Years ago, I was a Mary Kay consultant and I was in the team of this amazing regional director, Gloria Mayfield Banks. She was – and is – a truly inspiring person and one of the biggest names in Network Marketing. I should have kicked some serious butt being in her group, but I was a half-hearted Mary Kay consultant. My calling was simply elsewhere. However, I attended the weekly meetings and I learned how to sell. This came in handy years later when I was building my business network.
One of the lessons I learned was that you need to build your Mary Kay business by selling to strangers. Your friends and family won’t buy from you. They will want what you sell for free and won’t take you seriously as a consultant. They see you “in your box”, as their sister or friend.
She was right. I booked more parties by walking up to strangers asking them to host a Mary Kay event than I did from family and friends. Honestly, they never booked a party or bought much besides some lipsticks.
What I didn’t realize was how true “being in your box” is beyond Mary Kay.
People you just met vs. people you know
People you have just met take you more seriously than people you have known for years. Why?
People who know you have already put you in a box. They have defined who you are, what you do, what you’re like, and how you operate. They met the previous version of you and know that person well, but they don’t know the you of today.
Sometimes we forget that every moment of every day is a change opportunity. Some of us take advantage of it, some don’t, but we all embrace a good amount of change yearly. Most of these changes center around personal growth and unfortunately, most people don’t notice when you’ve made incremental changes in embracing your personal power, like being more comfortable with yourself, or feeling more peaceful and at ease. (All required to be a successful leader.) Most people notice big physical changes like weight gain, loss, or hair color changes. Or massive personal shifts like a sudden belief in God.
So to get credit for how you’ve grown and changed with the people who know you, it takes a little effort.
How do you redefine yourself to people you know?
I’m struggling with this now personally and professionally as I reach out to my business network. I recently read Lori Darley’s book, Dancing Naked, which has helped me rethink how I see myself and communicate the change. In one section, she was talking about her own career transition from being a dancer to a coach.
“I discovered I was telling myself I was a dancer-turned-coach, instead of a coach. I was telling myself other coaches had more experience and credentials than I did. That may have been true, but why was I so hung up on what other people were doing? … Then I practiced consciously setting those stories aside. I wrote out new stories for myself, opened myself to new possibilities.”
Lori Darley, Dancing Naked, p.101
Our past helps us become who we are today – no doubt. But sometimes we allow our past to define our present, and that can be problematic for growth.
So to bring others up to speed with the current you, you need to reintroduce people from your past to the new you by providing them a summary version of your journey from who you were to who you are.
How do you do that? Here are some approaches I have been using that could help.
Suggestion 1: Remember the last time you actively worked with your colleague. Start your story – logistically and emotionally – there.
Think about where you were job-wise, personally, and emotionally when you last saw or worked with that person. Then look at where you are now. You need to provide that person with a summary of your journey from when you last saw them to now. Provide the logistical updates (moving, job changes), the social and personal updates, and the emotional updates (personal growth). The personal growth updates are probably the most important – yet overlooked – updates that help someone to quickly get reacquainted with you and understand your current capabilities.
Suggestion 2: Updating people about your accomplishments doesn’t mean anything if you don’t update people on how you have grown as a person. People forget that we all grow and need a reminder.
It is easy to update people about new jobs, ventures and accomplishments. It’s like repeating a laundry list. It is harder to update people about your personal growth and the value you can bring to an organization now. Share stories about how you grew from where you were to where you are now. Feel free to relate mistakes you made and what you’ve learned from them.
To prepare for these conversations, choose 3-4 key stories that best illustrate your personal growth. Try to use transformation stories. For example, you were a new manager, had some challenges, and then maybe got great reviews for being a compassionate manager. The story I share is that as a consultant, I received a lot of criticism for not being responsible for generating revenue. I decided to stop being a consultant and work for a company to do that (I helped them generate lead revenue that got reported to the CMO). During the story, I share the fear and excitement of what that meant.
Be specific. Be vulnerable. Show emotional growth.
Suggestion 3: Share your stories – successes and failures. Focus on sharing what you learned.
Include 1-2 learning stories in your growth story collection. I like to share the story where I got laid off from KPMG and couldn’t find a new job for 2-3 years because I couldn’t let go. I wasn’t a failure. It was a turning point and I learned a handful of lessons from the experience. And by sharing this story, I connect with others who are experiencing something similar.
The next time you contact a former colleague, remember that they know the you from 2, 5, or 10 years ago. They may read the accomplishments in your LinkedIn profile, but that doesn’t mean that they will see you as the leader you have become. Help them see that by sharing your journey with them. They will start to take you seriously because you are breaking down that box they put you in and they are learning about the current you. You are getting re-acquainted, almost like meeting someone for the first time.
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