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Thursday, January 26, 2012

How to be More Engaging: A Personal Reflection Paper

By Aaron S. Robertson

The following is a paper submitted by the author on January 18, 2012 for a class assignment. The author is currently pursuing a master of science in management degree from Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee. Students were instructed to write a personal reflection paper on an attribute that they would like to obtain or improve.

Since our last class session, I have dedicated my time to attempting to be more engaging, particularly as it concerns my business and professional work.

I kicked off this little experiment by sitting down last Thursday evening for about 30 minutes and having a frank, honest discussion with myself in my mind. I had a pen and notepad readily available for any particularly noteworthy thoughts and findings that might have come up. I started asking myself questions like, “Are there any potential opportunities that I’ve been missing out on due to lack of reaching out to my contacts, or failure to adequately follow up with them?” and, “What do I need to work on to improve this situation?”

What I realized after this dialogue with myself was that, when it comes to functions that are more social and casual in nature, such as parties, get-togethers, etc., I am very engaging. I am truly a “social butterfly” in the sense that I love to reach out right away and introduce myself to unfamiliar faces at events like these. I enjoy humor, and often use that as an effective ice-breaker to get to know people. I’ve been described as a “man’s man” by some of my closest friends for my loyalty to them and my willingness to do whatever I can to lend a hand to someone in a time of need. I belong to a number of business networking groups, and feel extremely comfortable engaging with fellow members during our meetings. For the most part, I am very comfortable giving presentations and speeches to groups, and do so on a fairly regular basis.

Despite all of this, however, I found myself wondering if I was somehow leaving opportunity and perhaps even money on the table when it comes to what I do professionally. Upon further analysis, I discovered that much of the problem can actually be tied to issues with time management.

I determined that, if I really wanted to, I could probably fit in two or three one-on-one appointments per week, meeting with fellow business professionals to learn more about what they do and perhaps identify ways in which we may be able to help each other through the sharing of ideas and referrals, or even doing business directly. I belong to all of these different business groups and have a seemingly endless supply of others’ business cards, I figured. So why am I not doing more with these resources and this information, I wondered. And when I thought more deeply about it, I realized that I’ve been spending so much time making excuses. “I’m too busy,” “I already have enough on my plate this week,” “I’d be cutting the time too close to another commitment,” are all excuses I realized I had been making for quite some time. In reality, though, I could make the time for two or three appointments per week, perhaps even more. I realized that I spend a lot of time doing things that are not particularly productive, such as spending countless hours Web surfing with no particular destination or reason in mind. And I honestly don’t understand why I’ve been coming up with so many reasons not to be bothered with activity that could prove to be so beneficial on a number of levels. It’s essentially procrastination, I decided. It’s not being afraid to interact with others, as I certainly have no problem doing so.

To take the first step toward being more engaging when it comes to my business and professional work, I was on the phone the next morning, Friday, with a number of contacts from some of the business groups I belong to. My mission was to book one-on-one appointments outside of our normal meeting routine. I now have seven such appointments lined up over the course of the next two weeks. I am truly happy and excited about this, as it allows me the opportunity to get to better know these people on a more personal basis, as well as gain deeper insight into what they have to offer in terms of their services, products, and individual skill sets. It also serves as marketing that is nearly free in terms of costs, allowing me to keep my name and information in front of others for the nominal price of a cup of coffee or breakfast.

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