NetworkMe Podcast – Episode 4 – In Conversation with Dawn Leane


Reading Time: 18 minutes


NetworkMe Podcast – Episode 4 – In Conversation with Dawn Leane

Click here to listen to this episode. What follows is the transcript.

Jean Evans  0:04

Hello, everybody. So I am delighted to welcome Dawn Leane from Leane Empower. So we’re going to find out a little bit about Dawn’s story. But in particular, what I thought would be really interesting to discuss was the impact of networking on careers and why it matters, what it will do for your career, and how you can maximise it. So I know Dawn is an expert networker, and she’s going to share lots of tips. And in particular, the work relates to women, because this is what Dawn does, she empowers women to lead and lead their best lives, their best selves, their best careers. So Dawn, you’re very welcome to the podcast. And thank you for coming on.

Dawn Leane  0:49

Thanks, Jean, nice to be here and delighted to have the opportunity.

Jean Evans  0:52

Fantastic. Okay, let’s get to it. So tell me a little bit about your career and your journey.

Dawn Leane  1:00

Okay, so I guess going back over the years of my career has been across a couple of disparate areas. So it’s not hasn’t been a straight trajectory. But I guess the one common thing, the one common thread through everything that I’ve done, has been that I’ve worked with people. So I’ve worked in recruitment, I have worked in training and development and education, and I’ve worked in HR. So a lot of roles over the years, linking to people to helping people develop, to empowering people and helping people progress their careers in one way or another,

My last corporate role before I set up my own business was an HR director with Chartered Accountants Ireland And I describe it as my title was director of people and resources, which was HR director and all the other things that nobody else wanted to do or didn’t have a logical place anywhere else in the organisation. So it was a great role, but it’s a very wide ranging role.

Jean Evans  2:10

Fantastic. And when you were in that role, describe a little bit about the networking you did or didn’t do. Or how aware were you of networking.

Dawn Leane  2:21

Yeah, I mean, I came to networking, I suppose, very late in my career. So networking was something that I always had, trying to find the right word here, I probably always had a type of distaste for it. That doesn’t sound like an art term. And I think that was primarily for two reasons. So first of all, I’m an introvert. And, you know, for me, the idea of walking into a room full of people that I don’t know, I didn’t know, would have made my blood run cold. And it still would. And I think the difference now is that they can do it. But I still don’t feel necessarily, I still feel that anxiety going into that situation. And the other reason, and I think this happens a lot with women was that I really felt that my workouts speak for itself. So that if you turn up and you do a really good job, and you get really good output, you know, you wait for the tap on the shoulder, or you wait to be noticed, and you wait for the opportunity to be presented to you. And of course, that’s not the way it works. And it took me quite a long time, I guess, to realise that. So I had reached a stage where I had my career sort of plateaued. I was working as part of the senior management team, but I didn’t have the same title. as other people on the team. I didn’t have the director title, but I had the same degree of responsibility and autonomy. I just wasn’t at that level. And so when I’d have performance conversations with my CEO, you know, I’d raise this regularly. And I say to him, you know, I’m ready, and you know, what’s happening or why not? And he will tell me each time, you know, you need to be networking more. And I will just completely dismiss that. Because in my head networking was really for people. Yeah, it sounds crazy when I say it, now, but it almost sounds like it was almost what people who were cheating, not, I don’t mean, cheating in the literal term. But it’s like they hadn’t put the hours and they didn’t have the goods. And they were kind of networking as an alternative to, you know, to actually delivering. And that was a kind of a strategy that other people adopted. So they’re very social creatures, and they would have been a lot of events and engagements. And, you know, that was part of their career development path. And I just didn’t see that for me at all. And so I kind of had that mental block that I had to get over. And, you know, he would say to me each time you need to be networking more. And I would say to Sure, that’s great for you, you know, you’re the CEO, like you’ve got everybody else doing stuff and you’ve time to go to conferences, you’ve time to go to dinners, you know, I haven’t got time for that. And you know, I don’t kind of think I ought to do it. And so that was the way things were for a while.

