BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

If you can define your goal ...

Every now and again I end up reading a book that I should be very enthusiastic about, but just can't connect with. This, unfortunately, appears to be one of those. I do want to put my following comments in context, however, because it's pretty clear that the majority of my issues with this are arising on my end, and not due to particular faults with the book (although it certainly doesn't offer up much of any assistance to folks like me). Well Connected: An Unconventional Approach to Building Genuine, Effective Business Relationships by career coach Gordon S. Curtis (a review copy of which was provided to me by the Jossey-Bass division of Wiley) is a book about refining one's networking strategies to achieve one's business goals. Now, as anyone who has been following this space (and my other blogs) will know, I've been in a long-term job search, and attend networking events 2-4 times a week, so the concept of the book caught my attention, and networking within a job search is one of the scenarios directly addressed here.

The book charts out the author's “Right Person – Right Approach” method, which is designed to put the individual in control of the information flow, finding the “critical enablers” who have the information that one needs to get to one's targets. The primary elements of this are:
  • Clearly articulate your objective – learn how to identify and measure both the micro and macros objectives so your audience always knows what you are asking and how to help.

  • Identify the critical enabler – develop an “unfair advantage by locating not only exactly what type of intelligence or relationship you need, but who best to get it from.

  • Provide the right gesture of reciprocity – position yourself in a way that your critical enablers not only agree to talk to you out of obligation, but are motivated to help you.
Rather than simply walk the reader through these steps, the author “personalizes” these with stories of several dozen people using his method in a wide range of contexts which help to illustrate what might be a “critical enabler” in various situations. There are some key factors, however, to this elusive contact: they must be knowledgeable, they must feel obligated to assist you, and motivated to actually render that aid; additionally, they must have the inclination to be helpful, exhibit availability to be able to help, and ideally have a degree of like-mindedness to help cement the connection.

All this is great for people who know what they want. I frequently use the example that were I an accountant, and was looking for work in a certain type of accounting firm, I'd have no problem defining my objectives, macro or micro ... however, I have dozens of potential jobs categories in which I'm experienced and that I could do, and (depending on situational elements) be equally happy doing ... yet I have never been able (despite years of trying) to narrow things down much beyond defining the things that I know that I wouldn't be good at or want to do! Unfortunately, this would appear to put me into a category that the author somewhat “washes his hands of”:
I'd say that not truly being able to articulate their objectives – which translates to not knowing how to describe what they want clearly enough to get help – is the single most glaring shortcoming people face.
This quote surfaces at the very end of the book … there is no “help” here, no “system” for those suffering this “shortcoming”, although he empathizes, saying “I find it painful to watch so many people beating their heads against the wall” … but if you can't get past the “objectives” phase, you are pretty much not going to be able to use his method! The perception of this was a cloud hanging over the entire book as I read it, and was not (as noted) even addressed as a condition until the last few pages. I found myself thinking “well, this might be great in a one-on-one consulting situation (in which this elusive “objective” might be wrested from dark recesses of my psyche), but how do you get to that first step?” … and there really isn't anything addressing this in the book. Again, that's me, but I think it's a significant caveat when considering Well Connected ... if you know what you want, this is a great book, but if your objectives are as vague as “I want a well-paying job doing something that I'm good at in a stimulating environment where my contributions are appreciated” (like mine approximates to), this is likely to only frustrate you!

Again, for those who have fairly straight-forward goals in “normal” contexts, the author's “Right Person – Right Approach” method purports to be able to make what would typically take months be accomplished in mere weeks; and Curtis is sufficiently confident in it that he gives his clients a guarantee of success, at least in achieving their micro objectives. But those are the people he's sitting in a room with, helping them achieve the “clarity, control, and confidence” to make this work. If you have that clarity going in, I'm sure this would be a awesome tool for achieving the goals you've already identified. However, if you're in the ”don't know what I want to be when I grow up” boat (with me), there are no tools here to get to “square one” of this method, and the book is not a substitute for a coach in terms of distilling one's objectives from that grey matrix of vague preferences.

Anyway, this is brand new, so should certainly be on the shelves of the larger brick-and-mortar book vendors, and available to order at their smaller brethren. Amazon, however, has it at a generous 34% off of cover, and copies have already found their way into the new/used channels. As noted, I was very frustrated by this book, the ”method” appears to be quite well conceived for those who know what they're shooting for, but it leaves the ”big tent”, ”wide spectrum”, ”generalist” guys like me looking like road kill ... which may be just the way the world is these days, but it's damn depressing to have one's face ground in that while trying to connect with something that's promising better results.

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Tags: book review
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