I recently signed up with a local business-networking group—a first, for me, and a useful experiment. The owner seemed very keen to help, promising ‘free perks’ and great benefits, in return for a rather hefty membership fee, even though her services were less substantial than those offered by other networking groups in the city. What made her offer attractive (initially, at least) was her positive attitude and promises of great exposure and promotion. I’m the first to admit that I’m not a hard-nosed businesswoman, and I’ve never done the networking ‘thing’, but I liked the positive approach and decided to go for it, despite the reservations of my much more business-savvy hubby.
Now, several months later, I remember why I’ve never liked this kind of business networking. It feels a bit contrived and desperate, since almost everyone who goes to networking meetings is looking for business from everyone else who’s there looking for business… There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, and I’m sure it works well for some. For me, however, there’s a deeper truth that goes beyond this kind of striving to make things happen. I’ve always spontaneously connected with clients and whatever resources I needed, and the best connections happen naturally, when I’m not even thinking about trying to make them happen.
Positively empty promises
Despite this deeper awareness, I was swayed by the upbeat attitude, the benefits being offered …and my own positivity. Being positive serves me well—in business and in life—but only when it’s backed up by positive action. Talking positively is never enough on its own. Sadly, in this case, positive words were all I got, as the benefits and perks failed to materialize. I ended up requesting a refund …and acknowledging that my hubby was right. Yet even getting the promised refund turned out to be a problem, which raised the broader issue of accountability and how to hold others accountable when they fail to deliver the goods. We owe it to ourselves to find a way to do that, since our collective behaviour sets the standard for what’s acceptable in business. (It also reflects what we believe we’re worth and how we deserve to be treated by others.) Only by making healthy boundaries and asserting ourselves can we cultivate respect and responsibility in our dealings with others. If we all stand our ground and refuse to be treated disrespectfully in business, it has an impact on the overall culture—particularly in this age of social-media connectivity.
The experience yielded some good reminders and observations:
- Positivity is not a substitute for integrity or accountability. Being positive is more than just talking the talk. Unless it’s grounded in reality, with positive action, genuine commitment and healthy accountability, it’s really not being positive at all; it’s being in denial.
- Over-selling is an obvious red flag. Being excessively positive or ‘over-promising’ in the hope of making a sale/getting new clients often belies neediness and insecurity. Knowing your value and having nothing to prove, on the other hand, generates a quiet confidence that’s far more attractive and compelling.
- Finding your own way is the best way. There’s far more magnetism and reward in operating the way that feels right for you than in pushing yourself to ‘play the game’, dress to impress, or otherwise conform to the conventional way of ‘doing business’. Breaking away from the crowd and finding your own groove is much more creative and a lot more fun.
- Some connections matter more than others. I’m rarely impressed when people tell me they’re extremely well connected. To me, it’s far more important to be connected to reality and to yourself than to any external connection that you hope will enhance your credibility.
- There is no trust without truth. Truth and honesty are essential for meaningful engagement in business, and it’s impossible to build healthy relationships without them. If we’re desperate to prove ourselves, and so focused on making money that we compromise our values, we can lose or repel the very people we seek to impress. We may also end up losing an important part of ourselves.
- We are the masters of our own universe. How we show up—in business and in life—determines the quality of our journey, and just how bumpy, companionable, joyous or authentic that journey is.
It all comes down to being accountable for what we put out there, what we attract, and what we choose to accept or reject in our dealings with others. There are lots of businesses offering to help us make valuable connections, yet the most magical connections happen when we’re connected to ourselves, our true value and what works best for us. Since our choices define us—demonstrating to others what we believe ourselves to be worth—choosing to act with integrity is the most powerful choice we can make.