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Friday, January 29, 2010

KARL SMITH: Networking lessons from President Barack Obama

by Karl Smith

I am a self-confessed Obama fan and have just finished reading the book “From Promise to Power”. Today, one has to search hard for the kind of leadership and the human relations qualities the President displays. I studied the aforementioned and other books, as well as the Obama character according to the world of Google, extensively during the past few months. Specific attention was paid to his relationship building and personal branding skills and I want to present some of my findings as follows:

In my opinion the journey to the White House via networking started with the optimistic vision instilled by his mother – that, our essence, all humans are connected by compassion and generosity of people. What is your vision? Do you have a networking strategy to underpin and realise your vision?

People come from diverse backgrounds. One cannot label people just because they are of the same race. Treat people as individuals and not as groups. See the best in people, rather than the worst. Do you give people an opportunity to earn your trust?

There is power in hope. Human beings need “hope” so give it to them in an honest and sincere manner. Whether you are an entrepreneur, consultant, sales professional or a manager you must understand that the hope we give people today, gives them reason to face the challenges of tomorrow. Are you able to give people hope in interacting with them?

Self-awareness is key to self-growth and you must understand your purpose. One of Obama’s greatest strengths is the ability to take time to reflect and to control his emotions. He lived a monastic existence in Manhattan to read and reflect. Are you reflecting on what you read or hear? Are you asking the question: “How does it impact on me?” Are you principle-driven as a result of your reflection?

Surround yourself with others to make you a better person. When Obama went to college on the mainland, he did not see his future in basket ball like his peers. He ensured that he mixed his sport with intellectual discussions by networking with deep-thinking peers and professors. What kind of people do you have in your network? You cannot hang out with the turkeys if you want to fly with the eagles. We become like those we hang out with most of the time.

Put yourself in the shoes of others. Obama transferred from Occidental College to Columbia University in New York City to find a “community” of blacks. You cannot speak for me, sell to me or communicate with me, if you don’t truly understand me. Have you developed this vital networking skill?

Well, there it is. These are some of my observations and I will continue with this topic in a series of articles. What do you think of these observations AND what, if anything, would you add ? I'd love to hear from you.

Karl Smith speaks to hundreds of people each year. He is South Africa’s Business Networking and Referral Coach. He is the of owner Business Networking South Africa. Visit to see Karl in action, see what Karl’s clients says, book Karl to speak or to do in-company training, attend a public event, subscribe to his newsletter, to use the free networking resources or to buy his book “Beyond The Business Handshake: Dare To Build High-Trust Business Relationships”

For more information, please visit Karl's TNNW Bio.


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