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pacifierNetworking has been a fabulous asset during the past few months since I left a Fortune 200 company. As friends had predicted, many people are inherently wired with a “help” gene and will liberally offer up business leads, ideas, suggestions, or names of other contacts. The more transparent I am with my needs, the more likely people can--and often will--help. Some of my networking friends are competitors, and that's great. As long as we are straight up, we can both learn together and collaborate to improve our consulting field--a win-win proposition.

Noodling about honestly sharing one's needs reminded me of two stories. Recently, my sister Shari thought she would help our niece Ella to break her pacifier habit. Preying upon the 2-year-old’s desire to share everything with everyone (from partially-chewed cookies to pieces of lint picked up from the floor), she asked if she could have Ella’s binky. Binky held tight between her teeth, Ella ran to another room and returned with a spare. “Here, Aunt Shawi,” she offered, beaming. “You have the binky.”

Ella gave something up…but Aunt Shari was still not satisfied. She had not asked for what she really wanted--and to top it off, she felt compelled to act happy to receive a germ-ridden pacifier she didn't want. Ella was more of an outside-of-the-box thinker than Shari anticipated.

Disingenuity occurs in business contexts, too. Years ago, I was offered the chance to participate in a training conference, with my manager's support. A reorganization occurred, however, and I suddenly changed managers. The new manager explained that while the conference would be free, the newly-merged department’s budget would no longer accommodate travel expenses.

My thought: "Finances? Now that's something I can resolve." One chat with the conference planners, and an hour later I had an agreement to cover my transportation, hotel and meals. Excited, and feeling resourceful, I called my manager with the great news.

However, the manager squashed it quickly, finally admitting the real problem: some of the other people in the department had not attended conferences that year, and the manager "didn't want to send a bad message” to the other employees by letting me go. That left me frustrated at my manager’s unwillingness to support my development and pretty embarrassed to have to explain this decision with the conference planner who had just gone to bat for me.

This event impacted my trust right at the beginning of a new relationship with the manager.

Remember Stephen Covey’s concept of the emotional bank account? Briefly put, the theory is that each person in a relationship has a mental "bank account," with either deposits (positive interactions) or withdrawals (negative interactions). The overall balance in that account reflects in some way the quality of that relationship. With 2-year-olds, a straight-up “I’d like to take your pacifier because I think you’re old enough to no longer need it” may not be the answer. But with adults? Respecting others requires communicating honestly, balanced with diplomacy.

Psychology and games have their uses in life; however, in most cases straight-up conversation is a far more effective and lean communications tool. Whether it’s two people or a group, networking with authenticity and transparency can achieve mutually-beneficial solutions while building trust.

Karen Smith-Will ©2009