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Effective Networking:  6 Secrets Your Kids Know

We’d spent the last 5 days reconnecting as a family, completely dark from any semblance of social networking. Alright, I’ll be honest… all networking…each night my husband and I requested a table for 4 on this 5 night cruise to Mexico. It’s cool to meet other travelers… but not this time, we needed family and rest.

The final evening’s entertainment was a magic show.

My son, Sebastian, was lucky enough to be selected as the “assistant.” I wasn’t shocked by his hammy performance (he comes by that naturally). What happened next intrigued me.

As we exited the auditorium, people approached my son and began waving and congratulating him from across the room. He had stories about everyone. “Oh those are the women who taught me Mexican dominos at the pool, they live in Bri-ain,” trying to work his Liverpudlian accent, “but are really from Daaaalllas,” adding a draw. “You remember Abe, he calls himself the sausage king, he’s half deaf but likes to play the drums.”

The pattern continued as we hopped on the elevator…. “She’s the mommy of the girl I played ping-pong with on Tuesday.” And then on the way to dinner… and then again in the customs line the next day… This kid had connections.

The truth is most kids make friends more easily than grown-ups. We start being open to new connections and grow ourselves out of it.

What Kids Can Teach Us About Networking

Kids can teach us a lot about networking. Try working a few of these approaches into your networking.

  1. No agenda – Kids connect with no agenda. They don’t think, “gee, if I meet this girl, maybe she’ll introduce me to her brother with the Pokemon shirt…he may have a card in his collection I need…” Nope, they just join in and see what happens. They build relationships for the sake of relationships.
  2. Are open to new relationships – If someone introduces themselves, they don’t question motive.  Kids don’t wonder, “what’s this guy really want?”  They get past the small talk sooner. “Yeah, my math teacher’s really mean too… but maybe it’s me, I hate math.”
  3. They play – You’re going to meet a lot more people playing in the pool than on the deck. Kids get in the pool. Play leads to natural interaction and builds relationships.
  4. They share toys – Kids are taught to share their toys, and doing so leads to friendships. Grown-ups lose this instinct. I’m always amazed in my fitness class how grown-ups fight over weights (that don’t even belong to them). You can only use one set at a time, but everyone likes to have choices in front of them, just in case. Asking the person one mat over to “borrow” their weights typically leads to a dirty look. No one proactively offers. Most grown-ups don’t follow the same rules they teach their kids.
  5. They follow-up – When they meet someone they like, they attach more quickly. “That was fun, are you going to the kid’s club after dinner? Wanna meet at the pool again tomorrow?” They don’t call it networking. They have no system, they just ask.
  6. They bounce back. – No one likes to feel rejected. But most kids seem to accept casual slights for what they are. They don’t over-analyze. “What happened to John?” “Oh, he didn’t want to play any more.” They move on.
What are your (or your children’s) secrets to effective networking?
Filed Under:   Career & Learning, Developing Leadership In Children
 
 
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt
Karin Hurt, is CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders and a former Verizon Wireless executive. Karin was named on Inc.’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next Conference, the American Management Association List of 50 Leaders to Watch, and as a Trust Across America Top Thought Leader in Trust. She’s the award-winning author of two books, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results— Without Losing Your Soul, and Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. She’s regularly featured in business publications including Fast Company, Entrepreneur, and Inc.
 

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What People Are Saying

letsgrowleaders   |   06 January 2014   |   Reply

Ali, Thanks so much. I so agree, we do all still have the child in us. We should listen to that child more. Ahh, wish I could have extended the trip for many reasons ;-)

Ali Anani (@alianani15)   |   06 January 2014   |   Reply

Karin- the trip to Mexico was worth it. Sebastian showed his social intelligence and you learnt from him. Isn’t there a child inside each one of us? I think when we suppress the innocent child in us that we behave the way we do. Sebastian reminded us of what we have, but kept dormant. I wonder why you didn’t extend the trip?
Karin- with all honesty you moved my heart with this post.

Steve Borek   |   06 January 2014   |   Reply

When I attend a networking event, I make believe I’m the host of the party.

What does a host do:

* They’re focused on pleasing their guests
* They mingle and make contact with everyone who came
* They’re all about serving others
* They want to make everyone feel welcome

Being the host takes the pressure off of me when attending a network event.

letsgrowleaders   |   06 January 2014   |   Reply

Steve, I’m going to try that. You know it’s funny, when I AM the host… personally or if it’s a corporate event and I’m the leader, I find all that very easy. But put me where I’m not in charge, and shy Karin comes out.

Bill Benoist   |   06 January 2014   |   Reply

One of my favorite short stories is by Robert Fulghum – All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten. Your post just validated his story :-)

I love cruises. It’s the one vacation you are pretty much forced to disconnect. Unless of course you want to PAY to use the Internet. Welcome back!!

letsgrowleaders   |   06 January 2014   |   Reply

Bill, EXACTLY… why we chose that route this time ;-)

Terri Klass   |   06 January 2014   |   Reply

I have noticed the same genuine networking techniques from kids too, Karin! Their authenticity and desire to just be themselves and have fun is a lesson for all of us adults.

I find that when I network, I just ask people a lot of questions about themselves. I am so fascinated with people and how they manage their personal and professional lives, that I learn from almost every conversation I have.

Hope the cruise rejuvenated you! You son is incredible,with people, just like his mom!

letsgrowleaders   |   06 January 2014   |   Reply

Terri, Thank you. Questions are my go-to as well…

Lolly Daskal   |   06 January 2014   |   Reply

Karin

We have much to learn from our children.

Wisdom that we know but we have forgotten.

Knowledge that we can express but we have unremembered.

Leadership that we can exhibited but we have neglected.

Great points in your post. much to learn!

Thanks Karin for sharing an important read!
Lolly

letsgrowleaders   |   06 January 2014   |   Reply

Lolly, thanks so much. I learn from my children every day.

Alma Escamilla   |   06 January 2014   |   Reply

Perfect timing Sebastian! You remind me to listen attentively so I can be genuine when I see people again, because I want them to know our connection mattered!! “Hey, Abe the Sausage King!” It sure makes a difference when I say this vs. “I’m sorry what was your name again?” And Karin, great post, as most have noted, we can all benefit by regressing in some delightful ways.

letsgrowleaders   |   06 January 2014   |   Reply

Alma, I just read your comment to Sebastian… he thanks you, as do I.

Chery Gegelman   |   10 January 2014   |   Reply

Karin – I love this post! I love pictureing Sebastian networking. and I love, love, love your emphasis that kids network without an agenda! s