Networking is both an art and a science. When done well, it is magnificent and fun for all parties. It’s a win/win, exciting, and productive. When done poorly, it is laughable at best, and hugely annoying at its worst. In this blog, I share a true story of a disastrous LinkedIn experience.
To do it right, begin with a proper request to connect. I almost never accept blind invitations to connect. If someone cannot take 30 seconds to draft a message as to why they are reaching out (and please be authentic), then what’s the difference between a LinkedIn connect request and a Facebook friend request from a stranger? Nothing. When I invite someone to connect, I add a comment about enjoying their blog post, or knowing someone they know, or meeting them in person over the weekend. Give some context and be very polite.
HOW NOT TO DO IT
Don’t be LinkedIn’s version of a robocall. Be sincere and personal. Second, if the recipient of your initial request does not respond favorably, do not keep sending them information. Third, if they respond to your request with a question, answer the darn question!
The interaction below is a real and unedited email exchange, except for the removal of names to protect the guilty.
1. Friday, April 30, 2021
Hi Maureen, I found your Linked In Leadership & Team Consultant profile interesting and we would enjoy your participation in the Most Amazing Leaders Community event (changing the name for privacy purposes). We are temporarily meeting by web for safety but hopefully back to in-person once safe. Is it okay to email you the details?
My Email Response:
Hi Ms. Most Amazing Leader, do we know each other? Your name sounds familiar to me. Tell me more about what you saw in my profile that inspired you to reach out. Why do you believe I’d be a good fit?
Maureen Electa Monte, Leadership & Team Consultant, Author of Destination Unstoppable: The Journey of No Teammate Left Behind.
I received no response to my question, which validated my suspicion that this was a robocaller. It places them the NO WAY, NO HOW bucket. I assume that our conversation has come to an end.
2. Wednesday, June 2, 2021
Hi Maureen, thank you again for replying back to me favorably regarding the Most Amazing Leaders Community. (NOTE: I do not consider my email response a favorable reply. Do you?) We look forward to your involvement as we get ready for our annual kickoff in a few weeks. Could you take a moment now to register at (link to register) so we can get you all set up in our system? Everything is included in your registration for a full year.
btw our schedule follows below (shifted to web til things are safe again). If you can’t make the next meeting because of the short notice we will also be recording it for you (all set).
My Response: Resignation and annoyance. I re-read the note. What is included in a full year? What’s the value to me? How do I benefit from engaging? And why didn’t you answer my question in my original response??? A rapid-fire attack on my Delete key ensues. Just a few days later…
3. Tuesday, June 8, 2021
Hi Maureen, I had forgotten to ask if you could relay our yearly kickoff schedule below to others you think would enjoy the group and any managers at good area companies you think might like to foster and support their current and future Most Amazing Leaders. Most of our involvement is by word of mouth so your sharing with your network is much appreciated. Thanks Maureen!
My Response: Stunned by the cluelessly of this person, I search the internet using the name of the community and find that they would be happy to have me be a Most Amazing Leader for the bargain price of $299 a year. I disconnect from this person on LinkedIn. More attacks on the Delete key. I might have uttered a curse word. But wait!
4. Wednesday, June 16, 2021 (The coup de gras!)
Hi Maureen, there were several key speaker additions to next week’s Most Amazing Leaders Community meeting below. Could you share the updated agenda and upcoming schedule below with others you think would enjoy it and managers at good companies who might like to foster and support their upcoming Most Amazing Leaders? This month’s meeting will also be recorded for those tied up that day (registration covers them for a full year). Thanks Maureen!
My Response: I’m done. I send a polite (always be polite!) but direct email response asking to be removed from the list. I no longer care who sees it, I just want out.
Bottom Line: When you abuse your network, you not only ruin it, you leave your reputation in tatters.
IS THE STORY OVER?
I suspect that the story isn’t over, and I’ll bet that I receive yet another “it’s not too late!” invitation to share the great news about the Most Amazing Leadership Community. Alas, the event isn’t until June 22!
This is network abuse, pure and simple. There is no value proposition, no sense of personal connection, plus it’s missing the “Unsubscribe Here” link that is considered best practices. It’s also asking me to be an ambassador for this person/org/event while they deliver a terrible client experience (I am potential client if they want me to pay $299). A great client experience is a difference-maker and a competitive advantage. It is worth its weight in gold.
How many others from her network on LinkedIn were “graced” with the same client experience? It is unlikely that I was alone. This approach eliminates any remaining social capital and good will. An utterly preventable rookie mistake made by a professional woman who comes from high places in the corporate world. I do know her – I worked with her 15 years ago. I liked and respected her, then.
AM I THE PROBLEM?
Possibly. If I am impatient with this situation, it is because I’ve spent long days writing and editing my second book, teaching lots of leadership courses for Cornell, and dealing with a 12-week allergic reaction to the Covid vaccine. I simply haven’t been at my best, and I’m more impatient when I’m not at my best.
However, there is always a bright side! I am grateful to the Most Amazing Leaders Community for rebooting my blog. I’ve taken time off to finish my book, and soon I will blog more regularly – I’ve got some great topics in mind!
Until then, let us strive to be fantastic networkers that listen, add value, show true interest in others, and make a difference in the world. Build and nourish your network, don’t destroy it.