Networking Tips from the White House

89 Comments

clinton1.jpg
Love him or hate him, Clinton was arguably the best networker the White House has ever seen. ((c) St. Anselm College)

This week I interview Christine Comaford-Lynch. This five-time CEO not only sold or took public all of her companies, she has also assisted more than 700 of the Fortune 1000 with accelerating innovation. Bill Gates has called her “super high-bandwidth,” and she’s consulted with both the Clinton and Bush administrations. The best part? She never graduated from high school.

I convinced her to take time out from her new book, Rules for Renegades, to discuss one of the most important skills she’s used to climb to the top–networking.

1. How did you get yourself in the White House, and what were the most important networking lessons you learned there?…

I do a lot of favors for people, because I believe in “palm up� networking, which is networking to give and not to get. I figure the universe has a perfect accounting system. If I do favors for others, someone will do favors for me. It works.

I was asked to help out TechNet, a bipartisan group of tech execs, and one day (after working countless hours for free) I was invited to a party at the White House. There were only about 200 of us there, Stephen Hawking gave a fascinating lecture, and it seemed everyone I met was a Nobel Laureate. I felt a little insecure, being a high school dropout, but I shrugged it off and starting connecting with people.

After watching President Clinton for a while I approached him. Our interaction blew me away for 3 reasons: 1) he was incredibly charismatic, 2) he wouldn’t let go of my hand—the “I’m hanging in for the long haul� shake, and 3) when I asked him for more government support for American entrepreneurs, he expected me to follow up. He sent me a note about a month later asking where the proposal was that I had offered to write!

Throughout the evening at the White House, I shook a lot of hands. Some people gave me the “isn’t there someone more interesting here?� shake—you know this one: the person is looking over your shoulder, looking to find someone influential. Hillary Clinton gave me the “I’m sincerely pleased to meet you and I mean it� shake—solid eye contact with genuine interest. This is the shake I strive to master. It requires you to be totally present and paying attention to the person. Isn’t this what shaking hands should be about? Connecting?

2. Why was Clinton such an effective influencer?

When he is talking with you, it seems you are the only person in the world. His focus is intense, but softened with his southern charm.

Step 1, he makes you feel important, so you listen up. Step 2, he has the 2 key qualities I learned from Bill Gates and Larry Ellison: 1) supreme self-confidence (this is a choice, by the way—you often have to adopt it before you have evidence to back it up) and 2) an unshakable core (no matter what is thrown at Bill and Larry, they shake it off, hunker down, and emerge triumphant).

The rich and powerful think, act, and speak differently from the rest of us. If you try adopting supreme self-confidence, even for a day, you’ll be stunned by how the world responds. It treats you as if you deserve everything you ask for.

3. What are the most common mistakes that people make when trying to connect with high-profile influencers or celebrities?

They network “palm down� and have a lean and hungry look. Ugh. It oozes “gimme� and desperation. This is a massive turn off. Were they to network “palm up� and find out what someone cares about and offer to be of service, they’d connect with the rich and powerful.

I think they do this because they’re seeking short term gain, not long term connection, which will ultimately lead to gain. Don’t fall into the trap of stuffing your rolodex with contacts. Contacts are just names and numbers. Connections are meaningful relationships that enhance your life. Yes, they take more work. But life = the people you meet + what you create together. It’s all about relationships.

4. If you could give just 3 unorthodox but critical recommendations to the aspiring uber-networker, what would they be?

1. Fall in love with people. They are fascinating–everyone has amazing stories of trials, triumphs, moments when they had epiphanies. Every day you are taught by people. It can be the mailman, the woman making me a cappuccino, anyone or anything. The more we pay attention, the more we see how we’re all students and teachers of each other. This also boosts our interest in people, which boosts our authenticity when networking.

2. Do the “drive-by schmooze.” We’re all busy, and we need to optimize our networking time. Here’s how:

-Set a specific amount of time to network, such as 30 minutes
-Set a goal for the # of meaningful connections you want to make in that time, such as 5
-Here’s the fun part: enter the room and stop your thoughts. Don’t look for VIPs, simply feel the room and let yourself be drawn to people. Then introduce yourself and ask what business they are in, how they got into it, and what their ideal customer is. DON’T talk about yourself.

