Thursday, September 28, 2006

SirsiDynix Institute on Networking & Politics

I listened to yesterday's Sirsi Dynix Institute on "Networking and Politics: Influencing Action to Get The Right Things Done"... and it was good. I also got some followup advice from session leader Donna Scheeder (Director, Law Library Services, Library of Congress) who generously answered my questions about running committees & meetings thereof.

To some degree, the words networking, politics, and influencing, sound threatening to me - like they're about manipulating other people and gaining power. Those two goals - manipulation and pursuit of power - I find to be distasteful. However, I understand that in the right hands, for the right reasons, people do need to find ways to work effectively with one another & move forward. And moving forward usually does require "political" and "networking" skills. So I'm glad that I listened to the seminar.

The key to what she presented sounds deceptively simple:

* influence is based on trust
* trust is based on relationships; relationships are based on trust
* networks are a key to relationship building

There was obviously a very strong ethical undercurrent to the discussion. The point being - you cannot feign trustworthiness - and you must be trustworthy to be successful. You must be positive, helpful, open, willing to compromise -- in short, constructive.

You cannot go into meetings and throw bombs (unexpected little negative nuggets that are designed to discredit individuals and the projects they are conducting) - if you do, you're a negative influencer. There is only one thing that can be done with a negative influencer, I might add, and that is to minimize their influence.

I don't understand the negative ones, I'll admit - because once you lob that bomb, what do you expect? You'll destroy all others' trust of you, thus jeopardizing or preventing strong relationships, thus reducing your ability to influence events in any positive way in the future.

She talked about preparing/doing your homework in order to effectively build relationships, influence outcomes, network, etc. For example, when I asked her about how best to run a committee/committee meetings, she did say that I should pre-meet with individuals in a newly formed committee that I'm to run ahead of time. This sounds like a lot of work - but it sounds like an excellent way to begin things - because it would allow us to have some 1-on-1, f2f time before the first meeting. Also, she gave me advice on the balance between efficiency in meetings and relationship-building (one of the reasons the pre-meeting meetings can be extra useful).

I don't do justice to the presentation, so - if you're interested in the topic or just feel a little doubtful about your networking and political skills, go to: and watch the archived webinar.

Oh - another helpful thing about Donna's presentation - she reassured those librarians out there who are shy that it doesn't hurt to try the "three-foot rule" (when you're at a party or similar gathering, introduce yourself to anyone within 3 feet of you) because most people will be grateful for the chance to talk about themselves, many may be glad that someone has helped them overcome their own shyness, or - in the case the person who responds to your intro negatively - you'll have learned a key thing about that person, so you still get something out of the interaction.

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