My colleagues and I, as co-authors of my most recent book (Business Networking and Sex â€“ not what you think), thought that it would be interesting to see if men and women learned how to network differently.
So in one of the surveys we created during the course of writing the book, we asked participants about the different ways they learned. Many of them said all they needed to learn came from simply interacting in networking groups. These organizations often have their own training programs and materials, so this is not surprising. It also supports the old wisdom of learning by doing, or learning on the job. People learn most quickly by watching other people, by making mistakes and then by correcting them. Hands-on learning goes that much faster when they are learning a skill that involves interacting.
Most of the respondents chose more than one method of training. Almost half cited just working on their own as a training tool, but many of these people also may have combined that with participation in networking groups or the reading of books and articles as tools, too. More than one-fourth had been mentored, which is widely considered one of the most effective ways to learn anything.
According to the survey, women learn networking using more structured methodologies than men do. The differences werenâ€™t huge, but were certainly statistically significant. What is most interesting is that the aids or tools women used greatly varied, but they all dominated the alternative (that is, working alone). In other words, it seems the biggest thing women had in common is that they didnâ€™t work alone, and the methods they chose instead spanned the range of the many tools available to them.
Ways Women Are Likely to Learn Networking Skills
- Reading books or articles
- Taking classes
- Attending seminars
- Being mentored
- Participating in networking groups
Ways Men are Likely to Learn Networking Skills
- â€œWorking on their own.â€ (from the survey results)
What a surprise!
When it comes to learning networking skills, this comprehensive survey tells me that women appear to do more homework than menâ€¦and that men just seem to â€œwing itâ€ a lot more than women do. So, although there was a fair amount of agreement between the two on networking learning methods, women were much more inclined to take advantage of structured learning opportunities than men, as opposed to learning on their own.
I enjoyed what Hazel Walker â€“ one of my co-authors â€“ had to say about the results:
I was in a car with a gentleman and we were headed to an event. I asked him if he knew where we were going, and he said that he wasnâ€™t sure, but was pretty confident he could find it. â€œWhere is your GPS?â€ I asked, and this is the response I got: â€œOh, I only use that when my wife is with me. I really like trying to find places on my own and the GPS takes all the fun out of it. In fact, it is kind of like having my wife in the car, telling me how to get somewhere.â€ I nearly fell to the floor laughing. â€œDonâ€™t you worry about being late or lost?â€ â€œNo,â€ he said, â€œI am pretty darn good at getting around this city and donâ€™t need someone telling me how to do it!â€ Men donâ€™t read instructions first. They just go for it. They turn to the instructions only if they really canâ€™t figure it out on their own.
Men learn networking skills â€œon their ownâ€ at their father’s knees from the day they are old enough to understand male bonding and relationship-building. Participating in sports can be key in building networking skills in men. They participate in sports as a player or spectator from a very early age. They do business on the golf course, and talk business in the bar over a beer while watching games. Their fraternities stay connected as a strong business network long after theyâ€™ve left school. They learn to network from all the men around them. That the statistics say they learn skills on their own is not surprising.
Comparatively speaking, women are new to the world of business and certainly to the world of sports. Their sororities were more about dating than connecting in the business world. Women do not tend to bond over sports and donâ€™t usually have time to hang out in the bar or on the golf course.
As Hazel states: â€œWe can teach our daughters the importance of networking. When our daughters go to school, leave home, go to college, and get jobs, they will have the advantage of having been taught the skills that are naturally passed on to boys. More women and moms are in the business world than ever before, and they should pass that business acumen on to their daughters as fathers do to their sons.â€
What Men Can Learn â€“ Beyond Just â€œWorking on their Ownâ€
- Learn to develop stronger relationships that go beyond transactions
- Slow down and build relationships based on trust
- Set up systems that generate consistent business
Regardless of how much each of the sexes believes they know about networking there is always so much more to learn. Like anything else, networking, and referral systems are always evolving and both men and women must continue to evolve, too, in order to work together and take full advantage of a every networking opportunity that comes their way.
Called the “father of modern networking” by CNN, Dr. Ivan Misner is a New York Times bestselling author. Â He is the Founder and Chairman of BNI (www.BNI.com), the world’s largest business networking organization. Â His book, Networking Like a Pro, can be viewed at www.IvanMisner.com. Â Dr. Misner is also the Sr. Partner for the Referral Institute (www.ReferralInstitue.com), an international referral training company.
Subscribe To Beneath The Cover's Blog
Join the many publishers and authors who already get their updates sent straight to their inbox. Enter your email address below: