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Monday, February 28, 2011

BNI: I Miss Mayberry

Technology is an amazing thing. In so many ways, we can now reach people faster and easier than ever before. Cell phones, smart phones, book readers, laptops, I Pads, GPS, e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and on and on. While I believe there are so many positives to the advances in technology and social networking, I’d like to share a personal thought. I miss Mayberry.

I remember as a child, a world filmed in black and white. “The Andy Griffith Show” began with the familiar whistling in the background as a father and son carried their fishing poles. A great cast of characters – Andy, Opey, Aunt Bea, Barney, Gomer and the rest. But what I think I remember most about this classic show was the sense of community. The small town feel of people really connecting and having one another’s back. I miss it.

While technology has pushed us forward in so many ways, I do observe the side effects of everyone connecting primarily from behind an electronic curtain. Many have become so preoccupied with “being connected”, that we’ve stopped really connecting. Kids in restaurants play their handheld games, parents are checking their I-Phones, teens are texting so much that some have injuries to their fingers from the same, repetitive texting motion.

So I offer this for consideration. Continue using technology – but don’t leave real human connection behind. There are some essential skills that we must continue to hone in order to make a real connection with others when we network.

  1. Listen. Really listen. Hearing is an ability. Listening is a skill that can be improved with practice. Be curious about the other individual, ask them questions about themselves, their business. Perhaps you may share a common interest, which may create a real connection to that person. If everyone’s favorite subject is themselves, and you are allowing them to speak about their favorite subject while you listen intently, two things happen. One, you learn so much more about their likes, their needs, their struggles – which may allow you to help them in some way. Two, you leave an amazing impression on them, and didn’t even say a word. Taking a genuine interest in another individual and listening to them creates a level of respect and trust on their part. Both opportunities are possible by the simple act of listening.

  2. Offer Help. In Mayberry, everyone was always offering to help a neighbor in need. Now, I realize that “Adding Value” and “How can I help you?” have recently become catch phrases. Every other person at a networking event wants to know how they can add value to you, or how they can help you. Unfortunately, this approach backfires unless it comes from a very authentic place. Because when it doesn’t, what we really hear is “How can I add value to you and your business” – knowing they are waiting for us to reciprocate with the same question - then they launch into their “pitch”. Hmm. To help means “to serve”. It is a selfless act. You do it because it feels good to help another person – to impact their life in some small way. To connect with them allows you to share and celebrate their success with them. When you seek to help others, it comes back around naturally in the most unexpected ways.

  3. Write a note. Not an e-mail – a real, honest-to-goodness, pen-on-paper note. There were no computers in Mayberry. But Aunt Bea had stationery and would write personal notes. (Are you rolling your eyes?) Indulge me…think about it. When was the last time you went to your mailbox and someone sent you an unexpected card or note? (Birthday and holiday cards don’t count). Has anyone sat down and hand written a note to you, put a stamp on an envelope and sent it in the mail recently? Most likely the answer is “My mailbox is filled with direct mail ads, bills and the occasional magazine.” But if you have received a hand-written note for no reason, I venture to guess that you remember it clearly. Why? Because almost no one does it anymore. It takes extra time and a few extra steps, right? But if you’re the recipient, it says “They value me enough to make extra time and take the extra steps just to connect.” Is there any tangible value in that? You bet there is. It’s called human connection.
So go forth and tweet, post messages on your Facebook and LinkedIn pages, e-mail your heart out, blog away. But keep a little bit of nostalgia in your networking arsenal. I love staying in touch with everyone in this tech-savvy world and it allows me to reach many, many people. However, I never forget that it’s my Mayberry-style of networking that allows me to form the connections that are deeper and more powerful than any single electronic form can.

Thanks Aunt Bea!

Sandy Donovan is the Executive Director of BNI for Palm Beach and Southeast Florida. She is also the Executive Director of Network University, which she founded in 2009. As a contributing author to two New York Times Best-Selling books, Masters of Networking and Masters of Sales, Donovan has had the opportunity to share her knowledge and experience with a global audience. She is a professional speaker and trainer, and lives in Palm Beach County with her husband, John, and their two children.

With over 5,500 active chapters, and over 100,000 members throughout every populated continent worldwide, BNI is the largest and most successful business referral organization in the world. BNI was founded in 1985 by Dr. Ivan Misner and the organization, which allows only one person from each profession to join a chapter, offers members the opportunity to share ideas, contacts, and most importantly, referrals. Last year alone, members of BNI passed 6.2 million referrals, generating 2.6 billion dollars’ worth of business.

For more information on BNI, please visit or call BNI Headquarters at 909.608.7575.

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