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“I’d Like to See the Manager”

April 21, 2011 3 comments

I’m not sure if it’s only a term used in the UK – but “I’d like to see the manager” is a very British way of saying that I have a complaint. Anyone who knows a Brit will know that we’re not great at making a complaint – we tend to just moan after the event! So, when it escalates to the manager – things have gone wrong.

Our Western Culture seems to have dealt with sidestepping this quite well. The development of retail chains and food franchises means that we’re unlikely to get to look a real decision maker in the eye when the time to complain comes. The result being that our issues is “absorbed”, steam is let off – and life moves on. It’s usually an unsatisfactory “21st Century” experience.

I’ve recently moved home – and for just under 2 weeks have been a resident of Bath. One of the things that has struck me

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is that there is a sense of real community – a connection with people. As I’ve been walking around the city (it’s so compact – I no longer use a car to get around … yippee), I’ve realised that there are very few large businesses, franchises and chain stores – but many small local businesses.

The city also has a couple of great magazines that come out on a fortnightly basis – Bath Life and The Bath Magazine. I’ve been reading them since we decided to move the family to Bath over 6 months ago – and the local faces are becoming familiar just from flicking the pages.

What’s making me feel so good about this City? Well, I think it’s that it lacks layers. What do i mean by that? Well, what you see is what you get. The new deli in Bath, Sam’s Kitchen, is a case in point. I can read a little about the new venture in the magazine, give it a try (nice Fennel & Rocket soup!) – and guess who I can feed back to? Yes, Sam!

It’s a great community because I am only one-degree of separation from the people who want to give me service and make Bath tick. That goes both ways. If I don’t smile, if I’m rude, if I am always complaining – that’s on show too. It’s a city where one-to-one relationships – on a weak or strong level – can develop.

I feel very welcome in my new home. Relationships at one-degree work for me. It’s great to know who the boss is by looking at the name over the door or the person grafting hard behind the counter every day. I’m very happy that “I’d like to see the Manager” will not have to be in my vocabulary! I know who he or she is….

Categories: Trust

End “who you know” culture – War declared on nepotism!

April 5, 2011 10 comments

Well there’s nothing more “King Canutish” than trying to stem the tide against human nature! Today, the UK’s coalition government has declared war on nepotism. See the report here at the BBC website of an interview with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

Regular readers of the blog will have seen a post about British culture called “Posh & Posher: Education & the Old Boys Network” earlier in the year. The main point of the post was that Personal Networks can bring influence and power. Alongside this was a more worrying trend that the increasingly closed network of “old school chums” in government leads to our politicians being out of touch.

I happened to be watching breakfast TV when Clegg was being interviewed. I nearly choked on my cornflakes!

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He said: “We will stop all informal internships in Whitehall, in government, so that you can’t just have this network where people get an internship because of who they know. They should get an internship because of what they know.”

I’m a big fan of meritocracy – we’ve all worked with people who have little talent, but great connections! However, what needs to be recognised is that in the absence of knowing a person, we test out people ultimately through reference to others. Here are two personal examples from the last week that illustrate that “who you know” is so important.

First example, I’m planning to invest in a small US start-up in the area of crowd sourcing. I had a conference call with one of the advisers of the business who is based in San Francisco last week. We’d not met/spoken before – but I have the luxury of checking out his CV via Wikipedia and LinkedIn. He can do the same for me. CVs over – how do we connect. Well, he knows and is trusted by my friend (and start-up founder), Todd, who I’ve know for 20 years. At the end of our first call, the guy in SF floated “do you know ****”? No, but I did know someone who knew **** well – who used to be my companies chairman – and onwards. We’re all reassured by the trust of the “who we know”. CVs are the “what you know”!

Secondly, I had a tweet last night from a Friend of a Friend – Chris Book. We’ve not met, and this was his first tweet to me. He’s from Bath and is very good pal of one of my first connections in my new home town. He tweeted me because of who I know – and knowing my interest in Personal Networks. He wanted my opinion. His tweet was:-

Interesting thought (ish) – my last contract I got through linked in (exactly 3 years ago) this one through twitter

My opinion is that LinkedIn is primarily a CV – and has filled a gap in finding candidates, collating information. The “recommends” service has little use. If you wanted to business with someone or employ, you would pick up the phone/email and check with their connections. Twitter has moved this on so much, you can see whether people are genuinely active – and who wants to know them and engage! Twitter gives the who you really know and have a relationship with – and how they interact with you in a transparent format. LinkedIn gives you the “what you know” and “what you’ve done” presentation.