Jean Evans  4:51

And what was the turning points then what

Dawn Leane  4:54

So the turning point, I guess, I would have had regularly able to present to our board, as the other directors would have. There would have been, you know, lunch before dinner maybe the night before, there would have been lots of opportunities to engage with the board members. And my colleagues and would have have been, as I would have been invited to actually sit through the entire board meeting, which was critical before or five hours of duration. And my approach was, hadn’t time and I wasn’t interested in going to any of the kinds of activities around the board meeting. And during the board meeting, I would literally wait for for the chief executive’s pa to follow me and say you’re up now. And I’d I’d rock up, I’d make my presentation, I’d answer any questions, I’d take the feedback, and then I go back to work. And it just happens on one occasion that I was coming out of the meeting, I happened to be the last agenda item. And I was speaking to one of my colleagues and he said he coming down to lunch with the board. And I launched into ‘I’m far too busy’. And you know, I’ve got other things to do and, and he stopped and I can still like visualise this, we were on the stairs. And he just caught me dead. And he said, you know, something done. He said you meet these people every couple of months. And you’re asking them to trust that the information you’re giving them as correct, that your judgement is spot on. You’re asking them to support you in different things, and they don’t know you, and they don’t know anything about you. And in business trust is not easily won. But you do need trust it’s fundamental to everything. And that sounds very, you know, very obvious. But I had never really thought about networking in those terms before. To me, it had always been, I’d always envisaged handing out business cards, you know, it was almost like, you know, a crave and sort of activity, you know, desperately trying to meet people and hook up with people. And I’d actually never thought about it in such simplistic terms that’s about letting people get to know you.

Jean Evans  6:51

Most certainly is and that is really salient advice, because we know we say knowledge is power. And, you know, it’s, it’s who you know, but really, it’s who knows you and who knows what you know, and it is and we talked about in networking terms is that know like and trust factor, people have to know you, they have to get to like you. They cannot trust you without getting to know and like you. And it’s that journey that you go on with people that they learn about you about your values and your beliefs, what you stand for, what you’re an expert in, what you’re interested in, where you’d like to go, your ambitions, your aspirations, you’ve got to be able to talk about these to develop your career. So did you go to the lunch?

Dawn Leane  7:38

I did, I did. And I’d love to say everything was super, but I went to the lunch. And I literally, it was just put one foot in front of the other. And so I’m not going to overthink this. I’m just going to do it. I’m just going to walk in. But I had that, you know, it’s funny, you talk about likability, that was probably my concern. You know, I didn’t mind letting people get to know me. I didn’t mind letting them understand what I stood for what my values were, but there was always that kind of whether you call it the inner critic, or whatever that is, that’s kind of Oh my god, what if they don’t like me? You know? What if I sit down beside someone, or they don’t speak to me? What if they’re having a conversation that’s like, way above my head, and i’m not i’m not i can’t weigh into the conversation. And I sort of had all of this narrative running. But I went, and I had my lunch. And I sat down. And you know what it was most benign conversation, you know, people talk about their kids or their dogs or their holidays. And it was that connecting very much on a personal level. So I’d love to say it got easier for me, it didn’t. I didn’t really and I still feel a lot of anxiety. But I know the value of it. Because I made myself do it. I pushed myself into those situations. And within a few months, I got everything that I asked for I changed nothing else. Absolutely nothing else in terms of how I worked.

Jean Evans  8:51

So that’s getting known, and getting liked and trusted led to you getting your title, which was warranted for what you were doing, and what you’re producing for the company. So what was next and what has networking done for you since then, and so two pronged question one is that working done for you since then, and give some tips and advice around how people can deal with because I think a lot of women have it, but also a lot of men habits, and the inner critic is a human affliction. So how do people deal with their inner critic?

