Tough Lessons

Last week, I received this from a friend:

I love when I can recommend a network connection that works out really well for both people.  Unfortunately, they don’t always go well.  I recently met with a former co-worker who is job seeking and needs help expanding her network. I made an introduction to a more experienced networker who I thought would be a great connection.  They set a time and place to meet but unfortunately there was a miscommunication and they were never able to get together.  When I asked my experienced networking friend if they had a chance to meet, she was clearly exasperated about the situation and told me frankly that it had turned out to be too much work just to get it scheduled and she had to move on.  My dilemma is, do I tell my former co-worker?  Since she doesn’t network much, she may have no idea that she needs to make things as easy as possible when she is seeking someone’s time for networking.  My inclination is to just let her learn from her own mistakes, but I also don’t want her to think I connected her to someone flaky!

Well, this can be a challenge.  Since you were not a direct party to their interaction, it’s hard to know who was really at fault for the miscommunication.  And, honestly, I think it is less an issue of your former co-worker thinking your connection is flaky and more about professional courtesy and follow-up.  Using your two alternatives for whether or not to share your comments, here is my guidance to help you clarify your own thinking:

  1. Let it be. In truth, you made the introduction and these two individuals, however experienced or inexperienced each one is at networking, are professional adults who can certainly take responsibility for working out a time to meet… or not.  It is, in effect, out of your hands.  Your work here is done.
  2. Share the feedback. Since your former co-worker came to you for networking advice, I assume she has the utmost respect for you and is open to constructive feedback.  I believe it would actually be helpful for you to reach out and share the comments that you received from the more experienced networker.  You can start by saying that you recognize there is probably blame enough to go around, but you wanted to let her know that the more experienced individual is probably not going to be a person she can go back to for a meeting given the unfortunate miscommunication that took place.  Together, you can brainstorm on ways the interaction could have gone better and think about others to whom she could consider reaching out.  This would be my preferred approach.  And, lesson learned.

Have you ever received or had to deliver difficult feedback – especially in a professional setting?  How did you take or share it?  What advice do you have for others?  Your suggestions would be enormously helpful.  Please share at CoffeeLunchCoffee.com.

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