Sorry Nick! I’m a big fan of the coalition but you need to accept that “who you know” will always be our way of quickly building trust to offering partnerships, employment, opportunities – and internships! As Social Media develops Personal Networks will become more valuable every day. Everyone need to keep focussed on the “who you know”. It will always be the most important and valuable asset you have in life. The CV and application form doesn’t tell the true story….

Posh & Posher: Education & the Old Boys Network

January 28, 2011 2 comments

Apologies for this very British post! Hopefully, the international audience of the blog will find it relevant and interesting too.

The BBC broadcast a thought provoking programme this week – “Posh & Posher” presented by Andrew Neil (former editor of the Sunday Times). Although the programme focussed on the British Education system – and the dominance of Public School (that’s Private Education) and OxBridge (educated at Oxford or Cambridge University) politicians running Britain – the main point I took away was that Personal Networks can bring

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influence and power. Alongside this was a more worrying trend that the increasingly closed network of “old school chums” in government leads to our politicians being out of touch.

On the first point, the programme traces an amazing story of the transformation of control of British politics. From the end of the Second World War, British politics was dominated by the “Grouse Moor set” (another great place for high power networking). Public School education politicians took the majority of power (from the likes of Eton and Westminster Schools). Then in the 60s – there was a change, to more working class, Grammar School educated politicians. However – and this was the most surprising part of the programme – UK politics in the last 10-15 years is back to a privately educated dominance. Stats like 10% of the Coalition Cabinet being from one school (Eton), 66% being privately educated – and 16 being millionaires.

In my view, this says more about the Personal Network built up through the private education/Oxford & Cambridge root than what has been taught.

Although the programme focussed on education and the old boys network, I found the most worrying aspect to be the similarity of backgrounds (and the density of the connections) of the people who lead Britain. If any of you read my blog on Martin Gargiulo (and listened to his interview) – you will have heard him talk about “Echo”. In academic terms:

The echo hypothesis – based on the social psychology of selective disclosure of informal conversations – says that closed networks do not enhance information flow so much as they create an echo that reinforces predispositions. Information obtained in casual conversations is more redundant than personal experience but not properly discounted, which creates an erroneous sense of certainty. Interpersonal evaluations are amplified to positive and negative extremes. Favorable opinion is amplified into trust. Doubt is amplified into distrust.

This is from “Bandwidth and Echo: Trust, Information and Gossip in Social Networks”, published by Ronald S. Burt of University of Chicago and INSEAD in December 2000.

It’s a lesson for everyone – your Personal Network should not be made up of one group of people. Your judgement will be impaired by the “echo”. You should keep an eye on that – and I’ll continue to worry about the government of my country!

You can watch the programme (if you are in the UK) on iPlayer for the next week.

Copper Wires, Social Capital and Murdering Relationships

January 22, 2011 Leave a comment

I continue to be impressed by the quality of people who can be found on-line. My most recent discovery has been Martin Gargiulo – who is a professor at INSEAD.

My first introduction to his work was a 16 minute video (posted below). His key point (which I agree with) is that there’s much more to networks than meets the eye. While some networks are an asset that helps you get things done, other networks can also be a liability.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Throughout the video interview, he compares the reciprocal relationship between people in the network to electrical copper wires. Firstly, he says that the thicker

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the copper wire – the more energy in the relationship. He goes on to use the same analogy to say that these cables do not rot – and can be easily reactivated. It’s a good way to consider those weak ties (and often close relationships) where our communication is infrequent.

I was greatly amused by how he describes that relationships have to be pro-actively broken. He says that “you must murder” a relationship to really break it! The relationship – not the person…

The video supports an on-line survey that Martin has created to measure the Social Capital of your Personal Network. There is a charge (€20) – but I would definitely recommend. I completed it (did not take long) and the 9 page report gives an excellent overview (with supporting narrative) of your Personal Network. It also compares your score against a reference group. Click here to read more – and hopefully give it a try.

