7 Questions with Andy Lopata

Name: Mr. Andy Lopata

Current title: Speaker, Author and Mentor on Professional Relationships

Current organization: H & A Lopata ltd

A specialist in professional relationships and networking for over 20 years, Andy Lopata was called ‘one of Europe’s leading business networking strategists’ by the Financial Times and ‘a true master of networking’ by the Independent and Forbes.com.

A very experienced international speaker and podcast host, Andy is the author of five books, has been quoted in a number of other business books and regularly quoted in the international press.

Andy is President of the Fellows Community and a two-time Board Member of the Professional Speaking Association UK & Ireland (PSA) and a Fellow of the Learning and Performance Institute as well as a Master of the Institute for Sales Management. He is also one of just 26 recipients of the PSA’s top honor, the ‘Award of Excellence’.

7 Questions with Andy Lopata

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1. How would you summarize your area of expertise in a few paragraphs?

I help people to harness the potential of the people around them. My clients thrive in their roles and in their career by building strong networks, both with people who have a key influence on their success and with those who share values, ideas and interests in common.

I work with those clients to focus on building those networks, nurturing the relationships with their key connections and then leveraging the support that lies within those networks.

2. One big idea: Can you please unpack the one big idea from your work that seems to resonate most with leaders?

You can be strategic in the way you build, nurture and leverage relationships without losing the authentic, personal touch that helps you make real connections. Yes most organizations leave this as an afterthought.

If you look at the challenges facing leaders, I challenge you to identify a single one that can't be overcome more easily with the support of other people. The intelligence and insights others can offer is, the influence they can bring to play, the introductions they can make all serve to make our lives easier.

3. How did you become a thought leader? Can you please briefly tell the story and share ONE tip for any leaders out there who'd like to become thought leaders themselves?

I fell into the world of networking by accident - my Dad had co-founded a business network and asked me to help their development part-time while I found myself some freelance work after quitting my job.

That was over 20 years ago!

The move from there was evolutionary rather than revolutionary. I recognised that our networking groups were not working optimally, so I devised training to first help members understand how to get the best out of their membership and then to look at why they were members and what value they actually wanted to take.

I was asked by members to go to events locally and give talks to promote their group. And then I was invited to co-author my first book by a fellow speaker.

My one tip would be to always seek to be one step ahead of everyone else in your field. If you share the same cliches and general advice as everyone you are not a thought leader but a thought follower. What is it that people need to know but no one is talking about? What is the different angle on your topic that's being ignored?

And once you have that, look for the next step. Because if you're any good, the crowd will soon catch up.

4. You're sitting down over a coffee with a leader and you can only give them ONE tip to help them as a leader. What would you say to them?

Surround yourself with people who can give you advice and guidance, make sure you have a diverse group of advisers who challenge you. Listen to them, challenge your own assumptions but ultimately take responsibility for the actions you take. You own your decision. Not anyone else.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your thoughts on leadership? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted you?

The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer.

I first saw Amanda Palmer's Ted Talk on the topic and then bought the book, which I loved. The topic was so closely related to the work I was doing on referral strategy at the time, and then later on vulnerability (although I didn't know that at the time) and her background as a living statue and punk singer appealed. I like to learn through stories that come from diverse backgrounds, not just lessons as applied in traditional business settings.

I look forward to the sequel - The Art of Answering - as I reached out to Amanda several times for an interview for my book 'Just Ask' but she didn't respond!

6. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?

I ask guests on my podcast to talk about the professional relationships that have most impacted their careers. Recently, a lot of guests have been talking recently about bosses who showed faith and belief in them.

When I think way back to my days in employment, the people I responded to were the ones who gave me some leeway to use my initiative, take decisions and find new ways.

The fact that so many of my guests are sharing similar stories is very striking. Show belief in your team and they will reward you more often than not.

7. What is one meaningful story from a reader or someone who's been influenced by your thought leadership so far?

I received an email from a business leader who had been on one of my sessions. He was writing from Uganda where he was building training to be delivered for UNHCR.

He told me, 'As I had come to partake in your training session just a day before flying down to Uganda, I actually incorporated the essence of your teaching about networking in my training - and taught the refugee group how to source their immediate environment and relationships for experts and potential business partners. In a single homework evening they came up with 300 connections over 4 levels of connection. It helped them structure their marketplace and will guide them in the future in accessing new opportunities.'

The feedback I get from people telling me not so much how they enjoyed my work (which is always appreciated of course) but how they implemented and benefited from it is what makes it all worthwhile. It's even more heartwarming when the word spreads and has an impact in a completely unexpected way, like this one.