One of the hardest parts of networking for my clients is the initial approach. Once engaged in conversation, they are fine. But the thought of those first few moments when they have to muster the courage to approach and say something to generate dialogue is when fear sets in. Clients tell me that they stress out about, “What should I ask? What if I look stupid?” 

When I share the following approach with problem-solvers (many who were self-proclaimed “geeks”), the look of terror shifts to one that says, “You just threw me a lifeline – I can do that!” This is especially helpful if you have the Restorative talent theme as an “always Gallup strength.” These folks are the troubleshooters – the ones who like to break down problems and then build up a solution.

Here’s the plan: Picture your target person as a four-piece puzzle. Your job is to figure out what each piece looks like and put them together. You might title the pieces differently, and the picture is an example of what worked well for one individual.

Now you simply develop and ask questions to describe each puzzle piece. Feel free to dive deeper based on what you hear. For example:

1. What is it that you do and what do you love about it?

2. I find it interesting to learn how people got to where they are – please tell me about your journey – what has prepared you for your current work?

3. What are the biggest challenges you are currently facing?

4. What do you enjoy doing when you aren’t at work?

These answers give you a good understanding of the person and sufficient information for interesting follow-up questions. Based on your Gallup® dominant strengths, you should aim those strengths so that you bear more fruit in the new relationship. For example, if you have input, you can keep an eye out for information that might be helpful to this person based on their challenges. If you are a relator, you might seek points of common interest to quickly deepen the connection. If you are a developer, you can listen for and acknowledge progressive accomplishments to be an encourager.

These are just some examples of how to use your natural abilities in how you are wired to be a successful networker. Intentionally aiming your strengths is essential for performance enhancement.

Check out my Welcome Blog for questions on terms used above.

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    Loriana Sekarski is founder and president of BONSAI, a consulting company that transforms leaders (and businesses) into the best version of themselves. As a leadership coach, Loriana teaches leaders how to hone soft skills, spur workplace engagement, and achieve untapped levels of potential. Outside of BONSAI, Loriana serves as an adjunct professor at Washington University’s graduate student program. Additionally, she's fine-tuning her passion project, TakeFlight, a division of BONSAI that launches organizations, churches, and marriages to boldly live out their purpose by leveraging their strengths to achieve their God-given destiny. TakeFlight has just developed Revealing Hidden Shackles, an innovative curriculum that examines domestic violence within the Christian community.