkedIn account.  I’ve learned that investing my time in smaller doses on a consistent basis is all I need to keep my network growing and maintaining it.
  • Engage your network.  With LinkedIn, you can poll your network on any question you want.  What better way to get a read a critical issue facing your  business or industry than to ask your trusted group of network contacts?  That’s just one example of engaging your network.  Another is just updating them on a regular basis on issues or business events, ideas or needs.  Use the “What are you working on now?” section on your home page to alert/inform or ask your network for some help.
  • Keep adding new contacts each week.  One of the best ways to do that is to look at one of your contacts and see if you know anyone that’s not already in your network.  Invariably, I’ll find a few people each week and send an invitation to them.  Almost all accept and my network grows.
  • Both quality and size of network count.  LinkedIn is built on the concept of only including people you know and trust into you network.  It’s what makes LinkedIn more discerning as a social network platform than others.  But as your network grows, both the quality and size of your network give you an advantage.  It’s simple math.  Having 200 trusted and known contacts gives you greater reach and depth than having just 20.

If you are engaging your network both in giving and receiving information, ideas, etc., you’ll find over time that your network will become a contributor to your business.  You just have to stay with it and have a little faith.

Building rapport in a global environment June 20, 2009

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Building rapport, Building trust, Communication, Global leadership, Knowing your people, Leading globally, Management, Networking.
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Building rapport with global team member is a daunting task for most global team leaders.  The Big Dogz know that using a structured approach and a consistent information capturing tool goes a long way toward helping you be effective at building rapport over the chasms of time and distance.

In building rapport, the first thing all effective leaders focus upon is the people. What do I want to know about my team members? What information would be useful for me to customize my approach and interactions with the team member? Actually, the techniques for building rapport over time and distance are no different from building rapport face to face.

Create a list of topics that would be useful for you.

Here are some work related examples:

What job experiences do they have?

What are their career objectives?

What is their preferred communication style?

How do they like to receive feedback?

What is their favorite (most and least) work assignment?

What are their strengths?

What skills would they like to acquire?

What is the anniversary of them joining the company or your team?

Here are some personal related examples:

What is their commute?

What hobbies do they have?

What pressures do they experience outside of work?

What is their family situation?

When is theiur birthday?

Who are the people they admire?

What is their favorite television show?

Do they like sports? What teams?

Another key set of information that may be useful in a global environment is cultural data such as:

National holidays

Tourist attractions

Key historical events

National heroes

National sports teams

Public figures

Geography

Climate

You can develop your own list of information that would be helpful to you. Try to fill in the information for each item that would be useful for you.

Acquiring this information is an art form in itself! I am not suggesting you conduct an interrogation to discover the answers to these or other questions you may have about your team members. An effective technique to help you discover both work and personal related information is to first share something about yourself. To discover someone’s hobby, you might mention that you went on a hike this weekend and enjoy hiking. They may respond that hiking is not something they do, but they prefer cycling. Or, they may not respond at all. The key is to listen for information that can help you build rapport.

Once you have acquired information that is useful to you, I suggest you put that information into a file related to this person. Sales people use this technique when acquiring information about key clients. Standard contact management software like Outlook and BlackBerry have specific places where you can store this information. I am not well known for my ability to recall information about people, so for me, this technique is quite useful. Prior to making contact with people, I frequently review my information file to allow me to customize my approach to them.

The Big Dogz also know that people are interested in them. Think about what you would want your global team members to know about you. Prepare a short introduction presentation and deliver it to any new team members. Periodically review the salient points of your introduction at team meetings. Give people an opportunity to build rapport with you.

Focus on what information is important, capture that information and use it to customize your approach to building rapport with global team members.

Key cultural patterns for global team leaders June 9, 2009

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Global communication, Global leadership, Management.
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When dealing with a global team, the Big Dogz know that one needs to take into account cultural differences to be effective.  The Big Dogz have a checklist of key cultural patterns they analyze before trying to interact with global team members. Global team leaders who do not understand these patterns often find themselves confused, frustrated and behind schedule!

