2014 Relationship Building Challenge

October 22nd, 2014 Jennifer Selby Long Posted in Relationship Challenge | No Comments »

coffeeoutsideFor those who are new to the 2014 Relationship Building Challenge, here’s the backstory: on January 3, I recommended making one small change per month this year to dramatically improve your skill and confidence in building relationships. It’s not too late catch up. Just jump in and join us!

The challenge for September was:

“Repeat the month of March. Call each person or arrange to see him or her in person, preferably over coffee or a meal, or via Skype if you live far apart. While it may not be feasible to see every person you’d like to see twice a year, it’s certainly worth the investment to make sure you see your Treasured Ten this often. If you’ve seen all of them recently, congratulations! You can kick back this month and just continue your habits from the other previous months.”

How did you do?

Here’s your challenge for October, if you are willing to accept it:

“Write a recommendation on each person’s LinkedIn profile. Granted, you can’t do this if you haven’t worked together, but perhaps there’s something else you can do in fifteen minutes or less that’s a good deed for their business or career. Write a Yelp review for their local business. Buy their product and if you like it, share your enthusiasm on the appropriate social media. You get the idea.”

Let me know how it’s going, share your thoughts, and ask your questions any time at http://jenniferselbylong.com/?p=729.

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Are you frustrated with your peers?

October 9th, 2014 Jennifer Selby Long Posted in Business, Change Leadership, Communication | No Comments »

whiteboard_meeting“How do I get my peers to speed up decision-making?”

“How can I get the rest of the C-suite to agree to my recommendations for strategic investment? What worked at my old company isn’t working here. No one will commit.”

“How can I get these people on board? Even though I don’t report to them, I need to have their buy-in to move forward. They don’t have the authority to say yes to the budget, but they all have the influence to block it.”

What do these three questions have in common? In each case, the leader wants his or her peers to change, or more accurately, to change their behaviors. Peer-level influence is often the most frustrating persuasion challenge, since you have no hierarchical authority to fall back on if data and logic don’t convince them.

Let’s look at several techniques you can use to become less frustrated and more effective at influencing your peers.

First, make it real for them (and yourself) with action verbs.

Before influencing your peers, be sure to get behavioral and specific in your assessment of the challenge or problem as well as what would happen if the challenge or problem were successfully addressed.

In business, we often talk about the need for specific outcomes, but a specific noun or number isn’t enough. It turns out those boring English grammar classes back in your school days taught you something useful after all: an action verb is an action another person can see taking place. If you use action verbs to communicate with your peers, you will eliminate 80%+ of misinterpretation.

Using the first example, above, the leader would ask questions like this to get to action verbs and specifics:

  • What is the team doing or saying (or not doing or not saying) that leaves me with the opinion that decision-making is too slow?
  • Which specific behaviors do I think are causing decision-making to be slow, and what consequences are there to the business? (Don’t worry about the causes at this point, because the question is strictly about what you see happening.)
  • If I had a camera and I were recording everything that happens, what would I see people doing, saying, not doing, and not saying if the problem or challenge were successfully addressed?

Abstract observations are fine as a starting point for your thinking, but you have to get down to the level of the action verb to be convincing to others.

Next, consider the possible cause or causes of the current situation.

Everything in a business is the way it is because it made sense to somebody at the time, given the information and resources available to him or her.

Start with an environmental scan. Is this behavior or approach more or less the norm in this industry? If you’ve moved from a different industry, you need to get a handle on this before determining how you will influence peers. If this behavior or approach is the norm for the industry, you could be fighting a losing battle if you frame up your suggestion as an idea that’s important because you see it as important.

To be more influential, either determine how this change would support something your peers already see as very important (such as empowering their entire workforce, or providing the highest level of customer service) or begin seeding the idea that your company’s best chance at breaking away from the competition may be to pursue your recommended course of action.

If your peer group doesn’t want to break away from the pack or feels secure in their current market position, you’re going to have to be patient because this is going to take a while. In most organizations, it’s more difficult to get big changes off the ground when there is no immediate threat. You’ll have to work to get the momentum going.

Your peers may understandably be concerned about breaking something that isn’t broken by introducing the significant change you have in mind. One of the simplest and most often overlooked tools is putting yourself in their shoes and truly seeking to understand their perspectives, even allowing their perspectives to influence yours and further shape your thinking.

