There are things in life that you are passionate about, such as your business, your family, and causes that pull on your heart strings. There are also things that need a voice and action to set it straight again. When you act upon any of these intuitions, you are an advocate.
Advocacy is what you are doing when you network and bring awareness to your business. When you meet a new customer or the person in the grocery store line to tell them about who you are and what you do. Most importantly who you are and what you stand for.
Although this word seems big and can be applied in many ways, let's look at how you can take advantage of advocacy and work it for your business and your life.
Networking is one of the most important things you can do - for yourself (your brand) and your company. If you aren't networking, you are missing out on great opportunities. As many of you already know, I am quite an introverted person and would much rather sit in a quiet spot all by myself than be in a room with a bunch of people I do not know. After recognizing the importance of networking, I began to "fake it until you make it". I put on my social hat a got to work meeting people at events. Being an introvert, these events were mentally draining and exhausted me quickly. So, looking for another route to accomplish the same concept, I began seeking out people that were interesting to me. Interest wasn't sparked by how they can benefit me, but instead by the desire to learn more about them and how they got to where they are now. Using LinkedIn I found people all over to network with. The trick is, you actually have to talk to them.
When you make a connection to someone that you find interesting, send them a quick note and ask if they have time for a phone call. If they are local to you, invite them out for coffee or lunch. I have met some of the most inspiring and wonderful people with this method. And, I feel more in my element (introvert) while keeping my energy levels stable.
It isn't about how many people you know, it is about the quality of the relationship. Forget having 10,000 friends or connections if you can't chat with all of them from time to time. Even better is what happens when you keep a relationship going - people know who you are and begin to keep you in mind as a possibility when something arises. This means, if you are great or have an interest in anything - these connections will send others that they know to You!
When I started my business after leaving an executive role, I kept my connections involved and up to date of my status. My connections sent business my way and I still - to this day, haven't spent a penny on marketing. It is still unbelievable to me to say that because I anticipated getting my name out there and generating solid leads would be dreadful.
My next piece of advice is very difficult for some to do: Meet with influencers. Identify key influencers in your industry or areas that have an effect on your business and your life's passions. If you are struggling with getting something important to you accomplished because another person or group is standing in the way - take it head on! This means identify that committee, representative, manager, CEO, team captain, association chair, etc. and make a phone call to schedule a meeting. Preference would be to meet this individual outside of their office setting - this equalizes the mentality of power and control. You should always, always try and meet outside of the office.
Ask the hard questions. Find out why something is the way that it is, who has the most power and why they have the beliefs that they do. Discover the politics involved and the other industries influencing the decisions. You may learn that there are more factors involved that you initially thought. Be blunt and ask what you can do or who you can talk to in order to influence change.
Tip: People have a difficult time not answering questions. By asking, you are invoking their intuitive obligation to give you an answer. When you do not ask, you do not receive. Regardless of how uncomfortable the topic may be, keep asking questions.
Tip: People love to talk about themselves and their knowledge. By asking questions you are satisfying both of these at the same time! Just keep them talking.
Finally, never stop sharing. Tell everyone you know, everyone you meet, and use all your social tools and resources to share your passions. Don't drill it in and drive people crazy, because that will have the opposite effect, but bring awareness to your passion and educate others. You will find you are not alone. You will bring people together and will have a larger support system. Bringing awareness to something also opens doors to others that have shown just as much passion historically and have been successful in some manner. You may discover someone on the opposite coast that accomplished your goal and have the opportunity to speak with them to learn how they did it.
In my experience, advocacy has helped me protect business rights, build associations to push industry standards and quality, pass laws, make large scale changes to existing systems, and build teams like no other. With advocacy, you make friends out of enemies and you learn to work the best way possible towards your goals.
April Salsbury, MBA is a strategist, an analyst, an operational guru, a recognized leader and C-suite global healthcare executive with drive and focus for competitive markets. Co-host of The Business Forum Show and regular contributor to various business journals, she possess multi-functional and multi-national competencies with more than 15 years experience in business and healthcare. Her expertise is in invigorating revenue growth and infusing value of lean practices in growing companies through improvements to cash flow and operations management.
Fueling revenue, growth and profit, Salsbury & Co. is a consultancy firm focused on helping businesses and healthcare organizations achieve excellency. Our specialists have executive experience combined with deep functional expertise to provide our clients with services that drive real impact and results.
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