 Here are the key patterns to investigate: 

  1. Communication styles — how do people communicate in this culture? Are they more direct, more circumspect or more reliant upon non-verbal or tone cues? How soon can you expect a response to a question? What does silence mean? Is it appropriate to interrupt? What exactly does that English word mean in this culture? Non-verbal signals do not always mean the same thing in different cultures.
  2. Attitudes toward conflict — what is the accept method to deal with conflict? Do people raise issues when they disagree or do they behave in less assertive ways? The Big Dogz learn to recognize the cultural signs that there is a conflict.
  3. Getting things done — what is the pace? How do the people feel about milestones and reporting status? When someone says, “I will do that.” What does it mean? You may be surprised that it doesn’t mean the same thing in all cultures!
  4. Decision-making — how do people expect you to make decisions? Does the leader make all the decisions? Can you expect people to contribute to the decision making process? When there is a decision to be made, will the person make it or wait for you to make the decision?
  5. Information disclosure — how open are people to sharing information, especially information about progress? In their culture, is it appropriate to share new knowledge with someone who is higher in the hierarchy? What if they find out some information that would help you divert a disaster; would they share it with you voluntarily?
  6. View of time — is it appropriate to arrive late for meetings or telephone conference calls? How long is the workday? What parts of the workday are not really for work?
  7. Humor — what is funny in this culture? Why don’t my jokes work? Is my view of something funny offensive to them?

 If this seems like a lot to figure out, do not fear. There is an excellent resource to help you sort through all the cultural differences.

 Try http://www.executiveplanet.com/ for insights on how to do business in many different cultures.

Communication tools for the Global Team Leader June 3, 2009

Posted by rickbron in Bronder On People, Communication, Global communication, Global leadership, Leading globally, Team basics, Uncategorized.
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The Big Dogz not only employ the most effective communication technology, they also use special techniques to facilitate the exchange of information.

Availability map

One of the most perplexing problems faced by the global leader is what time of the 24 hour day do we have meetings or just interact with each other? An answer is the availability map.

This tool is used to describe your availability situation visually. Sometimes seeing the situation visually can help give insights to how best to solve your problem. First you get a copy of the world time zone map. I have attached one for your use.

First find your location on the map and draw a straight line representing your normal work day, usually 8 hours. The line starts in your time zone and goes west for 8 time zones. Next find the locations of your global team members and draw a line for each of them. Use the start of their time zone as the start of the day. When you are finished, you will have a set of parallel lines that may or may not overlap. Using this picture, figure out how you will handle the issue of availability.  

I have attached a sample of a completed availability map for a widely dispersed global team. As you can see on this map, there are no easy solutions, but we now have a better definition of the problem.

Super communications

If I need to talk to someone, when will they be there? Of course the hours of availability provide an excellent opportunity to communicate. For a specific time in those hours, set aside time for all communications technology to be enabled. This means:

 Cell phones and pagers on

IM enabled

Voice mail check

Email check

Be around to answer the phone

Electronic huddle

Need to get everyone together for a quick announcement. Use the electronic huddle. Any of the group communication technologies work for the huddle. These impromptu meetings are short and focused on one topic.  When your team has mastered the control to keep huddle meetings short, you can add status reporting to the list of topics. Here are some effective topics for a huddle:

Kickoff a mini project

Recognition of a team member

Identify help people need

Disclose discoveries

Congratulations or greeting for a cultural event

Team website

Need a place to post announcements and to store documents? Using a free project management solution like ActiveCollab can address most of your needs to store information that is vital to the team. Or, those of you in large corporations check this out with your IT person. Most IT organizations have the capability to set up your website. Here is just some of the information that could be stored on the web:

 Check lists

Contact points meeting minutes

Project assignments

Status reports

Breaking news

Pictures and bios of team members

Links to resources

Make sure you let everyone know when the website has been updated.

Availability map

Availability map sample