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3 posts from April 2009

24 April 2009

Networking for busy people

Hello again.  I mentioned last month that I’d write a follow up piece on networking, an idea which came to me when I received an email after our International Women’s Day event. A colleague wrote to me to say that:

“… I stayed briefly at the end and spoke to a couple of people from PwC who felt the meeting was very valuable. They could certainly see the benefit of networking but their issue was ‘Where do we find the time to do it?’.”

And I do agree re the time issue on networking, in some ways; but, in others, I think of it as the kind of thing that is useful in terms of keeping the wheels of one's life, career and health moving along. An analogy might be - where do we find the time to go to the gym, or undertake some other "worthy" but time consuming pastime?  For example, people frequently ask me where I find the time to read.  

To which my response is - we find the time for all sorts of things if we feel that we must, or perceive that they are important and beneficial in one way or another. So I would fit networking into that category; we will make time for it if we truly want to.  

(To learn more about networking whilst reading (See? Multi-tasking), check out Steven D’Souza’s book, “Brilliant Networking” in the Recommended reading link on the right.)

I'd also note that it depends on one's understanding of the word "networking".  I suspect that, for some, it’s viewed as an organised activity, rather like the IWD event, which has a purposeful, self-described networking component built in. So, absolutely - for many people, adding on their attendance at an event to the end of their working day will feel like an extra thing to do and one for which they may lack the time.  I could easily be out at some kind of an event pretty much every evening if I accepted all the invitations which come my way.  

But I would rather go to fewer events but make more of my time at them; I also work very hard to keep in touch with and nurture, for want of a better word, the network that I do have, which is both enjoyable and far less time consuming than attending events. Additionally, I make use of other types of networking, by keeping in touch with people more casually and using on-line tools like Facebook and Linked-In.  It’s also helpful to think about what networking you can do during your normal day – can you meet people for coffee, for example?  What about breakfast events?  The “Starbucks Effect” seems to be a growing trend, picked up on in this article from The Glass Hammer entitled “Coffee is the new lunch”.  

Finally, here are some networking tips courtesy of “My Mentor” creator Emberin’s latest newsletter – reproduced with thanks. 

Top 10 Networking Tips for Success

Written by Lisa Butler of Paragon & Associates
Author of Networking Exposed

Networking is important for business, career, leadership and personal success.  Successful networkers know that the true nature of networking is developing and maintaining genuinely helpful relationships with others, with a focus on helping them, not you. You should not be selling when you are networking! The top ten tips for networking success are:

Tip 1 - Recognise the true nature of networking and appreciate the value it offers in your business, career and personal life.  Accepting that networking is about relationship building and building win-win alliances with others is the first step to networking success. Focus on helping others and you will undoubtedly reap the rewards.  

Tip 2 - Be aware of the reasons that stop you from networking. Many people are hesitant to network - often due to negative perceptions about what networking is and its value. Be aware of what stops you, and identify strategies to help you to have the right mindset and get the value networking offers.

Tip 3 - You need to network strategically. Consider why you are networking, and how it will help you to achieve your business and personal goals. This will enable you to more effectively customize and ensure you are networking with the right people, in the right places and in the right way. This focus helps you to save time and gain greater value from your networking effort.

Tip 4 - Have a good system for monitoring and recording your list of network contacts. It is important to recognise that effective networking is more about how you keep in contact with people and look after them, than it is about attending events. A good system should enable you to easily update contact details and be an easy reference tool when you need to find relevant contacts.

Tip 5 - Be genuinely interested in other people. Sounds simple, but it requires effective communication skills (the ability to ask good questions which engage people, and to listen!).  

Tip 6 - Treat everyone you meet with the utmost respect and give them 100% of your attention.  Never underestimate the networking value of people you meet, as it may come back to haunt you. 

Tip 7 - Be able to talk about what you do (when asked!) in a way which is relevant, interesting and understandable to the other person. This requires you to tailor your response and focus on providing information which will enable further conversation.

