My friend Ryan Paugh just co-wrote a book called “Superconnector: Stop Networking and Start Building Business Relationships That Matter.”
It doesn’t matter how many connections you have on LinkedIn or how many business cards you collect if nobody knows your character or purpose. Ryan and his collaborator, Scott Gerber, offer a new model for networking that focuses on topics like strategy and quality instead of the usual vanity metrics that go into most networking experiences.
Ryan shared how “Superconnector” can help the HR community learn to network.
Why Should HR Care About Networking?
Ryan, tell us about your experience in the HR community.
My life as an entrepreneur began when I co-founded Brazen Technologies in 2007. We are a software company that helps HR and recruiting professionals engage and hire candidates faster. A big part of my role was “community building.” I spent a lot of time with recruiters and HR business partners to understand their jobs and build our initial platform to help them.
Since then, I have built custom communities for media companies and global brands. Everything that I learned in the HR and recruiting space laid the groundwork for what I’ve done in my most-recent entrepreneurial venture, The Community Company, and what I’m doing now with this book.
What’s the difference between a networker and a superconnector?
Networking has become a transactional meeting-for-meetings-sake mentality with no value for either person. In the book, we paint a picture of a person you might meet at a conference who can’t wait to shake your hand and give you a business card. But you can tell they are distracted. Half their attention is on you, while the other half is focused on the next person in the room.
Being a superconnector is about abandoning the distracted way of meeting people in favor of a more humanistic approach. With a blend of both old-school human behaviors and new-school tech-enabled communication strategies, there are talented tradespeople and professionals who are reshaping what it means to build meaningful relationships.
Do you see a connection between “networking chit-chat” and interviewing questions?
Asking a substantial question is the cornerstone of building relationships no matter if you’re at a trade show or sitting in your office interviewing candidates for a job.
As a leader of a fast-growing team, I spend a lot of time thinking about the questions we ask potential hires in the same way. An interview offers a limited amount of time to connect the dots and decide how you can help the candidate find meaning and connection at work.
Is there one awful question that you’d like to eliminate from networking?
We hate the question, “How can I help you?”
In fact, my employees aren’t allowed to ask members of our communities this question. Instead, we ask questions that get past the black and white and into the gray. That’s where superconnectors do their best work.
We prefer, “What are you working on that excites you right now?”
If you’re talking to the right people who are uber-passionate and trying to do something significant with their lives, then this question with offer a cornucopia of useful data. From there, superconnectors can do the heavy lifting and be helpful without asking a dumb question.
What is habitual generosity, and why should HR care?
Habitual generosity is about integrating the act of unconditional giving into your daily life.
One thing I’ve noticed as a founder of a scaling business is that super-fast growth can cause teams to fracture and form rifts. Culture can get lost, and people might lack empathy for other departments and projects. I think it’s the role of HR professionals to help leaders invest in generous behaviors and reinforce activities that support healthy dynamics.
Using habitual generosity in your daily routine—and encouraging others to do the same—is a great way to reverse those effects and get people back to a place where they work with a higher level of emotional intelligence at work.
Networking is a public act. How do you get the balance right between privacy and personal branding?
Yes, it’s easy to tap into someone’s private life through the simple click of a mouse. But you can keep boundaries and control. For example, your Facebook profile doesn’t have to be indexed by Google. And there are countless other ways to take back control if you’re just willing to look under the hood of any social media platform to figure it out.
Even if you’re a private person, there are simple ways to Google-proof yourself. And it won’t require you to let entire world see your collection of cute cat pics on Instagram. Unless you’re into that thing!
Here’s Why It Belongs on HR Books
I’ve known Ryan for over a decade, and he knows I’m into cute cat photos. More importantly, our professional friendship started with his very thoughtful approach to networking that is outlined in his book.
I have two advance copies from the publisher that I’m giving to people who raise their hand in the discussion on Facebook. Want a copy? Say hi.
Check out “Superconnector: Stop Networking and Start Building Business Relationships That Matter.” I recommend it as part of the HR Books library. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.