Aug. 15, 2022

How to Make Networking "Comfortably Uncomfortable" (Challenge #28)

How to Make Networking "Comfortably Uncomfortable" (Challenge #28)

I’m going to warn you up front, today’s episode is one of those “podcaster, heal thyself” situations. Because despite how confident and with-it I may sound on these episodes, I’m an introvert who stinks at networking. However, to fulfill the potential of both the university I serve and this side project, it’s time to suck it up and start more intentionally making connections. Today I’m going to share 3 steps I’m taking to become a better networker, partly for accountability, but mostly because I think my struggles might resonate with a lot of my listeners. So with that, let’s all get comfortably uncomfortable!
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Master Challenging Conversations (and get a chance to win a copy of Reframing Academic Leadership!)

LinkedIn's Social Saturday Squad (and you cann connect with me on LinkedIn right here!)

Are you ready to conquer your biggest leadership challenge once and for all? 
The fall class of the Kind Leadership Academy Coaching Program starts September 9! 
Email sarah@kindleadershipguild.com to schedule a chat and learn more. 

Transcript

I’m going to warn you up front, today’s episode is one of those “podcaster, heal thyself” situations. Because despite how confident and with-it as I may sound on these episodes, I’m an introvert who stinks at networking. However, to fulfill the potential of both the university I serve and this side project, it’s time to suck it up and start more intentionally making connections. Today I’m going to share 3 steps I’m taking to become a better networker, partly for accountability, but mostly because I think my struggles might resonate with a lot of my listeners. So with that, let’s all get comfortably uncomfortable!

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Welcome to the Kind Leadership Challenge, where I empower educational and library leaders like you to build a better world! I’m Sarah Clark, founder of the Kind Leadership Guild. My PhD in higher ed Leadership, my experience coaching, consulting, and presenting to library leaders all over the world, and a career working in academic libraries from the front desk to the Dean’s office taught me that leaders can transform their organizations without burning out. And now I’m sharing those same lessons with you.  Here's the deal. You give me the next few minutes of your day. In return, I'll share short stories and simple challenges designed to heal yourself and your school or library, so you can get back to making the impact you wish to see in your communities. By embarking on each week’s challenge on your own or in our private facebook group, you and your team will begin growing humanely, managing effectively, and partnering collaboratively, and your school or library will build a more informed and educated world along the way.

How can you successfully navigate challenging conversations so that you can transform your team culture and acquire the resources you need to thrive? Mastering Challenging Conversations is a free guide to applying the principles of kind leadership to planning, conducting, and moving forward from any challenging leadership conversation. Just go to Kindleadershipchallenge.com/conversations, enter your email and start having the conversations that will impact your community for the better.

Oh, and if you do so before September 2nd, you’ll be entered in a free drawing which I’ll share at the end of the episode. 

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Those of you who caught last episode’s recap of my time at the Harvard Leadership Institute for Academic Librarians know that one of my key takeaways from the experience is that it’s time for me to seriously up my networking game. I say with no shame or ego that we are one of the most functional and productive library teams I know of. And that’s great! However, we can be as wonderful as we like, but if we don’t have the connections and political juice to get the resources we need, that only takes us so far. So to get our library where we want and need to go, I need to spend more of my energy outside the library. 

So…here’s comfortably uncomfortable thing number one I am going to do this fall. I’m going to get a little uncomfortable, and see if there is interest among my colleagues in middle management to start a leadership book club at my place of work. There’s quite a few folks like me at my place of work who aren’t quite the high muckety-mucks of the university, but report to one of the muckety-mucks. We’re in a lot of meetings together, but don’t really interact a lot outside of those meetings, because we’re making sure our particular corners of campus keep humming along. I am going start reaching out to them in the coming weeks as summer vacations wind down and the parking lots start filling back up.  And if there’s an interest, we’ll grab one of the library conference rooms some quiet Friday and see what happens. Also, I do better in social situations that are a bit structured, and have a goal to them beyond “don’t come off like a dork and spill wine on your new shirt.”  So in other words, the concept of starting a book club seems comfortably uncomfortable. I’ll let you know how it goes.

So that’s got increasing connections at the day job sorted. However, I also want to increase my connections to educational and library leaders out in the wider world. When it comes to social media, I’m most comfortable keeping myself at a bit of an arm’s length from folks online. I am pretty active on LinkedIn and a few select Facebook groups, but I get queasy at the notion of sliding into people’s DMs, pitching my services, and coming off like the sleazy vendors I send straight to my voice mail at work. But there’s got to be a comfortably uncomfortable middle ground between my overly timid approach and full-on Hustle Culture. And I think I may have found it! Turns out that on LinkedIn, there’s a group of folks who participate in something called the Social Saturday Squad. Every Saturday morning, there’s a master post where folks can share a little bit about themselves and find likeminded professionals to connect with. I tried it out this week, and quickly found a gaggle of other people in the education and library leadership world, as well as some corporate trainers and instructional designers. I sent out a bunch of connection requests, and accepted more from likeminded folks who saw my comment on the master post. It’s been uncomfortable, but comfortably so, and given that my Linkedin page is my busiest spot on social media aside from the private facebook group, it seems like a good way to grow. This experiment’s in the early days though, so I’ll keep you updated. I’ll also put a link to the social Saturday squad in the show notes for anyone who’s curious. 

And here’s my number three example of comfortably uncomfortable networking, but in this case the discomfort mostly came from my wallet. Being in higher ed leadership, I’m a big believer in the power of continuing education. I’m also a big believer in learning alongside a small group of likeminded folks. Throw in some 1:1 coaching and guidance, and you’re got a recipe for mastery. There’s a reason that’s the basic framework for the Kind Leadership academy—a blend of 1:1 work and group sessions as we all work toward solving our individual and shared leadership challenges. And the Kind Leadership Academy presents me with a similar challenge as its creator and coach. I know how to lead. I know how to teach people how to lead. My testimonials say I’m even a pretty good self-taught coach. But when it comes to selling my wares…yikes. Doesn’t help that I have some emotional baggage around selling and promotion from my time in the dotcom boom and bust (see episode 11 for more detail on that). So I want to spruce up my coaching chops, and more importantly figure out a way to sell my coaching in a non-sleazy manner that won’t burn me out. 

With the podcast training program I invested in the first half of this year having wound down, I was ready to invest in my next professional development opportunity. After a lot of research and a few zoom calls, I joined a program run by my favorite leadership coaching podcaster. Frankly, any trick I use in coaching that I didn’t learn from my reference courses in library school or my qualitative interviewing courses in my PhD I picked up from this guy’s work. And he’s also pretty good at non-sleazy sales. And even though investing in something like this is still uncomfortable for me each time I whip out the credit card, I know I’m comfortable in programs like this, and will grow and take action. So if you see some changes to these podcasts and emails over the fall as I refine my sales strategy, that’s why. 😊

So, here’s this week’s challenge. What comfortably uncomfortable action are you going to take this week? It can be related to networking, or something else entirely. Let me know in the Kind Leadership Challenge community. 

Also, I want to remind you that On September 2nd I’ll be awarding a copy of Joan Gallos and Lee Bolman’s Reframing Academic Leadership to a random member of my email list, which you can join by downloading the Mastering Challenging Conversations guide at Kindleadershipchallenge.com/conversations, if you haven’t already.

Thanks for listening and for taking action to become a kinder leader. If you found this week’s episode insightful, give the show a rating or review—or even better, tell your fellow leaders!  Never doubt that day by day, you’re building a better world, even if you can't see it yet. So until next time, stay kind now.      

 

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