If you know people who might be potential customers for them, or great possible connections, mention it. Write a few notes on their business card. Promise to follow up. Then do it. Make your personal brand synonymous with results. People say life is 90% about showing up. That’s nonsense. Life is 90% about following through.

3. Tell someone you appreciate them daily.
This can be done via email, via the phone, or in person. Watch the person’s face light up as you genuinely express why you appreciate them. Then move on. You’re not doing this to get them to return the gesture. You’re doing it because it spreads great energy, it’s fun, and it strengthens your connection with the human race.

###

From Tim: The big fish need to like you before they’ll risk lending their name to help you. Focus on being likable, which means finding and connecting on common interests, then offering help or fun on a few occasions (not just once) before even suggesting that you could use help.

For it to work, the other side needs to see you as a relationship, not a transaction. In other words, the real players don’t need your help, so you can’t use that as the incentive. They need to enjoy spending time with you, whether on the phone or in person. I still hang out and grab drinks with the bloggers and technologists who helped me launch the book. That wasn’t the end game for me.

Remember–at the end of the day, it’s not whom you know that matters… it’s who knows you.

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Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration)

89 comments on “Networking Tips from the White House

  1. Clinton was indeed the best networker the whitehouse has ever seen. Clinton is very charismatic and people are naturally drawn to him. Those are traits that are God given, imo.

    Even after his error in judgment ;) his approval rating was at an all time high. The man definately had/has “it”.

  2. In my view, you have in fact GAINED credibility with the Bill Clinton reference (though you had plenty to begin with). Whether or not there is agreement with every decision the man made, he is a master at connection — we can all learn a great deal from him. It is also to your credit that you clearly don’t delete posts that attack. Again, well done.

  3. It seems to me that most recent presidents are good at networking. I don’t think you can win an election without having a solid network behind you. I don’t care for Bush’s ideals but I’ve heard that he is very “charming” in person. But if I had my druthers I’d rather network with Bill. ;-)

  4. What a great article. The acting with supreme confidence was great. It can be a lot of fun to. My Father taught me this. We used to walk around campuses after football games. He would just start trying doors. If it was open he would walk in and start looking around. He told me that if you see anyone just act like you are supposed to be here.
    One time we stumbled onto the biology department. They took us into the labs in the back and we feed and played with a whole bunch of exotic snakes, lizards, and other creepy animals. It was great!

  5. Hi Tim:
    read ur book of course. utilized many suggestions and ideas with great results already. Just wanted to let you and your readers know that there are a ton of (really) old motivational books, about 50 of which I forgot I had and read about six years ago. I dug them all out and am now reading the Magic of thinking Big by David J Schwartz. Although this was first published in 1959 (a year after I was born, yikes!) it still has some of the best advice that still makes so much sense today, although some of the $$ bits and bobs seem a bit 50′s! Another great author is Dr Wayne Dyer, I have read most of his many books too and although there is a lot of spiritual reference it holds up whenever you are having one of those days! which I am sure despite your great success, you still experience them once in a while!
    As for confidence, if you have nothing else going for you, that will get you just about anywhere you want to go.
    Keep up the good work!

  6. Thanks for this post, the “palms up” concept is something that I practice but I just realized that I need to go out there and network, in person. Most of my clients are somewhere in the US and our communications are basically over the phone and email. I do make it a point to make a “personal” connection as much as possible and have been pretty successful with this approach but I definitely want to try the live networking more.

    This was super! Thanks!

  7. Aloha Tim!
    You are brilliant and 4HWW reignited a lot in me after some years of being stuck in society’s reality. I don’t really know what the online etiquette is but I wanted you to know that I refer to you a lot on my website (which is brand spankin new and still under construction). I hope that’s okay:)

    Thank you for writing that book! Truth is- I am not even done with it but makin big changes…

    Kate

  8. Let me tell you. I am a negative and bitchy person. I was blown away by how beautiful this woman’s suggestions are. I think my life has changed forever. Thank you!

  9. I am in the middle of reading your book. One of the steps I am taking as a goal is to write to you and ask what method you consider as the best one to get my book published and if self published, which groups do you like.

    Thank you.

  10. Hey guys,

    I’m curious if anyone here has taken or knows of the Dale Carnegie course and if you recommend it. Im asking because it is very expensive (1800 cnd) but if it has worked then I will dive intoit.. pleaselet me know soon!