Would love to compare results – and discuss further.

Keith – I feel let down

November 15, 2010 6 comments

I’ve thought long and hard about writing this post. I feel that I’ve been let down by someone on the very outskirts of my Personal Network – but it’s still disappointing (maybe I’m just too sensitive).

Regular readers of the blog will know that I’ve read and reviewed two books by Keith Ferrazzi – and more recently created a post talking about and recommending a free webinar he was offering to preview his Executive Relationship Management Course.

Well since, the point of recommendation, I feel that I’ve been spammed. I’m not bothered for myself – but I feel let down that I’ve

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recommended and passed on my trust to others (and if they’ve signed up, they might feel spammed too). I’ve had messages like:-

-> Emergency…Keith is going nuts on the webinar…
-> Okay, so maybe we miscalculated…maybe a LOT…
-> Don’t you need more sales and bigger revenues?
-> Your last, last chance for the program…
-> 13 hours and 25 minutes

All emails in that “old style” direct marketing format of calls to actions, links – and PSs!

I feel like I’d met a guy who I liked a couple of times who was an insurance salesman – then invited him to a dinner party with friends and he proceed to dole out business cards and try to sell insurance to my pals.

I can understand why it’s happened. The numbers give a clue – only 250 places, Premium Plus places at $3,988 and Premium places at $1,988. So that’s either a $1m or $500k sales target! We all have to earn a living.

My favourite quote on Personal Networks is from Mick Cope (who wrote the FT book, “Personal Networking”)

“By professional networking I mean a set of close contacts or associates who will help deliver my value to market. The key thing is that these are people who will ‘help’ you in the market, THEY ARE NOT THE MARKET. Sorry for the full-on letters, but my definition of a network is ‘people who will help amplify my personal capital in the market’, not a bunch of friends and colleagues to whom I try to sell under the guise of giving them a great opportunity. Active management of these people is not networking; it is client relationship management, a whole different ball game and one deliberately not covered in this book.”

It’s a great mantra – and you can see why Keith’s actions make me feel let down.

I am sure all people who have signed up for the course will learn a lot (I think no less of Keith’s professional abilities), I hope that Keith has made that $1m sales target (his talent does deserve reward) – but the outcome that I wish for most is that Keith reflects that in the process he’s drifted in to becoming the “Networking Jerk” (chapter 6 – “Never Eat Alone”). Keith’s changed from being the Farmer to the Hunter.

The reason I still like the books – and think well of Keith (even though today I feel let down) is that in both his books his ability to recognise and acknowledge his mistakes shows his humanity.

It’s also a lesson for me. I’m just about to launch a commercial venture alongside my passion for Personal Networks. I am sure that in my enthusiasm, eagerness (and maybe a little greed) along the way I will make mistakes too. I now realise there is a very sensitive line in my relationship with my Personal Network.

Dunbar’s Number – is it 22,500 in practice?

November 1, 2010 12 comments

There are probably two key numbers that are referred to in Personal Networking – they are 6 and 150. Six being from “Six Degrees of Separation” – the idea that everyone is at most six steps away from any other person on Earth. One Hundred and Fifty coming from Robin Dunbar, the British Anthropologist who created the theory that the limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships is 150 (Dunbar’s Number).

I’ve absolutely no problem with Dunbar’s work – and you will have seen in previous posts that I reference it a lot. However, I’ve always struggled with the “Six Degrees of Separation” bit. It’s not that I disagree with the theory – but I cannot see how it is usefully

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applied to a Personal Network. Maybe I am being unambitious – but do I really want to make those 6 hops to meet Barack Obama or the Queen?

There was a good article by Michael Southon in the FT Weekend “Networking is all about quality”. It’s well worth a full read – and his sign off pointed me in the right direction:-

So my advice for all business people, whether they are expert networkers or more naturally reserved, is to go through your online address books, identify the 150 people you like most, and make some quality time for them.

The mathematics is on your side. They also have 150 people they like and trust, which makes a total of 22,500 people in your close circle, or one degree separated. Whatever you do for a living, this is easily enough potential business for you and your company.

Mike hit the nail on the head. There might be Six Degrees of Separation – but it’s the first level (where the trust is focussed) that you should put your energy into. This creates a magical (and believable) number of 22,500 people you could make a realistic connection with. Eureka!!

