A couple of weeks ago, I attended the Networking on the Green, held at the Principal Charity Classic. The event was hosted by a couple of friends of mine and provided an opportunity to blend young professionals with CEOs and upper management of some of Iowa’s best companies.
Headlined by J. Barry Griswell, regarding his new book, the folks in the room were given an opportunity that many never have, to ask the former CEO of a Fortune 200 company what it takes to be successful. As Griswell spoke about “owning the problem,” I thought about how many in the room had grew up not having to do just that.
Yet his message was embracing and lacked the instructional tone that I’ve heard from others of older generations who tackle the subject.
It seemed as if the theme of Griswell’s message was the “key to success is being okay with failure," a particularly useful message for a generation that is pretty bold by most standards. However, looking across the room, I’m not sure if the attendees soaked that in or not. This observation and Griswell’s advise pushed me to ask back the question “what’s the difference between going against the grain/conventional wisdom and just being plain crazy?” Specifically, I was thinking about the person who is overaggressive with passion, but no sense of reality to navigate accordingly. Griswell's answer focused on the importance to still play by the rules, another important key. However, I wish I had an opportunity to ask a follow up question. I probably could have given many of the young pups in the room seemed intimidated by his 6 foot 7 inch frame, and failed to ask any questions of him or the other CEOs in the more intimate speed networking sessions.
The scheduled speed networking was an exercise that tends to reward keen listeners and punish avid talkers. However, it was neither who benefited, as most listeners never got to hear what they wanted nor did most talkers get to say what they wanted. Alas, that is the beauty of a speed-networking event; the ones that are skilled enough to listen and appropriately interject a question or comment in the right timing are the ones that benefit the most. The point of the event was to be a catalyst that leads to further discussions independently, not the nucleus.
I think most of those people in particular were aware that this was not the moment to sell their product or service, but to learn and build relationships, so it was rewarding to see both CEOs and YPs stay well after the event to “finish” conversations and follow up on thoughts. As a matter of fact, I think the experience of sharing with peers afterward - sharing our thoughts on networking - was just as rewarding as listening to the mentoring thoughts of Des Moines business leaders. What was not lost on me were the CEOs and serial YP networkers that weren’t there, and I wonder if an encore event is planned for the future, how will the uniqueness be preserved?