Take an honest look at potential trust issues in your peer relationships.

After conducting an environmental scan, it’s time to consider other factors, such as trust:

  • Are they experiencing low professional trust with you? Professional trust involves worries about your competence in the job, such as worries that you don’t know what you’re doing at this scale and that your decisions will sink the business.
  • Are your peers experiencing low personal trust with you? Personal trust involves concerns about your personal ethics, such as concerns that you will stab them in the back.

Do you see signs of trust issues? It can be very, very hard on the ego to really see these issues. Still, seeing a trust issue and acknowledging it are clearly prerequisite to working on the relationship and modifying your own behaviors in ways that will deepen trust and make you more influential.

Consider the possibility that you may need to adapt to extreme style differences.

Are you experiencing extreme style differences on the team, far more than you’ve experienced on other teams? It happens often on cross-functional leadership teams, because the leaders come from different professional backgrounds. This is considerably less common with teams of individual contributors, who often have more similar styles because they have been shaped by the same profession or business function.

If you’re new to being on a cross-functional leadership team, it can be quite a shock to find yourself attempting to influence people who seem to approach every challenge differently from you and differently from each other. Likewise, if you’ve always been able to bridge style differences on previous leadership teams but find yourself on a team with style differences more extreme than you’ve experienced, it can become discouraging.

The great new here is that style differences can be addressed more easily than the other issues, above, through the consistent, pragmatic, and ethical use of a style inventory and debrief.

The biggest challenge in the C-suite is rarely in the execution of this approach – it’s in getting everyone in agreement to do an inventory in the first place.

This is where your outside advisor can play a valuable role. I’ve found that style inventories are often more effective when integrated into a more business-focused meeting or off-site so that leadership team members can practice style adaptations real-time, working together on real business challenges, with their coach nearby to provide feedback.

Of course, none of these techniques are a substitute for your analytical chops. These techniques won’t help you if your fundamental assessment of the business problem or challenge is weak or your idea just isn’t a very good one. Hey, we’ve all had ideas that weren’t very good. There’s no shame in it and sometimes you just have to accept that your idea was a dog, after all. It’s o.k.

However, when your analysis is excellent but your peers just don’t seem to “get it,” try these techniques and then adapt your approach based on what you learn from exploring each of these three factors. Soon, you will be a much more influential peer.

What have you done to improve your influence with your peers? Let me know in the comments below.

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2014 Relationship Building Challenge

August 21st, 2014 Jennifer Selby Long Posted in Relationship Challenge | No Comments »

coffeeoutsideOn a serious note, the tragic death of Robin Williams earlier this week reminded me once again how important it is to take the time to build and nurture relationships. You don’t have to do 100% of the 2014 Relationship Building Challenge every month with everyone in order to make great progress. Just nudge yourself to do a little more. Should you lose a friend earlier than you ever imagined, you will be so happy that you prioritized the care and feeding of the friendship.

For those who are new to the 2014 Relationship Building Challenge, here’s the backstory: on January 3, I recommended making one small change per month this year (http://jenniferselbylong.com/?p=729) to dramatically improve your skill and confidence in building relationships. It’s not too late catch up. Just jump in and join us!

Your challenge for July was:

“Think of your Treasured Ten beyond the main environment in which you know them. For example, does one of them have a child who’s starting to look into colleges that provide the best education for a particular major? Ask friends in your network who hire in that profession which schools they would recommend and why. Share the information, but only share names and contact information with permission.

How did you do?

Here’s your challenge for August, if you are willing to accept it:

“Donate your money to their causes, assuming it’s a cause you’re comfortable supporting. Anyone who’s ever volunteered for a charity walk-a-thon or community fundraiser knows how much effort goes into getting people to sponsor them and put money in their bucket. Start setting aside some money to support those who are willing to dedicate their limited free time to a good cause, even the people who aren’t your Treasured Ten. The timing of these requests can be hard to anticipate, so with money set aside, you’ll be ready from this month onward.”

Let me know how it’s going, share your thoughts, and ask your questions any time at http://jenniferselbylong.com/?p=729.

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Want a Beer?