Now I understand why I get uncomfortable when LinkedIn tells me that my 194 Connections link you to 3,860,237+ professionals!! Unbelievable!!

Personal Networking is about building a community around you that has integrity, trust and generosity – and if each of those “connections” has a similar community … then a realistic group of 22,500 people can be your Personal Network. I’m comfortable with that….. Thank you, Mike.

“The Social Network” – and the school drugs & alcohol chat…

October 17, 2010 Leave a comment

I had a really thought provoking Saturday…

In the morning, my wife and I had been invited to our children’s school for a “Parents Alcohol and Drugs Information Talk” – and on Friday I’d read Mastin Kipp’s blog at the Huffington Post “‘The Social Network’: 13 Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Take Away” – and decided to spend Saturday afternoon at the cinema.

What did they both have in common – you guessed it Personal Network support…. (stop me if I am becoming a PN bore – do I see it in everything??!!)

Let’s deal with the less obvious first

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– what has Alcohol and Drugs got to do with Personal Networks? Well, our children’s PSHE (Personal, Social & Health Education) co-ordinator stressed one key point about the school’s strategy to protect our kids – they want the children to form in to groups at an early stage to support each other. They encourage these small, tight groups so that they deal with issues on a collective and supportive basis. Individuals feel that it’s not “peer” pressure to do things – because they work as a group to support individuality. Cool? I hope so – because I think their network of friends will be the best protection to the big, bad world that some of the talk illustrated.

“The Social Network” was a good film – not great – but I loved the topic. In the HuffPost, Mastin outlines the “lessons” of the film – so please do take time to review his blog. For anyone interested in business, social networking – it’s a must see.

From my point of view, the key lesson was that you really need a Personal “support” Network around you to stay sane in any business (small like most – or huge like Facebook). Marc Zuckerberg, the Facebook founder featured in the film, really didn’t seem to have this (partly through his destructiveness – and partly through poor judgement). He’d have done well to read Keith Ferrazzi’s book “Who’s Got Your Back” – before embarking on his enterprise (maybe he should read it even now!).

The film’s story is fiction (based on fact). Even so, you can see how his individuality and focus drove him to create Facebook – but his isolation (and not having a real “friend” to trust) lead him to make some poor decisions. I was lucky in business to have had good people around me – including my wife, who was (and is) always a trusted friend and mentor who “has my back”. However, I could see in the film many of my experiences in creating, building and exiting a business – especially the casualties in friendship/trust along the way.

Anyway, both my morning session at school and afternoon at the movies convinced me that a Personal Network is going to be the most valuable asset I have in my life – and hopefully my children will realise the importance too. Let’s hope Marc finds the same – because you can have all the money in the world … but things get done (and you live your life) through your relationships with people!

Simon Johnson – BNI Master Networker (and thoroughly nice bloke!)

October 11, 2010 1 comment

I wrote a blog post yesterday about Simon Johnson. Simon has just won the accolade of being BNI’s (Business Network International) most successful networker in the UK – with £634,233 of business after creating 102 money-making referrals in 12 months. I said in the blog that I would try to track Simon down – and get his thoughts on networking (and what he thought about my blog).

Simon gave me a call this afternoon – after contacting him via email. He’s a thoroughly likeable chap – and you can understand why

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his contacts want to spend time with him (and trust his referrals). He’s definitely a master networker – and says that “from networking as a whole I get 50% of my business – and BNI probably accounts for 10-20%.”

He has a great philosophy on networking: “Anyone can create a network – but you have to look after that network and keep in contact.” He’s got quite a reputation for knowing people – and his recommendation is obviously trusted. He quips: “people locally ring and use me as their Yellow Pages!”

He’s a big fan of BNI – and he talked me through how things work. He explained that the main principle BNI (and himself) is “Giver’s Gain”. They seem a very efficient organisation and monitor everything using “referral slips” and “thank you” notes. He did say it is “very American” – but once you cut through the jargon and adapt to a British audience it works well.

