If I work with people for any length of time, it is not long before I start talking about the power of chats. I am a huge believer in just chatting with people. By this, I mean not making a big thing about making an appointment to meet people. This can make everything so serious. Instead, take the time to have coffee with people, meet people for lunch, bump into them in the corridor, talk over the photocopier and build up relationships just for the sake of it.
This is an approach that has certainly paid off in my work. Many of the ideas in this book were brought to life, polished or transformed when talking to clients, colleagues or friends. Using chats, I have over the years been able to secure a great deal of repeat business and have been invited to undertake assignments with an increasing level of complexity. In my dealings with clients, I always try to initiate low-key meetings, keep people ‘in the loop’, deliver on agreements and be friendly, visible and professional.
During these meetings I very rarely talk about business, unless they initiate it. My aim is get to know the client as a person, and if I can help them with any aspect of their business or their personal agenda without actually taking on unpaid work I will do this. As a result, I have assisted them with their CVs, suggested books that they might like to read and inspired them to go for jobs that they might not otherwise have considered. Additional work has also often resulted from these meetings, sometimes when I least expected it. If they leave the organisation, I am often able to retain their previous organisation as a client, while still working with the former client in his or her new organisation.
For me, magic occurs when I have chats with people. I find information I need, and people who I want (or need) to talk to are recommended to me. This happens for the other person too. This is a subtle process that emerges as you chat to people. Do not try to force it, but allow it to unravel. Some people would call this networking, and of course that is part of it. But it is much more than that. This is about putting the skills of influencing into play, but with a light touch. When influencing and networking with people, take your time to build rapport, be prepared to establish your credibility and make sure that when you meet someone, you treat them as a person, not as a vehicle to do something for you.
In other words you are projecting a positive image of yourself and you are taking the time and trouble to be visible within an organisation. If you do this, you will be much more likely to be the person they think of when the next promotion is due or when the next big project comes up. If you think about it, you could be the best singer, artist, writer or manager in the world, but if no one knows about you, what is the point? Given the choice between the indispensible departmental ‘work horse’, the argumentative prima donna or the professional and reliable person who visible, presentable and easy to work with, who would you choose?
For more information on assertiveness, influencing (including building rapport), negotiation, conciliation, taking a stand and making peace in a step-by-step manner please refer to the People Skills Revolution and the People Skills Eevolution Handbook published by Global Professional Publishing.
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