244: Network in bite-sized pieces - with Dr. Jim Bohn
Meet Dr. Jim Bohn
Dr. Jim Bohn has organizational expertise and insight from decades of successfully leading leaders and business savvy derived from observing the organizational behavior of multiple Fortune 500 organizations. He has taught as an adjunct at UWM, Marquette and Concordia, and has spoked at conferences and workshops throughout the U.S. After several decades with a Fortune 100 company, Dr. Bohn launched his own Change Management and Organizational Transformation Practice.
So what is your motivation for writing and sharing your knowledge?
I've worked in the corporate world for over 40 years, I've worked with literally thousands of people through that time. And what I want to do at this stage of my life is to share my experience, specifically targeting southeast Wisconsin from the Madison, Green Bay, Milwaukee chord and just share the things that I've learned my successes, my failures, through my podcasts, through workshops through keynotes, through books. I mean, my books are obviously available worldwide, but my primary goal is to help southeast Wisconsin be successful. I've lived here most of my life. I was born in Milwaukee, worked with several different companies in Milwaukee area, including Johnson Controls. So this is the area that I want to focus on at this stage of my life.
What would you consider to be unique about how you develop your style?
I'm a persistent guy just based on the notion that I believe things can be done. It just takes effort, takes work. And so my style is to try to get things that are complex. And clearly in a PhD program, there are plenty of complex things boiled down into two new fragments and concepts that everyone can understand. So there's not a lot of theory, but it's more actionable stuff that we can all use to get things done. Getting things into a format where we can start to look at action that's going to be valuable for everybody is really key. We have to move from words and rhetoric, which is very important, but we've got to move to things that we can actually put feet on the street and get things done.
What should people know about the process you took to develop your capabilities?
My capabilities specifically, I want to talk about my organizational engagement scale. And that would be the primary capability of the work that I do. It's an instrument to literally check organizational engagement as opposed to employee engagement. Employee engagements used across the world, but it's starting to lose a little bit of its steam because it's been used for so long. And in my PhD program, I learned that no one in the world that ever checked the idea of being able to measure what would be called organizational level efficacy. So I thought, Well, that sounds like a pretty easy project. Haha. So it took me 14 different companies again in southeast Wisconsin to design and develop it. And then the capability that I have there within that instrument and those tools are able to measure whether or not an organization believes it knows where it's going. Simple, concrete terms that mean a lot to everyone. As far as my own personal capabilities, again, I look back at just candidly knowing where I was going and what I wanted to accomplish and sticking with it until it got done.
Can you share with our listeners one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?
I worked with some people in my research a long time ago. And that person happened to be somebody I remembered. And I continued to work through my research. And when I got done with it, I went back and checked this person out on LinkedIn, and said, can we get together sometime and we talked a little bit. And before long, she connected me with a bigger organization in Milwaukee, who then connected me with more people in the manufacturing community than I ever could have been connected with, no matter how hard I worked because this other organization knows just about every manufacturer. Always look for those warm contacts, people that you know, people that like you people that trust you, people who are willing to have a conversation with you, and they're not threatened by it. It's not a cold call at all. It's like, gosh, I haven't talked to you in a long time, let's get together, but knowing that they also have connections within broader communities, and they may be willing to bring you in. That's, a really big one for me.
How do you stay in front of and best nurture these relationships that you're creating?
I think it takes a lot of care and feeding of specific people who you know are interested in helping you and who know that you can help them, I think that's a key in networking. It can't just be one way, it can't just be get me someplace if there's got to be some sort of give and take. By the way, I don't try to meet with 20-30 people a month, I'm more interested in meeting with two or three people that are really critical in my sphere, and then going deep, spending time thinking about what's going on, what's happening out there, learning more about where they're going, what they're trying to accomplish, and seeing if I can help them. To me, I've always been a big fan of the bite sized pieces. Let's go deep with a couple of things so that you can take this forward and make it successful. I think with most of life, not to bite off too much, but find two or three things that are critical, and give a lot of feeding to those specific relationships.
What advice would you offer the business professionals to grow their network?
Sit down with a piece of paper, yellow pad and a pencil and write down people that you know, that you want to have contact with that know you very well, they trust you. You know them and they know you and those people who have had some at least a good couple of years relationship with you. That is the starting point. Because in my mind, you cannot get a really good contact outside of them. Unless you have a warm contact with them. Does that make sense?
When you look at digital networking versus traditional networking, which one do you find more value in?
I'm a kind of a traditional networker that fits my personality better. I mean, I use the digital stuff as appropriate for follow up emails, contacts, meetings, and so forth. But I really like to get together with people to have them see me as I am. And then after that use the digital stuff candidly. I'll be real honest, I'm not willing to put quite as much work into the electronic stuff, digital stuff, as I would into the face to face.
If you could go back to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell yourself to do more of, less of, or differently with regards to your professional career?
Well, you're going find this funny but my 20-year-old self was playing electric guitar in a band. And working as an aluminum siding installer and a couple of other jobs because my 20-year-old self wanted to be a rock and roll star. What I would say to my 20 year old self is remember you have to pay the electric bill and the guitar is good, Jim, but you have to get a job that's ultimately going to build something for you and for your future. The guitar wasn’t the thing that brought me my income per se. I had to raise a family and I really don't think the 20-year-old guy could have done that. I think he got a little smarter along the way. But that's what I would say. Make sure you focus on an everyday building something toward a career that's going to have long term impact. And as I look at some of the decisions that I started to make a little beyond that, they definitely had the impact that I've had.
We've all heard of the six degrees of separation, who would be the one person that you'd love to connect with? And do you think you could do it within the six degree?
That person would be Barack Obama. But I don't know that I could get him through the six degrees of separation. I just think he's an incredibly interesting person. I mean, I'm sure that he and I would disagree on a lot of stuff. But I think sitting across the table with a cup of coffee would be very, very interesting. I don't know that I could get there with the six degrees of separation. I'd have to think about that.
Do you have any final words or advice to offer our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
I think the key thing is to two things: take the long view, I tell people this all the time, take the long view. If you don't get exactly what you want, at this moment in time, if you can get 2% of what you wanted, and build on that, take the long view and take satisfaction in that. That's a good thing. There's three things. So the second one would be to reject rejection quickly. In other words, if something doesn't go right, just throw it out. Just move on. We'll pass rejection very quickly and that even includes in networking. If something didn't work, well don't spend a lot of time and not a lot of your own personal emotional energy going, why didn't that work, etc, you probably have a pretty good visceral idea of why, of why that didn't work out, but don't spend a lot of time there. And I think the other thing is, you have this sort of long term life crafting that goes along with the long view is that what I'm trying to build here? What is it in my life that I'm trying to build? Am I trying to build peace of mind for myself? Am I trying to build healing for other people? Because everyday, you can always look at that long term set of things coming together and say, yeah, I did a little bit more of that today. And they'll get me past the times when things didn't go right.
How to connect with Dr. Jim Bohn