"I build relationships with everybody I touch. I hear what people say. I ask them lots of questions. I remember [the details of their lives]. We both get the gift of perspective, the gift of idea trading," says Anne Marie Burgoyne, the enthralling, walks-the-talk portfolio director at the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation.
Remixing traditional networking into lifelong learning, she urges, "Understand not just the subject matter, but the people matter." Wow. I love this advice.
Networking is not about you, it's about building relationships. If you want people to think you are charming and smart, don't work at it. Ask about the other person; take a genuine interest in their work, their life and their mission; become a resource for their cause. Do that and other people will decide for themselves that you are charming and smart.
Offering essential feedback to job-seekers and budding social entrepreneurs alike, Ann Marie tells it like is:
I find most (informational interviews) unhelpful and clueless. I don't think people come prepared. I am always surprised when people... have not even read my website bio. If I were going to an [informational interview], I would have a list of 10 or 12 'how and why' questions.
That, unacceptably, is my all too frequent experience as well. With youth unemployment at more than fifty percent, I rarely even take an informational interview these days. Instead, I am hosting iOnPoverty to give hundreds of thousands of recent grads and current students the kind of nuanced counsel that Anne Marie provides. Invaluable.
When Anne Marie earned a Stanford MBA, she realized that she still did not have the unique CEO-skills needed to lead a nonprofit:
You can go one of two ways after you get your MBA: Play to your strengths and then you will do that [same thing] for your whole life. Or, you can use that point in time to shore up your weaknesses.
Smartass graduates take note: humbleness. Skills strengthening never ends. Anyone worth a damn (or worth knowing, or worth working with) is always into nonstop quality improvement, both professionally and personally.
Smartass, market-obsessed MBAs, take note: Even super-charged business training from the best b-school is not an automatic ticket to a run a social enterprise. Some of the same skills are important for sure, but the CEO of a nonprofit needs a broad range of managerial competence, interpersonal maturity, grounded values and pure grit to change the status quo.
Start with hard-learned, hard-earned listening skills. Listen to your clients, listen to the impoverished, listen to those who have pioneered (the successful and the failed), listen to your colleagues, listen, listen, listen.
Be a learning leader. Be a listening leader. Don't settle. Be better than you are today.