August 14th, 2014 Jennifer Selby Long Posted in Building Relationships, Business, Communication | No Comments »

palealeTwo weekends ago, Kirk gamely agreed to go shopping with me. While he doesn’t exactly live for the excitement of waiting for me while I’m in a dressing room, he’s a good sport. We headed up to the Fourth Street shopping area in Berkeley.

The first store we entered, Margaret O’Leary, had a few items I simply had to try on. While in the dressing room, I overheard, “Want a beer?” When I exited the dressing room a few minutes later, there was my very, very, very happy husband, sitting in a comfy leather armchair, drinking a bottle of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. He looked at me and declared, “I LOVE shopping!”

Later in the week, he started asking, “Hey, Babe, want to go shopping this weekend? Maybe back up to Margaret O’Leary?”

Now, at this point you may be wondering what this has to do with you, so let me tell you where I’m going with this.

Generally speaking, when a wife pops in to a clothing store to try on a few things, it gets boring for her husband. The odds increase that she will either just skip the store altogether or not spend as much time and money there, especially if she really likes her husband. After all, she doesn’t want the guy to suffer too much.

By spending a tiny amount of money to give this man a beer and provide a man-cave-worthy armchair in which to drink it, Margaret O’Leary is developing a devoted customer relationship with him. Now Margaret O’Leary is the one store he really wants to visit with his wife.

It also becomes the first place he thinks of when her birthday or another gift-giving occasion rolls around.

By thinking about the person who influences the buyer with as much consideration as the buyer herself, Margaret O’Leary eliminated a barrier to buying, in this case the tedious boredom of the spouse, which she brilliantly converted into a darn good time.

So here’s my question: what’s your free beer?

What’s the no-brainer that’s looking you right in the face, that none of your competitors have thought of, to build a relationship with the influencer? What’s the inexpensive, simple, thoughtful thing that your buyer’s influencer would really like? How fast can you provide it?

What’s your free beer? Let me know in the comments below.

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In the News

July 29th, 2014 Jennifer Selby Long Posted in News | No Comments »

11BP_LinkedIn_2I’d like to extend a big congratulations to LinkedIn’s Global Technology Solutions team. LinkedIn ranked #1 in Computerworld’s 2014 Best Places to Work in IT Survey.

I have partnered with the GTS leadership team for almost a year now as their business and executive coach. Their focused efforts to create and sustain a strong culture, build a breakaway strategy to excel at scale, and heavily emphasize professional development have paid off in creating an exceptional place to work.

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2014 Relationship Building Challenge

July 24th, 2014 Jennifer Selby Long Posted in Relationship Challenge | No Comments »

coffeeoutsideOn January 3, I recommended making one small change per month this year (http://jenniferselbylong.com/?p=729) to dramatically improve your skill and confidence in building relationships. If you’ve been participating, pat yourself on the back. If not, it’s not too late catch up. Just jump in and join us!

Here’s your challenge for July, if you are willing to accept it:

“Think of your Treasured Ten beyond the main environment in which you know them. For example, does one of them have a child who’s starting to look into colleges that provide the best education for a particular major? Ask friends in your network who hire in that profession which schools they would recommend and why. Share the information, but only share names and contact information with permission.”

Let me know how it’s going, share your thoughts, and ask your questions any time.

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The Wolf Pack

July 10th, 2014 Jennifer Selby Long Posted in Building Relationships, Communication | 4 Comments »

wolvesI recently caught up with a client who has very successfully created and implemented large-scale, transformative change in three very different companies. He used a simile so spot-on that I’d like to share it with you. While it might seem a little cold at first, try to be open to the idea. It’s practical and useful.

A team is like a pack of wolves.

It’s very hard to break away from the pack. Only the strongest members can break away and assert themselves with new behaviors, in setting or following a new direction. To introduce change, you must identify the 2 – 3 strongest wolves and begin with them.

When the strongest wolves begin to change their behavior and strike out in a new direction, at first the others will turn against them, and try to bring them back to the established pack norms. If the strong wolves persist and have a few early successes, the remaining members of the pack will, for the most part, begin to follow them. Those who still don’t want to change will move on.

