This week’s Ask Ivan question came in from a BNI member in India.
One thing that hasn’t been translated throughout the system is that people still aren’t as welcoming as they could or should be in a chapter. I’m personally an extrovert, so I work my way around it, but I see many new members find it difficult when they go to a chapter.
One reason people might not feel welcome is that the members of a chapter have such tight relationships that they seem cliquish. They stand in closed rather than open groups, making it hard to go up and talk to them.
If you are a new member and you don’t feel like people are reaching out, ask someone in the chapter to re-introduce you around.
Making visitors and new members feel welcome makes a big difference to their experience of BNI. A person who doesn’t feel welcome won’t join. Don’t leave it up to the visitor host. Introduce yourself to new members, and introduce the new member to other people in the chapter.
Priscilla invites you to visit her chapter, BNI Connect2Success in Berkeley, California. She promises you’ll feel welcome.
Brought to you by the Networking for Success Channel on YouTube.
Complete Transcript of Episode 503 –
Hello everybody and welcome back to the Official BNI Podcast, brought to you by the Networking for Success Channel on YouTube, featuring Dr. Ivan Miser and many other networking experts. I am Priscilla Rice, and I am coming to you from Live Oak Recording Studio in Berkeley, California. I am joined on the phone today by the Founder and the Chief Visionary Officer of BNI, Dr. Ivan Misner. Hello, Ivan, how are you and where are you?
BNI Connect.Fantastic visit. Thank you to- I was in both South Korea and India over the last few weeks and my thanks go to amazing places for BNI.
Todays’ topic is part of the Ask Ivan series, and I thought it would be perfect timing to share on of the questions that came in to [email protected] It came from somebody in India. Arush from Bangalore, India said, “I am a new member. I have a lot to thank BNI for.” He went on to describe how he has traveled to certain countries including Singapore and made some great connections there. He met these people through BNI. Here is his question. He says that one thing that hasn’t translated throughout the system is that people still aren’t as welcoming as they could or should be in a chapter. He says, “I am personally an extrovert, so I kind of work my way around it, but I see many other new members that find it difficult when they go to a chapter.”
Arush, I appreciate your question and I agree with it. I think it’s important to have a discussion about this topic. I am glad that you brought it up. You know, I mentioned last week that I was going to touch upon this in this week’s podcast and that is one of the reasons why I started BNI.
In 1985 in Juanary, so it was really in 84 and 84 I was going around to a lot of different networking groups. I was a member of different types of networking organizations. I went to some that were really mercenary. They were just mercenary. It was very transactional. It was all about the business. There was no relationship. It was as I mentioned in the last couple of podcasts and the last one, the five least important steps in being a great networking. They were very direct, very sales oriented, very promotional. For me, it didn’t sit well and it was certainly not what I was looking for in a networking organization. It was too transactional.
Then I went to other groups that were so totally social. I mean, there was no business being done. It was basically just a coffee clatch. I really felt there had to be something in between, something that was relational but also had procedures and rules, you know. Those rules are important, everybody. I am sure I have said this on a podcast before but hockey without rules would be boxing on ice. You have to have rules. You have to have systems. So it is that combination that comes into play.
It is very important in my mind for BNI to have both the systems and the people-oriented kind of approach. What Arush is bringing up here is that sometimes people may not feel as welcome. There are a few reasons for it. One reason might be that a chapter, and I have seen this, where chapters have such tight relationships that they almost come across as clique-ish even thought they may not be.
You enjoy these people. You look forward to seeing them, so when you see somebody the following week, you kind of get into your closed-two and have this conversation. By the way, Priscilla, we were looking for an entire podcast where I was talking about open-twos and closed-twos and the whole graphic. We couldn’t find it, so over the next few weeks, we are going to look and see if we have done a podcast on this and if not, I will do a podcast in the near future.
But open-twos and open-threes I have talked about in Networking in Success. It is about how you stand when you are talking to people. If we haven’t covered this in the past, I will make sure that it is in a future podcast. But it is one of the ways to make people feel welcome.
Another really important way, especially if you are a new member and Arush is talking about particularly new members not feeling welcome. One suggestion I have is if you are a new member and you are listening to this podcast, if you have a mentor in the chapter, go to that mentor. If not, go to the visitor host. If not the visitor host, go to a member or the President and ask someone there who you do know and you do like and they like you. You have a little bit of a relationship. Ask them to reintroduce you around.