Tip 8 - Identify relevant and helpful reasons to continue contact with people you meet. Be on the lookout for opportunities to follow up with people, preferably in ways that will help them, not you. It is far easier to follow up with someone when you are doing something worthwhile for them. It is also very powerful!

Tip 9 - Prepare to network. Before you attend an event or even just a catch up with a contact, consider your objectives, who you will meet, the topics of conversation, questions you can ask, research their companies or industries, and generally be up to date. Also consider how you can best achieve your objectives through your behaviour and the impressions you want to create.

Tip 10 - Enjoy it. The most effective networkers tend to be the people who find enjoyment from their networking. Other people are drawn to happy, positive people, and it shows in your demeanour and language. A positive mindset is an important element of networking success.

I would also add my own personal “Tip 11” to this list – do what you say you’re going to do. If you commit to sending someone an article or providing them with some other piece of information: make sure you do so, as soon as possible - and ideally within 48 hours of making the commitment.  This, for me, comes back to the “safe pair of hands” component of my personal brand and I believe that it makes networking a richer and more enjoyable experience for everyone involved. 

I hope to have good news next week about our success in a competition … watch this space. 

Until then - 


15 April 2009

Further survey findings: is the recession creating an equality timebomb?

Hello again.  We’ve finally finished compiling the fascinating results of the survey which we undertook last month in support of International Women’s Day – and, as predicted at the time, the results make for grim and thought provoking reading. We were trying to assess the first impressions of the impact of the global economic crisis on women's careers and prospects, now and in the future, and we asked: 

Will the recession break the glass ceiling or reinforce it? Will it set equality back ten years, or put women on an equal footing for caring and pay responsibilities? Have women been more adversely affected by job cuts than men? Or is the recession's potential impact on women all just … hype? 

Over a thousand people responded from around the world.  43% of the survey’s respondents were in the banking, finance and professional services sector in London and the UK’s southeast; the balance were based in other parts of the UK, mainland Europe, the US, China, India and Australia. 

91% of respondents were female, which I suppose comes as no surprise given the channels that were used to socialise the survey around the globe. 75% are in full-time employment. 

The primary finding is that the pipeline of female leadership for Business PLC could be reversed or irreparably damaged by the recession, with almost three quarters of the respondents saying that they see redundancy as an opportunity to exit corporate life and make a new start. 60% believe the recession will reinforce the glass ceiling, making it more difficult for women to progress.

  • 45% believe it will lead to a shift of women into Small Medium Enterprises/social enterprise careers
  • 40% of respondents said that they believe women’s roles will change, to become the main earner
  • 30% predict that presenteeism and a long hours working culture will re-emerge as people seek to ensure their job security
  • One in three believe women’s role as the primary carer will have changed when the recession is over (36%) 

The survey demonstrates how short term decisions regarding reductions in training, development and redundancies could adversely affect women’s development and progress to leadership positions in the recovering economy.  50% of respondents believe reductions in learning and development budgets now will make it more difficult for women to progress in the long term.

Asked to select one prediction of the world of work in three years time, respondents appear to be bracing themselves for a bitter legacy from the recession. The top prediction, as I mentioned at the PwC IWE event last month, was the re-emergence of presenteeism and a long hours working culture, as people seek to ensure their role’s continued survival. A further 12% believe that corporate expectations of working hours will have changed and ten percent predicted that uncertainty about financial and work issues will have caused people to delay having a family. One respondent shared her fear that:

“ … all other factors being equal, roles will be offered to those without family responsibilities, as they will be perceived as better value for money.”

And others commented that the changes would not be gender-specific as much as age-specific, with comments such as:

“… it will be hard for all of the working population. In fact, I think it will be hard on older employees looking for work, mid-career employees looking for promotion opportunities with new graduates / early career employees knocking on the door for promotion as well” and “for the first time in my life, I feel my age may go against me rather than my gender.”