Dawn Leane  9:33

Yeah, and I guess – there’s a lot in that. So I suppose the next thing that happened for me, which was you know, kind of if you believe in karma, I came across a book by Keith Ferrazzi. And it was, you know, Never Eat Alone. And I don’t know if you’ve read it, but it’s different. It’s an older book, but it’s a fantastic book, like he’s very full on and they wouldn’t necessarily take his exact approach. But he talks a lot about having to reframe, you know, he talks about having to get to to understand that networking is not like, it’s not a dirty word, it’s not a, you know, it’s not something that’s unpleasant. And, you know, it’s it’s he talks very much about that letting people get to know you, you know, making those connections, but authentic connection, so not just, you know, connecting with people for the sake of because of their position or because they might be able to help you it’s very much to be here when under personal connection. And so he will talk about things like, you know, maybe who in your gym, do you, you know, to speak with? Do you know, what these people do? Or, you know, if your kids are playing soccer, do you know what the other parents do? You know, if you can, if you can anchor it in something that’s real, and genuine, it’s going to be a much better relationship. So, I mean, that was kind of the next thing. And, and my refrain, because I still, I guess that the idea of networking still is a trigger for me in some ways, I still struggle a little bit with with the word networking. And so I reframe it. And I think of it as building my coalition. So, you know, I’m building out a coalition of people who can help me who can support me, and who I can do the same for. So you know, that kind of Rule of Reciprocity is very important to me. So it’s not just about what you take from your network. And it’s for me, I always start with what can I give? How can I help? Who can I help? What can I do, and then it makes it from a values perspective, it makes it much easier for me to ask for what I need when I need it. Because I feel then I you know, I’m doing a lot for other people and okay to ask myself, rather than some people will just ask all the time, and not necessarily give something back. And those kinds of relationships don’t last very long. So

Jean Evans  11:36

I think in networking, there are very clear bodies of people who take and people who give but the people who learn to give. And the way I would describe it is, how can I help you is not just a question that you can verbalise and say, How can I help you? It’s actually a mindset that if you are open and interested in learning about other people, and you frame it as How can I, what can I learn about this person that I know how they  tick? What motivates them what their aspiration, what success is gonna look like for them? I, I do what I call, like, I create a digital Rolodex, some people and I store this information, but I do it from a mindset of like, how can I help them? And sometimes they don’t have that answer today, what may become apparent tomorrow, but I never want to know how to, unless I get to know like, and trust them that I want to help them because we’re not going to want to help everybody either. So it’s building up, as you said, that coalition, that strategic alliance, that you are working strategically to build your network of people who can be there to support you and help you on your journey. So I’m going to track it forward to a few years ago, you decided to go out on your own, and you set up a company called Leane Leaders. So take it from there, and where has your career and your business gone from there, and role has networking played in that?

Dawn Leane  13:02

Sure. So networking has been absolutely fundamental to driving the business. So we set up Leane Leaders as it’s a leadership development, I suppose you’d call it a boutique organisation. So I work with lots of individuals and I work with lots of different organisations to help them develop leadership programmes or to help them develop their leadership style. So that was where the business started from. And definitely, networking was absolutely key to that success. So you know, I would have described myself even, even back in corporate life, for a lot of the time as an accidental networker. So if I happens to be in a situation where somebody was, and we connected, I’d follow up. And I’d you know, I’d build on that connection. But it was really when I setting up my own business that I became, and you used the word strategy, you know, he became very strategic and very intentional about my network. So for me, in terms of my business, you know, and you know, you hear me say this all the time. It’s not like it’s not tins of beans, it’s generic. I mean, it’s not a product, I am the product. So when you’re in the area where you’re, you know, delivering training, or consultancy, or coaching or whatever you’re doing, people have to buy you and in order to buy you, they have to know you, and it’s back to that trust and that likeability factor as well. So, most of my, in fact, I’d say all of my business comes from introductions, recommendations, referrals and repeat business. So you know, Google ads are not for me in terms of why do, it’s all about that personal recommendation and personal introduction. So networking is key to that. So in terms of how it’s helped the business grow, I’ve joined professional networks. So if you’re like me, if you’re an introvert, professional networks are fantastic. There’s lots of different ones out there and I know you talk about them and review them. So it’s about finding the one or the ones that are the right fit for you. Each of them gives something different but It makes it much easier if you’ve got someone there to facilitate that. And you know if there’s a structure to it, so I find that definitely easier. And I find it a great way of making those connections. The other thing that I do and and particularly over the last year when things have been so uncertain, is that I go through an exercise. And so when I deliver on this, and in terms of the work I do with women I always taken to this exercise. Once or twice a year, I will get myself three or four hours to myself, and I literally just do a brain dump. So for me, it’s a mind map, whatever works for somebody, I’ll put down everybody in my network on it. Not everybody on my LinkedIn, but people that I’m engaged with in terms of my network. And then I categorise them. And I have different categories. So I look at who are the people who got lots of information? Or who are the people who are giving me a huge amount of personal support? Or who are the people who are really well connected? Who are the senior people who are the decision makers, who are the people who introduce me, and I categorise people into those groups. And then I sit down and I say, Okay, so what what is it that I want to achieve in the next six months, and out of that list, here are the 20 people who are going to help me achieve that. And so I’ll draw like a circle, I’ll have those 20 names in the centre. And that’s where I’m going to invest 80% of my time in order to achieve what I want to do next. And then outside of that, it’s like, well, who are the next 50 people who are generally very good, and I work well with and I need to, you know, keep those relationships keep that simmering along. So I need to keep them engaged, I need to keep the connection with them. And then there’s everybody else. And that’s the way I do it. And I find that really works for me, because it focuses me on who are the people that I really who can who are my network can really help because sometimes you’re sitting there and you’re stumped. And you might be surprised. It’s not necessarily the person who gives you the business, but it’s often the person who recommend you to other people for the business. So it’s a good way of looking at it. And that has really helped me grow the business. And then