    Thanks!

  11. Hey guys,

    I’m curious if anyone here has taken or knows of the Dale Carnegie course and if you recommend it. Im asking because it is very expensive (1800 cnd) but if it has worked then I will dive intoit.. pleaselet me know soon!

    Thanks!

  12. Hello Matt. My wife took the course 17 years ago in Panama. She says it was great, it helped her improve her relationship with people, work teams, etc, it also helped her to eliminate the fear of interacting with people, making her a better “speaker” and, the best of all: she is a person who smiles all day long. That was something she was born with, but it was “reinforced” with the course.

    Hope this helps.

    Regards.

    Eliffio.

  13. Tim, do you get involved with politics? Are there any candidates that you support? Can you talk about how politicians could use tactics that you have used to get a following of your book and your blog?

  14. Thanks Tim! This is great. I personally personally don’t like Clinton, but i think credibility and wisdom is really shown when we can learn from both those we don’t like as well as those we do. Great post, very helpful, I’m definitely going to apply all these points to my life.

  15. I now genuinely enjoy people after a lifetime of being “stuck-up”.

    What made the difference? I finally grew up and realized that people really do need people (for any hope of happiness in this world)!

    Think about it!

    Brie

  16. Tim,

    I read your book last fall and have enjoyed it. You mentioned getting into an Ivy league school and doing it without the grades. I would really like to know more to that story. You said you made cassettes to sell, but later destroyed them.

    In short, I put on sporting events for athletes to get “exposure” from college scouts. I do a talk called inside recruiting helping parents and athletes take control of their destiny of college.

    I live near Boulder, CO. If you are ever speaking near Denver, I would love to come and hear you.

    thanks
    Jerry Howard

  17. NSCS Convention Challenge
    Danielle Bradley
    Update

    Mr. Ferriss,

    I just wanted to give you an update on the contacts I have made. Prior to August 1 I worked hard towards reaching the various “unreachables” but ran out of time in receiving their responses. Since, the first time I posted I have received 2 more responses. Charlie Crist, Governor of Florida called me 2 days ago in response to 2 voice mail messages and an email I sent to him. In response to the questions, “what were your dreams and goals that helped lead you to where you are today?” and “what would you say are the main contributing factors to you reaching your goals?” he said, “I wanted to try to serve others and help the people of Florida” and the main contributing factors were “hard work, being tenacious, and having strong support from family and friends.”

    I also received a nice letter from Jack Nicklaus. He said his “career goal was to always be the best-to always aspire to win…more important, however, is my goal to be the best husband, father and grandfather that I could be.” The main factors that contributed to his success on the golf course were “hard work, dedication, and the desire to be the best” as well as “a loving and supportive family.”

    I am still awaiting a reply from Shimon Peres. If you have seen the recent news, you will know that he has been extremely busy with all that is going on with the prime minister. But, when I receive a reply I will post it.

    I realize that all that I am posting is past the deadline, but I want to take this challenge to completion. I feel that it is important for myself to finish it.

    Sincerely,
    Danielle Bradley

  18. Tim,

    This article is truly fantastic. I don’t know why it hasn’t received more retweets and diggs than it has, but it has certainly gotten my vote.

    I just sent this along to a friend of mine who started doing network marketing, and was getting into a lot of trouble with his friends and people on his soccer team for talking about this “business opportunity”. I’m guessing he was coming across as a “palm down” networker.

    Maybe this article will give him a new philosophy, help him to shake off his discouragement, and get back in the game with the intent of actually helping other people before he helps himself.

    Thanks for everything Tim. You’re a champ.

    And I’m loving The Magic of Thinking Big by the way. I’ve decided to re-read the first two chapters like you do “whenever self-doubt creeps in”. Great stuff buddy.

    All the best,
    Ilhan

  19. Hi Tim,

    Just thought I’d let you know that this old post isn’t displaying correctly. I’m seeing ‘“’ every time there should be an apostrophe.

    I’m reading this in Google Chrome on Mac OS X Lion if that helps.

    Thanks
    George

  20. Hi, nice post, but there are a lot of strange characters, like:

    “palm up�
    interesting here?� shake—you know

    It makes it difficult to understand (especially for people who aren’t native english speakers).