Globally, 66% of the respondents agreed that it would be harder for women in developing economies to emerge from poverty and 40% see this level of uncertainty continuing for the next 12 – 18 months, as we witness the recession ripple around the world.

On behalf of PwC, I’d like to thank everyone who took the time and trouble to contribute their responses.  Keep an eye on the “Read, watch and listen” page of the main website for a download which will contain some more detailed findings later this month.

Until next time


02 April 2009

Diversity in the downturn: what’s the business case?

Last week I attended a very interesting multi-company workshop on diversity in the downturn, organised by Opportunity Now and hosted by the UK headquarters of a major pharmaceutical firm.  We were a small group of nine, from a very diverse range of organisations: professional services (me), a global car rental firm, a university, an energy supplier, a mail and distribution company and Business in the Community , ON’s umbrella organisation.

Discussions ranged initially around the everyday difficulties of trying to maintain diversity and inclusion priorities against a changing global landscape of fear, chaos, change and budget cuts.  We identified some of the workplace challenges as follows:

  • Job insecurity for many, coupled with “survivor syndrome” for those who retain their jobs when colleagues and friends lose out;
  • Leaders and managers defaulting to “old” behaviours and habits and taking refuge in being change averse;
  • Obviously – budget and resource cuts impacting people and programmes;
  • The impact on HR caused by restructuring activities and a revised focus on organisational change – do HR colleagues still have the time and capacity to support diversity based activities?
  • Are some staff within both visible and invisible minority groups now being subjected to bullying and harassment, perhaps from those who have defaulted to “old” behaviours and, for fear of losing their jobs, do the bullied not feel able to complain?
  • And finally – is the diversity agenda now attracting cynicism as being “nice to have, but only in the good times”?

Our conversation turned to ideas on how to act and behave during this difficult period. How can we survive and get fit for the future, how can we balance long term trends with short term viability?  One suggestion came from the need to respond in a positive manner to re-structuring opportunities and to work to preserve an organisation’s existing investment in diversity based activities. 

So we had a very interesting debate, which was then mirrored for me earlier this week in a Gender Advisory Council setting, around the need to refresh and revisit the business case, and to change both the agenda and the vocabulary that we use when presenting the case for diversity.  If we acknowledge that the previous business case was based on, in the case of gender, women bringing innovation to the boardroom, being perhaps more risk averse and that companies with women at the board level are more financially successful, then we also have to ask ourselves - is that still true and does a “one size fits all” business case still fit the businesses fighting for survival in these unprecedented times? 

This Diversity Inc article, “What Would Happen if Women Ran Wall Street?” makes an interesting case for diversity in that particular business sector, but I found myself wondering that, if I were, for example, the male CEO of a crisis hit residential construction firm, with an all male board, would I be persuaded by the argument that my company and business sector would have emerged unscathed from a global credit crunch and a near unprecedented collapse of the housing market if I had only appointed a more diverse leadership team? Perhaps. Or perhaps not.

Circling back, we returned to the people issue: does the argument that running a diverse and inclusive organisation assists with employee attraction and retention hold water when people are no longer such a scarce resource?  I suppose the latter argument neatly brings us back to the cynicism referenced above.  The ON group concluded that employee engagement is now more significant than ever but we reluctantly agreed that obtaining participation and leadership buy-in is currently very difficult when focus is elsewhere.

Moving on - the G20 Summit started in London earlier this week, and so we have the Obamas and their retinue in town on their first overseas visit of the Presidency. Leaving aside my profound (and predictable) irritation at the dinner hosted by Sarah Brown for Michelle Obama being described in such lazy language as a “girls’ night in”, and by way of a contrast, here’s a link to a series of articles on Michelle which appeared in New York magazine last month.  Jennifer Senior’s contribution, and the on-line responses to it, are particularly thought provoking. And the piece on the constant references to Mrs Obama’s height (similar to my own, in fact) made me smile in the context of seeing the UK press coverage photos of both Obamas positively towering over the Queen and Prince Philip.

Until next time –