Jean Evans  16:58

That is some amazing advice. So if we were to bring this back then, I mean, like, there’s so many nuggets there to take from on so much to learn from because it is about being strategic. And as you said, networking is not a bad thing. You can reframe whatever we want, whether it’s building a coalition, building your tribe, building your community, but, you have to be aware of what success looks like for you, and you have to map out and track back. How is this going to happen? Who do I need to know and build relationships with to reach my goals? So if we bring it back down to someone in a career, and you focus on a lot of leadership and training for particularly females in leadership positions, or going into management positions? What advice do you give them about networking, and how valuable is networking going to be for their careers?

Dawn Leane  17:55

Yeah, so again, networking is absolutely crucial to them. And I find it happens generally with with people who are introverted, tend to be a little bit less inclined to be strategic, or to be intentional about networking. But I do find, particularly when I work with women through Leane Empower, you know, there’s so much for women and particularly in corporate life, there’s so much other stuff going on that they have to navigate that networking just doesn’t even come onto the radar for so many of them. But it’s like, there’s no point in being really, really great at what you do, if nobody knows about it. And so it is very much about I draw their attention to in all the training I do, I spend time talking about the concept of networking, and really, really why it’s so important. And I encourage them to do that exercise and to have a goal for themselves. So is their goal to be you know, to be promoted to the next level is their goal to be approved for secondment or project or for training and development opportunities. And they need to ask themselves, so who are the people both inside the organisation and outside my organisation that can help. So you know, really to target those, and I find if you’re clear on that, it’s almost like the opportunities present themselves in some ways, because you’re more attuned to it. And you know, you know, that person. The other thing is to have a really strong introduction, and particularly, so in a corporate environment. So I would always say to people be very clear about how you want to be represented when you’re not in the room. So, you know, it’s a little bit of a kind of professional brand. So if you’re discussing me with someone else, Jean I can make sure that you’re fully prepped. And you know exactly how I want to be introduced and what I want to be known for, or what I want to be, you know, perceived as an expert at. So, you know, you can you can leave that up to chance and you can find you’re walking across the foyer one day and the CEO was talking to somebody who has great potential to impact your career. And they can go well, here’s Dawn, she is our HR director, or they can say here’s Dawn, this is what she does. This is the impact that she makes this is what she is interested in, so you really have to work on how you want to be introduced. And then you have to use that every opportunity you get to introduce yourself. And then it makes it really easy for people when they are introducing you, or when speaking about you, and you’re not in the room.

Jean Evans  20:14

100%. And it’s back down to who knows you, and who knows what you know, what impacted that happening, what influence can that have, but if we don’t get better, as an I’m an  introvert as well, so I completely get it. But if we, as a cohort, and a group of people don’t get better at putting our hands up and saying, what we can contribute, and actually verbalising and letting other people know, and actually realising that people aren’t mind reader’s, but not telepathic, that we actually need to stump up and get comfortable with describing ourselves what we do. And this isn’t about boasting or anything like that. It’s about, as you say, having a very strong introduction, that what are people saying about you, when you’re out of the room? So that that’s, that’s fabulous advice. So just to if we’re going to finish up now? And can you get three pieces of advice to women in particular, in terms of developing their career? What three piece of advice would you want them to take away about and learn and consider about networking? How would you frame it?

