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Are you a Networking lover or hater?

Love them or loathe them, when it comes to networking events, are we guilty of filling up our calendars without really considering our objectives?

So says an article in Harvard Business Review, which suggests that our objectives vary so wildly from those of other attendees that success is not only unlikely, but also hard to quantify. “Everyone is playing a different game, which is why there are usually no clear winners.” HBR suggests alternatives such as mining your existing CRM and considered ‘double-dating’ with established clients as a source of new opportunities. But what if you could tailor your approach based on others’ behaviours too?

Pairing objectives

Whether it’s buying and selling, raising awareness or seeking a new partnership, success depends on identifying and pairing your objectives with those of another person. But in many cases, we don’t make it to the substance of that conversation, because we’re put off by style. Perhaps we don’t know how to relate to someone or we find it awkward and wish someone else was there in our stead.

Choosing your networker

When it comes to networking, not all Team Roles are created equal. Because of their particular strengths, people with strong Resource Investigator tendencies (and perhaps Specialist too) are the most likely to enjoy meeting new people and exploring opportunities.

For outgoing, talkative Resource Investigators, the chance to spend time out of the office meeting interesting people and establishing new relationships is welcome. Natural networkers, they’re open, engaging and enthusiastic about what they hear. For predominant Specialists, the focus is a little different. So long as they’re with like-minded individuals, they’re likely to enjoy sharing their expertise and making new discoveries in their chosen field.

By contrast, Plants and Completer Finishers might be anxious in a networking environment, preferring to spend time coming up with new ideas, or focusing on detailed work, respectively. The sceptical Monitor Evaluators and efficient Implementers are the most likely to consider networking a waste of valuable time.

Given these differences, it behooves a team to choose their representative carefully. If the team is insular and finds itself missing out on opportunities, perhaps Resource Investigator behaviours are in short supply and someone is needed to fill the gap?

But we don’t always have the luxury of playing to our strongest roles, and even proficient Resource Investigator networkers might struggle to gel with someone they meet. So, how do you use Team Role behaviours to your advantage regardless of your own strengths?

Read the room

We spend lots of time talking about how you, with your particular behavioural strengths, might approach certain situations. But the smart individual is also reading the behavioural cues others are supplying as to their own preferred styles. Speech and body language can all provide cues during those first, important conversations.

For example, Monitor Evaluators might set themselves apart – in a corner, perhaps – and observe others. They might express scepticism as to whether the event will prove successful, or present a measured analysis of its value. They’re unlikely to be impressed with bluff and bluster – and here the Resource Investigator might struggle to form a connection! – so asking circumspect questions might be a more effective strategy.

A Teamworker might appear nervous or indicate that they’re there “filling in” for someone or because the team needed a representative. If you can help them open up about their team and the importance of the relationships therein, you’ll help them feel more comfortable, as well as gaining useful insights as to who you might be working with.

In short, the more you can appeal to someone’s priorities and concerns (and the way they express these, even unwittingly, through their behaviours), the greater your chance to understand how you might work together. With Team Role understanding, you can mould your own styles around those of people you meet, not to deceive, but simply to draw out their objectives and measure them against your own.

Getting to know you…

Of course, it’s impossible to understand and work with someone’s unique combination of behaviours without a Belbin Report. And if networking efforts prove successful and a working relationship develops, a deeper knowledge of each other’s Belbin styles can provide the building blocks to strengthen a pairing. This is especially valuable where networking opportunities develop into selling relationships, where understanding the complex behavioural interactions in sales teams can be make or break.

How do you feel about networking events? Do you have to steel yourself to go or do you welcome the opportunity to explore new horizons? Have you ever read the room with Team Roles, and has it helped you? Let us know!


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