One of my favorite quotes I try to remember every day is by Nas. In the song “Favor for a Favor” he recites “Favor, for a favor, that’s how we do business.” This is pretty much how people should operate. Now, I am not saying we should be literally counting the favors, but, at the end of the day, if someone helps you out, you shouldn’t let it go unnoticed. Most people might see this post as tangential at best, if so, feel free to move on. But, I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, so I figured, why not make it a 2011 resolution.
Why it’s important to show professionalism
The truth is, most of us are really good at showing a sense of professionalism. We make it a priority to build quality relationships and leverage those relationships for partnerships in the hopes of closing business development opportunities.
There are those on the other hand who do not understand what acting in a professional manner means. Doing things like showing up to a networking event or conference just to get drunk, attempt to hook up, or posture/show off is not going to win you points. We don’t want to hear how fat your wallet is or see you sloppily walking through the crowd. We’re there to learn, meet knew people, or to find opportunities…and sometimes all of the above. If you are trying to hook up or get drunk, go to a club, not a networking event.
Don’t make promises you can’t keep
A problem many of us face is we want to make people happy, but, rather than promising something you can’t commit to or follow through on, the best thing to do is walk away. There is no reason to commit to something you can’t follow through on and having someone “grin fuck you,” when talking to them just to keep a conversation going, is extremely annoying. I’ve witnessed many people make commitments who had no way of following through and seen people I know who will agree to do something, but, they never see things through.
I run into situations where friends ask if I could refer them business because they are looking for more clients, but, I usually won’t refer someone unless I trust the person will follow through. I rarely make these types of introductions anymore unless I have worked with or respect someone greatly. I am really cautious about this because I don’t want people to lose respect for me because I made the introduction.
Recently though, I had someone ask me a few times, so I referred them to a small client with what I thought was a small project. But, as you can guess, this person didn’t have much follow through, and the client was unhappy with their performance. Unfortunately my credibility took a small hit because I made the introduction, but, the person I introduced, theirs is shot. They probably won’t get business from the client, a recommendation, and introduction to others from them. While we are still friends and hang out, they will never get a recommendation from me again because of a failure to execute.
The last thing you want to be known as is someone who has no follow through at all, people won’t trust you, and even worse, people won’t respect you. Credibility and respect is something that is earned and we should all work VERY hard to attain and maintain it.
Having respect for someones time
This is something that really hits home for me because I enjoy spending a lot of time helping people I’ve met with marketing and product advice to making introductions. I love educating others and being a mentor to the people who have asked for assistance. It’s one of the reasons I love to speak at industry events and conferences, because, while I have a tremendous amount to learn, I like sharing the knowledge I have learned through my experiences.
But, what happens when you get someone who wants to “pick your brain?” Nicole Jordan’s post about the topic has been one of my favorites, because she sums it up best when she says “Creative ideas and connections are the real currency in this digital economy.” Many of us have spent a great deal of time building these connections and knowledge, and they are extremely valuable. We are also extremely passionate about the things we do, so, when we have coffee or lunch with someone and chat about their company, as Nicole points out, “doling out advice is no big thing”, and I could chat for hours on end about the topics I am passionate about and not realize it. But, if I feel I am being used, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth!
I have become a little more reluctant about allowing others to “pick my brain” because I don’t want to feel used, in my opinion, it is possibly one of the worst feelings in the world. People don’t really respect and value the time and passion we have about our work. Remember, earlier I mentioned “favor for a favor, that’s how we do business?” Before you ask someone – “Can I pick your brain?” – think to yourself, “how can I return the favor?”. Buying someone a cup of coffee is not enough, the time someone spends with you to talk through creative ideas and make intros to their connections is definitely worth more than a few dollars.
Don’t be “that guy”…or girl
Don’t make promises you can’t keep and follow through on the promises you do commit to. In today’s digital economy if you show some professionalism and value someones time more than you value your own, you will earn their respect. I guarantee they will want to spend even more time with you and help you out that much more.