When entering a new organization, this client observes his team very closely and sizes up which of the managers are strong enough to break from the pack. If he doesn’t have a critical mass of strong wolves, he hires 2 – 3 people who have the strength to break away from the pack and set a new direction. He brings in the strongest wolves he can find, because he knows that lots of managers can manage a function, but few are strong enough to lead transformative change.

He and I have found the same pattern at all levels – if you have only one wolf strong enough to break from the pack, it’s not enough. Eventually, he or she will tire of trying to get peers to change their perspectives, of being on the receiving end of jealousy from teammates not quite confident or strong enough to transform, and of being the lone person taking a chance on a big change. Worst of all, the strongest wolves are independent. They’ll leave, and you’ll have to start all over again.

That’s one of the reasons it’s important to size up how strong each individual wolf is, and also ask, “How strong is the pull of this pack?” If you want to create transformative change, and you don’t have critical mass, go find it quickly. Without a few strong wolves, the best process, tools, influence, and communication just won’t be enough. The pull of the pack will win.

How can you spot your strongest wolves? In my experience, there’s rarely a direct correlation between performance and strength. Surprised? There are often several truly outstanding performers who always get results, but who stay solidly in the middle of pack when it comes to transformative change. Performance isn’t where you should look to size up the strength of a wolf.

There is, however, a connection between potential and strength. Nearly all of the strong wolves have potential to step up one or two levels in the breadth of their responsibilities. There are several factors, a mix of traits and experiences, that contribute to their potential.

First and foremost, they form their own opinions and naturally influence the opinions of others. They are often widely read and well informed on everything from their industry or profession to world politics and cultural trends.

They are not necessarily alphas in the way that we think of a wolf pack having an alpha at the top. Some are, but many are neither leader nor follower in any pure sense. They form their own opinions and choose what to lead and whom to follow based on these opinions. Likewise, their choices aren’t driven by a desire to compete and win against the rest of the pack. They really do want everyone to transform and have a shared win.

Regardless of whether they have any training or education on strategic thinking, they instinctively look at the big picture and make connections between day-to-day activities and long-term goals. With them, executive coaching is less about building a strategic mindset and more about simply improving what’s already there by adding discipline, structure, tools, and processes.

I nearly always find that they have done something quite unusual compared to their peers, and this experience has shaped a willingness to take chances and a much higher tolerance for personal risk. A cursory look at some of the strong wolves I’ve worked with turns up the following:

One strong wolf owned and operated a restaurant in Argentina and continued to co-own it and stay involved in major financial decisions after moving to the US, where he held a fulltime job transforming an organization born through an uneasy acquisition. If you’ve ever seen the statistics for restaurant failures, you know the risk involved in opening one. It made a difficult integration look like a walk in the park.

Another strong wolf built hospitals in Afghanistan through a non-profit organization he had co-founded with his wife, both before and after his stint introducing large-scale change for a mid-sized corporation.

A third strong wolf left home as a teenager, lived in his car, twice went broke and came back from it, and taught part-time in public colleges throughout most of his executive career as a way of giving back to the education system that pulled him out of poverty.

As you can imagine, the strongest wolves are often more difficult for the typical employee to relate to, or even to understand. They are simultaneously immersed in the organization and somewhat distant from it.

When you’re working on their professional development, it’s not uncommon to have to remind them to reach out to their peers more frequently. Excellent situational awareness is key to their success, and sometimes it needs to be developed because they don’t always understand that they are different and need to be sensitive to the emotions and motivations of others.

It’s also not uncommon to have to earn their respect (which isn’t easy), before they will give serious attention to your ideas for their development.

It’s worth it, though. You can never, ever, ever lead transformative, large-scale change alone. You simply can’t. You need your whole team, and that starts with the strongest wolves.

What are your thoughts about this wolf pack simile? Am I on target or do you howl in protest? Let me know in the comments below.

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2014 Relationship Building Challenge

May 27th, 2014 Jennifer Selby Long Posted in Relationship Challenge | No Comments »

coffeeoutsideOn January 3, I recommended making one small change per month this year (http://jenniferselbylong.com/?p=729) to dramatically improve your skill and confidence in building relationships. If you participated in January and February, pat yourself on the back. If not, it’s not too late catch up. Just jump in and join us!