Dawn Leane  21:23

Sure. Well, I guess it’s about finding that the frame that works for you. So it’s, you know, if you don’t want to think of it as networking, find something that works for you, I think to be very much aware of the introvert x extrovert style. So when I when I – back when I deliver training in real life, when I would deliver a masterclass on you know, networking for women who hate networking. One of the things I would do is I would divide them into two groups, I’d say, you know, okay, extroverts in this corner, introverts in the other corner, and I’d give them an exercise, let’s say, you know, just imagine you’re going into, you’re going into an event, and it’s one where you know, you’ve got to really have to do lead with your network, you know, how do you approach it. And every single time the introverts come back with it, think about it, I strategize and find out who was going. So a lot of prep work with no action and no activity. And the extroverts will say, Well, I’d introduce myself or I, you know, I hand a give a handshake, or I’d make sure I have my business cards, it’s really action oriented. And I guess the last note for both sides is to realise, if I’m an introvert and someone comes up and like just thrust their hand up me and is full on, like, I’m backing away, you know, and likewise, if you’re an extrovert, and you’re talking to somebody who’s introverted, and you’re not necessarily getting the energy that you might expect, and the response, you can dismiss it. So I think one of the key things is recognising different styles and different energies and people and making the space for that, because your network really ought to consist of people who are so different to you. And that’s one of the things we do, it’s easy to network with people like ourselves and build networks of people who are like us, the value in the network is the diversity and the difference. So you know, in my network of people who are retired, retired a long time I people who are in tech, because that’s a gap that I just don’t have. I have people who were extrovert because, you know, although I find it a challenge, I’m learning from them all the time. So it’s about looking for what are the gaps there? What are the opportunities that I really need to capitalise in on in terms of, of the network, when I when I meet people, the other thing I’d say, is to follow up, you know, follow up straightaway. So if you if you’re introduced to somebody, or you meet somebody, don’t leave, and I think I’ll do that tomorrow, or I do it next week, because it’s gone cold, and the chances are, you’re just not going to deal with them. And then you know, what happens six months or nine months later, you see an opportunity, and you go out that that person actually is someone that will be really good to speak with in respect of that. And then you’ve left too late, it’s very hard to approach and go, I haven’t bothered getting in touch with the last nine months, but now there’s something I want from you. So you know, even if it’s a two line, email and looks lovely to meet you, let’s connect on LinkedIn or let’s keep in touch. That’s all just take five minutes of your time. But don’t waste the good networking introductions and opportunities by by lack of follow up.

Jean Evans  24:16

Amazing that is all super simple implementable advice. Absolutely. And for all of the introverts listening, there’s a couple of messages there. One, you’re excellent at networking, you just need to learn how to do it and learn more about yourself. extroverts likewise, but as Dawn said, you know, you can strategize to your heart’s content, but no action means no progress. So how do we bridge that gap? And take a little leaf out of the extroverts book and make sure we have that action and that’s where we can learn to network we can learn to be strategic, and we can build up our networks and our alliances to help us achieve our goals. So Dawn it’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you this morning. So can you tell people how to get in contact with you if they’re interested in training, leadership programmes for women in business for women in leadership roles, managers going into manage new teams? How can they get in contact with you?

Dawn Leane  25:14

Absolutely so, is the website probably the best place to find me. Or I lot of I have a lot of use LinkedIn. So if you want to check me out, it’s just Dawn Leane on LinkedIn. You’ll find me there.

Jean Evans  25:31

That’s perfect. And that’s Leane, l e, a n e, so Dawn Leane. So check them out and get connected. Thank you so much, Dawn, for coming on board today.

Click here to listen to Dawn Leane

For more episodes, click below.

  1. Episode 1 – Introduction To Your Host
  2. Episode 2 – The Networking Hub with Siobhan Fitzpatrick
  3. Episode 3 – Reframe Your Mindset


Jean Evans
Jean Evans
Jean Evans is an expert on all things networking. It is her passion, and one that is borne out of experience and plenty of trial and error, mistakes and mishaps. Through her blogs and social media channels, Jean shares tips, tricks, hacks and ideas on how to become an effective networker in business.

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