As an outsider to BNI, I’d certainly been confused (and probably misunderstood the model). BNI forms local “chapters” and in these, there can only be one representative of each trade. Simon explained that they operate a system of “Power Circles” – so for example he would spend most of his time with say Architects, Plumbers, Electricians, etc to make referrals. He estimates that involvement in BNI this year has brought his own business £60k. The Chapter meet weekly – early in the morning. All members start the session with a personal 60-seconds update – finishing with a catchy tagline (his is “For all your furniture and flooring – it’s simply Simon!”)

What I found refreshing was that the BNI model does not work on a commission/kick-back basis. As Simon told me: “No – you’d probably get drummed out of BNI if that went on.” The system works on having a network of professionals devoted to “Giver’s Gain”. Good stuff – if you are in a professional trade with a local client base, BNI must be worth a try. As you know if you have read previous posts, I am a big fan of Tom Peters – one of his mantras is “what gets measured, gets done!” … so I approve the measurement principle too.

Finally, we had a good chat about on-line vs. off-line marketing. I had done a bit of research on Simon’s on-line presence … and at this point it’s not prolific.

LinkedIn – Simon has 15 contacts currently
Twitter – Simon is currently not active – but is considering this
Website – currently “under construction” (news of the BNI award came in the middle of a redesign of the site)
Facebook – Personal – 401 Friends – and he says has had “a few jobs” through. Looks a fun guy to be around – describes employment as “Same shit I’ve been doing since I was 12” and lists activities as “Hockey, Alcoholism”.
Facebook – Business. 145 Members.

However, as we finished our call he told me he was off to a Round Table meeting. Another networking opportunity. I think that Simon is a great networker – and he’s doing a brilliant job “off-line”. With BNI, Round Table and his general network circle I am sure that he’ll be a better networker than any twitterer! All people interested in Personal Networks can learn from Simon – it’s so important to be generous and gain people’s trust. He obviously is excellent at both.

Nice bloke – and if you need furniture or flooring in East Anglia, Cambridgeshire or Lincolnshire, you should give him a call! 01945-476517.

C.R.I.S.T. – Now I RELIABLY know who I should Trust!

September 5, 2010 3 comments

I finished Chris Brogan and Julien Smith’s book “Trust Agents” while on holiday. It’s inspirational – with nuggets and ideas throughout. I tried out a new method for marking up interesting points in the book – using Snopake Index Tab Arrow High Lighters – as you can see from the picture there were lots of gems! Think the arrows will work out more expensive than buying the book…

The book is definitely a 5 star rating – I really like their style and ethos. Key points being that you should focus on building relationships – and sales will

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eventually come to you. Becoming an Agent Zero (getting in the centre of things) is important. Also, as mentioned in my last post, they argued that it’s OK to break Dunbar’s number and have more than 150 contacts (but only in each different network).

My favourite section was the Trust Test. Chris and Julien have adapted a formula originally thought up by David Maister, Charles H. Green and Robert M. Galford in “Trust Adviser” (another one for my reading list!). They put forward that Trust has 4 components that can be put together in an equation that gives a value for trusworthiness! Cool… And here it is:-

(C x R x I)/S = T

So Trust is calculated by multiplying Credibility by Reliability by Intimacy and dividing by Self-Orientation.

Credibility = the quality of being convincing or believable. Higher score the better
Reliability = consistently good in quality and performance. They turn up on time.
Intimacy = the measure of the closeness of your relationship. Feeling comfortable with someone. It’s an emotional judgement
Self-Orientation = low self-orientation would be if you had enough confidence to recommend a better competitor. High self-orientation would be the guy who is only interest in you because they want to make a sale (and now!). Lower score is better here – as it’s divided in to the other factors.

It made me think about the people in my network who I inherently like – but often don’t totally trust. Later in “Trust Agents”, Julien and Chris hit the issue on the head – “RELIABILITY IS THE BIG SECRET”. Interestingly, the other factors are more linked to people’s character (and hard to change/train) – however, there is no real excuse for not being reliable (it’s a matter of personal commitment). None of us are perfect on that score (I have in my head a particular apology I need to send after completing this post to someone I forgot to thank for a bit favour – whoops!) – but reliability is the thing we all could work on to make sure we gain others trust.

Thank you Messieurs Maister, Green, Galford, Brogan and Smith for this equation and insight into Trust and Reliability in your Personal Network.

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