Neen James is the author of Folding Time™ and Attention Pays™. In 2017, she was named one of the top 30 Leadership Speakers by Global Guru because of her work with companies like Viacom, Comcast, and Abbot Pharmaceutical, among others.
Known for her boundless energy, Neen is quick-witted and always offers powerful strategies for paying attention to what matters so you can get more done and create more significant moments at work and home.
Neen is the kind of speaker that engages, educates, entertains, and delivers the real-world solutions that apply in your organization, your home, and your community. She also provides one-on-one consulting in a variety of leadership topics and challenges executives to reconsider the level of attention given to specific goals and priorities.
I first met Neen several years ago at a Network Now event. Neen was a presenter for a select group of women who were gathered to learn about connecting with the media for your business and how to get the attention you and your business deserve.
She recalls when first relocating to Doylestown, PA from Sydney, Australia, knowing only her Realtor, her very first Google searched was “women’s groups” plus “Doylestown”. She shared that she was very deliberate in connecting with organizations within our area.
Always believing that women support other women, she lovingly recalls her first experience networking in Doylestown and showing up a half-hour early to a meeting only 4 miles from home. Neen explains with deep appreciation that maybe the woman standing in front of you can’t help you, but the two hundred women she knows is where she has found people to be supportive.
The one question she asked, “Who are the movers and shakers I need to meet?” She has discovered, that by asking that question, certain names kept popping up and those were the people she’d purpose to connect with. Her follow up question was for an introduction to that person.
When you genuinely share your reasons for networking and what you are looking for in the way of connections and then by listening to them and paying attention to who they think you should meet, people are willing to help you. They want to make introductions for you when you give them your attention.
Ask for what you want, then share how you can add value. Neen would purpose to introduce the people she was meeting to others she was connecting with along the way. Even only knowing six people, Neen was constantly connecting people. She says, it’s about looking to see who can you give to first. If you have a valuable connection, if you have met someone, can you connect then be a resource for someone else?
She talks about a group of people she collated as a list of resources for people she would meet. Neen believes that we need to be connectors and we need to be in the moment listening for opportunities to connect people.
Read between the lines if you really want to be a master connector. It’s not just hearing the obvious request, it’s being able to ask questions.
- What else do you need?
- How else can I help you?
- What else is on your agenda?
- What kind of projects are you working on?
- What other ways can I support you?
One of Neen’s favorite questions to ask connections is: What am I listening for in conversations that means you’d be a good person to connect them with?
At business networking events people often share their titles, Neen thinks this is a bit boring. By asking what she should listen for, she has come to realize that people will share language and phrasing that gives insight into what makes a great recommendation or referral for them.
In Attention Pays™, Neen shares that it’s intention that makes attention valuable. She says, “If you’re being intentional in your listening, if you’re choosing very consciously to act deliberately in that moment, that’s how you pay intentional attention.”
Neen’s body of work is all about attention and productivity. As a Keynote Speaker she shares that she believes that we need “systems of attention”. One thing she talks about, systemized thoughtfulness, is covered in her new book Systems Thinking™.
Neen shares and example of systemized thoughtfulness by explaining how to set up an advocate program focusing on the top twenty advocates you’d like to stay in touch with. Neen explains how to set up a spreadsheet to connect with these twenty people each and every month.
I love her “social media drive-by” idea! In fifteen-minutes she checks-in and does a few quick tasks to stay connected and relevant. She looks up birthdays on Facebook, records a video message, and sends it off. She uses notifications to help stay in touch. Daily love notes and thank you cards also help her stay connected with people.
Neen shares how different groups are beneficial to her on a professional and a personal level. Listen to how she explains the difference between advocates and her “She-noters”, a group of female keynote speakers that offer support, advice, and referrals. She suggests creating your own group of people who are likeminded, share the same values, and are in a similar price point to you and that you can actively recommend.
Neen has a system she follows during her keynote performances that helps her identify and recommend other speakers at the same time offering additional value to the event planners that she is working with. She says, “we need to create and invest in relationships.”
Steve Martin said, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” The thinking behind that is that, if you are so consciously connecting people, that you stay in contact with them, you stay top of mind for them. When an opportunity presents itself, you’ll be the first person they think about. You need systems to stay top of mind, you need systems to stay connected.
We can get overwhelmed trying to stay in touch with everyone. We have to be very careful to choose the platforms and environments that energize us the most. Neen loves to play on Instagram and that is where she will spend more time. She also has a system around attending events and catching up with people at those events ahead of time rather than trying to stay in touch all the time.
People need to let go of the need to stay connected to everybody. Neen is a true believer in setting up systems and technology to help you protect your time and she shares many of her systems in our time together. She believes you have to intentionally protect your attention so you can share it more generously with the people that are important to you.
Connect with Neen