A colleague posted an article on his Face Book page by an individual explaining why he didn’t want to have coffee with you. (Click here for article) It sparked quite a few responses, not only on the Face Book post but also on the original article. Folks were upset with the audacity of the author in refusing to accept coffee invitations from just anyone. There were the obligatory comments of “Givers Gain,” “you don’t know who they know,” and so forth and so on. What an ungenerous soul!
As for me, I support him.
I think I am as helpful a spirit as there can be. After all, “To know me is to love me.” But there are other things to consider, the biggest one for me being to have a purpose for the things that we do. Too often, we offer to have coffee because we feel we should. Our referral group supports it. Books tell us to never eat (or drink coffee) alone. Others have met with me and what goes around comes around; just a few of the reasons we say “yes”. But is that smart business?
Our time and resources are not unlimited so maybe we should have some rules to follow when considering these meetings. The author of the article related his rules and was verbally flayed for having them. Were I his business coach, I would applaud him. He might be a bit transactional (what’s in it for me?) in his policies but at least he has a purpose for setting these meetings and sticks to it. Which brings up another point.
We talk about behavioral styles but are offended when someone displays theirs. This guy may well be a high “D” expressing his get-to-the-point tendencies. Or he may be a high “C” needing policies and rules to comply with so that he can make rational decisions. Either way, it’s the way he is and we should recognize that. Personally, I may be a bit put off by that behavior but I know plenty of folks like this and I seem to get along with most of them just fine. The ones who are out of control “D” or “C”, well, I’ll take a pass. Little chance of a meaningful relationship developing from it anyway.
But back to my theme: having a purpose for the meetings we schedule. Many of these coffee meetings arise from the need to get to know members of our referral groups. I’m good with that. If I intend to be a good member and contribute, I need to get to know the membership.
Other meetings are solicited by people you meet at networking events. Some of these are welcome while others may be less appealing. The latter can be handled in a number of ways. One is to suggest that the initial meeting be done by phone. This is less intrusive on your calendar and easily accommodated. Another is to invite them to a function such as your referral group, a business lunch or an after-hours event that will provide opportunity to talk more.
There is another reason that should be considered. While we are generally looking for mutual benefit when business networking, sometimes we may just want to be helpful. Certainly nothing wrong with that. In fact, it’s a commendable attitude. But just like an attorney doing pro bono work, you need to determine how much you can afford to do.
So, Gene Marks, I agree with you…kind of. While it important to be generous, it is also important to have a purpose. Successful networking is purposeful networking. Be smart about the meetings you schedule. You can do so and still adhere to the “Givers Gain” philosophy.
Thanks to Referral Institute San Francisco Bay Area colleague, Mickey Griffiths for posting the article and instigating the discussion.