The challenge for April was to “Take at least one action to help out each person. If you’re unsure if something you have in mind would be welcome, ask. It can be an action that only takes 5 – 10 minutes, or maybe it’s something bigger. Great relationship-builders create a huge “bank balance” of goodwill long before they ask for anything in exchange. If you have issues with over-helping, this will be a tougher one to manage, but you must master this, because generosity and selflessness are hallmarks of successful people. They are not stingy with their help. They don’t hold it close to the vest. They worry very little about getting screwed, because they know that for every one person who will take advantage, there are 100 who won’t, and the 100 are well worth the rotten experience of the one jerk.”

How did you do? Pop over to the 2014 Relationship Building Challenge blog post (http://jenniferselbylong.com/?p=729) and let me know how it went.

Here’s your challenge for May, if you are willing to accept it:

Introduce your Treasured Ten to people who can help them, or have a mutual interest, or ideally, complementary needs. You’ll need to develop the habit of always asking yourself who might like to meet whom in order to catch the best opportunities for your Treasured Ten.”

Let me know how it’s going, share your thoughts, and ask your questions any time at http://jenniferselbylong.com/?p=729.

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How to Handle an Ineffective Boss

May 22nd, 2014 Jennifer Selby Long Posted in Building Relationships, Communication | No Comments »

bigthumbSpeaking of publishing on the new platform, I am stoked to report that one of my articles went viral and then was featured on a newsfeed on the LinkedIn site. Over 37,000 members have viewed it and over 2100 members have shared it.

Did I strike a nerve with How to Handle an Ineffective Boss, or was it just the picture that did it? Haven’t we all worked for this guy at some point in our careers? I suspect that in my first supervisory role, I was the guy in the picture. Yikes.

At the moment, I post 1 – 2 articles per week. To read the articles, please visit https://www.linkedin.com/today/author/JenniferSelbyLong. To receive a polite email ping each time a new article is posted, just click on the Follow button in the upper right hand corner.

And please rest assured that the more in-depth monthly articles in this very eZine will never go on LinkedIn before they appear here. You will always get a sneak peak before anyone else, and more often than not, you’ll get a level of depth that I don’t post on the site.

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Why Your LinkedIn Network is No Good

May 8th, 2014 Jennifer Selby Long Posted in Building Relationships, Communication | No Comments »

manbitinghandsIf you’re underwhelmed, even feeling a little anxious, by the quality and quantity of your network on LinkedIn, today’s article is for you. Even if your network is already decent, I guarantee that by following these tips, you’ll kick it into high gear. Ready? Here we go….

Stop Being So Conservative About Inviting People to Connect

I am simply floored when I talk with leaders who are aggressive in going after business, but wimpy in building their networks. Your network is not only for people with whom you worked for years and your three best friends. You have to make your own judgment call about this, but I find that most professionals are much too shy and cautious about reaching out to connect with others.

Granted, I may be more open than you want to be. I’ve invited people with whom I’ve volunteered, even briefly. I’ve invited people I met through Impact Hub Oakland, where I occasionally work, just because I found our conversations to be so fascinating that I didn’t want to lose touch. I’ve invited people who worked at the same mid-sized business unit I was in 20 years ago, even though our paths had mostly crossed at company events and during training programs we participated in together.

I’ve never regretted it. Although some of these people are not very active on LinkedIn, those who are active post interesting and useful articles and updates, my learning is enriched by their contributions, and I have an amazing group of people to ask for advice on everything from a global marketing strategy to how to get democracy into totalitarian countries. Not that I plan to do that any time soon, but I’m happy to know I’m connected to someone who’s one of the best in the world at that very task, just in case.

Sometimes I’m asked, “Yeah, but what if somebody asks you to provide an introduction to someone else in your network, but you don’t know that person well?” That’s simple. I gently say no. I’m not going to miss out on enriching my knowledge and staying in touch with interesting, helpful businesspeople just because I will sometimes have to let someone down.

Stop Sending Generic Invitations That You Don’t Write Yourself

Take the time to write a short personal note to refresh the person’s memory about where you met, how you know each other, or your mutual friends and colleagues. It’s often the difference between Accept and Ignore. For example, when contacting someone you recognize from way-back-when, try writing “I don’t know if you remember me from XYZ company. I worked for Joe Schmoe on ABC team….”