If you feel uncomfortable meeting all these new people or you feel like they all know each other but they are not really reaching out to you, there are mechanisms, there are techniques that you can use like this one to cut through that stuff and get right to starting to build those relationships.
It might not be I that they are clique-ish. It might be that they are just friends looking forward to seeing one another. On the other hand, sometimes there are groups that are just so focused on the business. You have people walking around selling to each other. I don’t usually see that in BNI. I see more of the socializing probably than the other.
Here are few other things in general to keep in mind. Then I will open it up if you have some points, Priscilla. BNI isI believe more than a meeting. It is an experience. So when people come to a meeting, they are either going to have a good experience or a bad experience. If you have a meeting that is not following the program, you are probably not going to have a good experience, so following the program is important.
But if you have people who are not making one another feel welcome, if you are an existing member, it is com important for you to make visitors feel welcome and new new members feel welcome. It always impresses me and surprises me how some small thing can make a difference in somebody and their perception of the organization.
I will give you an example. I have a really good friend named Sherry. She and I are in an organization together called TLC, the Transformational Leadership Council, which was put together by Jack Canfield. I have mentioned TLC a few times, Priscilla, in these podcasts, but I can’t tell you how many times. I see Sherry about twice a year. I bet at least once if not both of those times I see her, she says to me, “Gosh, I remember the first time I came to TLC. I was like a fish out of water. Nobody would talk to me. Nobody was connecting with me.” She said, “If you had not come up and had a conversation with me, I am not sure I would have joined. You reached to me and you just spoke to me. You kind of gave me the lay of the land and told me a little bit about the organization. You just made me feel welcome. Now I am passionate about this organization. Had you not doe that, I a probably would have quit before I- I wouldn’t have gone to the next meeting.”
Little, simple things like just making someone feel welcome can make a big difference in their experience of BNI. If you are inBNI, take it upon yourself to make visitors feel welcome. Don’t rely exclusively on the visitor host. Take it upon yourself to make new members feel welcome because there is no one responsible for that. So you can do that.
Other things about having great experiences in chapters: focus on helping one another. Remember culture eats strategy for breakfast. The culture of the group has to be one that is a positive experience. All of these things, I think, are what it takes, Arush, to make new members feel welcome, to make visitors feel welcome, and to, I think, raise your status within the group. I mean that in a positive sense. If people look at you as a contributor and a mentor, and a guide in your chapter, they will respect you more. And with that respect comes referrals.
So it is to me a win-win-win. Look, a lot of the things we talk about are simple and easy. This is simple. It really is. Just remember this: help people have a great experience. If you do that, it will be a fantastic chapter. It is simple but it is not easy. It is not easy because you get caught up with your life, caught up with the stuff of the meeting, but if you remember that as you walk in the door, you could have an awesome chapter.
Anything you would add to that, Priscilla?
Yeah, I just want to say that my chapter, which is BNI Connect to Success in Berkeley is one of the friendliest, warmest most open chapters. We always gets that feedback when people visit us. I think it is because we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We are just enjoying each other and wanting to do our best work for each other. It really shows.
Yeah. I think that is a great way of putting it. To me, it is socializing with a purpose. Socializing with a structured environment. You have to make people feel welcome. If they don’t want to come back, really, I can’t imagine a BNI chapter where people go to there they say, “I don’t want to go back. They are not friendly.”
By the way, that is the reason we created visitor hosts. They weren’t part of the original system. Visitor hosts were created because people would go to chapters and say, “Nobody reached out to me. No one connected with me.”
I thought oh my goodness! We can’t have that. So visitor hosts were created because of that problem. So it is great to hear that your chapter has that reputation. I wish every chapter had it.
Please come visit us.
Alright just connect directly with Priscilla. Priscilla, I am not sure we have ever given out your website. Let’s take that opportunity and do it right now. What is your website that we can go visit, Priscilla?
It is www.priscillaatliveoakstudio.com
So if you are in the Northern California area, particularly Berkeley, reach out to Priscilla and go visit her chapter.
Absolutely. We would love to have you.
Alright, Priscilla. Thanks a lot.
Okay. You’re welcome. I think that is it for this week. Thank you Dr. Misner for that great podcast. I would just like to remind the listeners that this podcast has been brought to you by the Networking for Success Channel on YouTube. If you happen to have a question for Dr. Misner, you can send it to [email protected] Thanks for listening. This is Priscilla Rice and we look forward to having you join us next week for another exciting episode of the Official BNI Podcast.