Because I’ve done so much work in groups, I will sometimes come across a person I recognize, but honestly can’t remember which of the many group activities that connected us. In that case, I just admit it, and nearly everyone accepts.

Every now and then, you’ll hit the Invite button and then realize you didn’t add a note. That’s o.k. Just don’t make a habit of it.

Set a Slightly Broader Standard for Invitations You’ll Accept From Others

I generally don’t accept invitations from people I don’t recognize, with whom I’ve never worked, who haven’t written a personal note, or with whom I have no shared groups or connections. Everyone else gets seriously considered. I may not accept them all, but I do accept many.

You need to be honest with yourself about your comfort level on this and then stretch yourself beyond that comfort zone – at least a little a bit. For example, for a long time I didn’t accept any invitations from people I didn’t know, but now I sometimes accept an invitation if the person has a particularly interesting profile, or has commented on my posts more than once. In the first case, I can learn a lot, and in the second case, the person has been building a relationship with me on line and doesn’t seem like a complete stranger anymore.

Share Content

Offer up value to your network by sharing content, and while you’re at it, comment on content others share.

I don’t keep a regular schedule for sharing content. I just always keep an eye out for content my network might find interesting or helpful, and when I come across it, I share it. Sometimes I add my own comments and sometimes I don’t. You don’t have to make this a big deal at all. It doesn’t have to be burdensome. Just read stuff and share the stuff you like.

Now that I’ve really gotten into this, I track the number of views, likes, and comments for everything I post and I can tell you what my network loves, and what doesn’t interest them much at all. By knowing this, I now skip posting things that just don’t float their boats. I figured this out by posting lots of stuff that interested me, over a long period of time, so please don’t overthink it. Just do it!

For those who are curious, my network loves it when I post a link to an article on my own blog, but not to other blogs. They also love it when I share a cartoon or very simple graph that they can scan in a heartbeat.

They have no interest in some of the articles I find most important and interesting, such as an economist’s analysis of the structural problems in the labor market. I nearly fell off the sofa laughing when I saw how badly every complex, serious, systems-level article did when I posted it. Truly, for my network, those articles are dogs with fleas. I am a true nerd, I guess, even wonkier than my network. And I confess, I might still post the occasional wonky article for all 19 of you who read them, whoever you are.

Turbo-Charger: Upgrade Your Account

Let me say first of all, no, I am not being paid to write this!

When I went from a free account to the most basic of the paid accounts, I found that I could more easily find and reach out to quite a few terrific people I’d known from companies and projects several years back. We had lost touch in the “pre-LinkedIn” era. It’s been great getting back in touch with them.

I couldn’t begin to advise as to which account is right for you. Luckily, that’s what LinkedIn’s marketing team is for. To see your options, click on Upgrade in the upper right hand corner of your home page.

Super-Mega-Turbo-Charger: Write and Post Your Own Content on the Platform

Since I started posting my own writing directly to the platform, I have been tickled pink by the people who reach out to connect with me. They’re interesting people who are in challenging leadership roles all over the globe, and in a wide variety of industries. Engaging with them broadens my perspective in a way that my mostly American network alone can’t do.

Take a look on your home page, and if you see a little pencil icon next to your update balloon, you can publish now. Not all members have it at this point, and it’s going to take a while to roll it out. I applied for early admission by submitting two samples of my best work on this form: http://specialedition.linkedin.com/publishing/. Do this, and the screening team will review your best work. If they like it (and come on, you know they’ll love it), soon you’ll see a balloon pop up on your home page inviting you to publish on LinkedIn.

The publishing tool is crazy-easy to use. When you publish, also be sure to include a picture with each article. It would be a shame to put all that effort into writing your article only to find that few people read it. People open articles with pictures.

Also be sure you have the rights to use the image. I purchase pix from shutterstock.com to be on the safe side.

Your LinkedIn network can be an incredible source of knowledge, perspective, relationships, and opportunities to both help and be helped. Spend a little time this month implementing at least one of these strategies and you’ll be on your way to building a network that expands your world and blows your mind.

Is your LinkedIn network no good? What are your thoughts about expanding and improving your network on LinkedIn? Let me know in the comments.

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