Some people are naturals at networking. Others struggle to leave their comfort zone to make new connections. But all of us need other people to succeed.

Whether you’re a meet and greet pro or need to reignite your networking flame, we’ve got you covered in this new podcast from Think Tank of Three!

Our guest in this episode has made a career out of making connections, and not just for herself. Kristin Beltzer is the Director of Appointments for the Governor’s Office in Michigan. So who better to talk about building your network — than someone who continues to put her own advice into action.

Listen to this podcast for some real tactics you can use, starting today!

Podcast Transcription:

Julie Holton: [00:00:00] Often have we heard, “it’s not what you know but who you know.” Cliche, but powerfully true. Some are naturals at networking. Others have a hard time coming out of their shell. But all of us need people to succeed. If you need to reignite your networking flame, then you’ve landed in the right place. Think Tank of Three, today with a special guest.

[00:00:22] [PODCAST INTRO]

Julie Holton: [00:00:52] Welcome to Think Tank of Three. I’m Julie Holton here with Audrea Fink, and today, our guest Kristen Beltzer. She is the director of appointments from Michigan’s governor. Hi ladies and thank you for joining us, Kristen!

Kristen Beltzer: [00:01:04] Thanks so much for having me guys. I’m a big fan of Think Tank of Three. I love your podcast. I listen in the gym; in my car. You guys are insightful and you’re funny, and that is the most important thing to me, because I get some good laughs when I get an opportunity to listen.

Julie Holton: [00:01:19] And we are a huge fan of you, Kristen. So for those who are tuning in today you could say that Kristen Beltzer has made a career out of making connections, but not just for herself. When Kristen and I met, she was the executive vice president and chief marketing officer at the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce. Chambers fundamentally work to grow businesses to support members by creating opportunities that connect people. And that’s what Kristen does so well.

Audrea Fink: [00:01:48] And from there Kristen became the director of gubernatorial appointments for Michigan’s current Governor Rick Snyder. Connecting people is what Kristin loves most, and creating those meaningful relationships is arguably the most important thing that we can do both professionally and personally.

Julie Holton: [00:02:05] So who better to talk about building your network than someone who continues to put her advice into action? So Kristen I’d like to just dive right in and talk about managing a network, especially a large network; and this often comes up for me and people that I’m talking to: the depth versus the breadth. How do you manage it all, and maybe perhaps where do you focus first?

Kristen Beltzer: [00:02:26] Well, first of all you got to remember that I’ve got a networking system that’s been in place for 30 years, so it is long, and, you know, I’m really proud of that. It’s not the same as it was when I first started out in my professional career. You know I’d say the first place to focus when you want to connect with people is with two very important words. And those are “empathy” and “compassion.” I think that if people understand that you care about them you care about their well-being they’re going to be much more open to connecting with you. And there’s going to be a natural connection. I’ve seen that before. Especially as you get into a place where you start to mentor young people, and you have an opportunity to watch their professional careers. I’ve seen it where you start to talk to them and they’re not quite sure what to do, and how to connect, and what that’s all about. And so it’s a natural place for you to make them feel comfortable. It’s just to really probably start with getting to know who people are. And that’s just all about relationships. You know I’ll tell you that, something that’s very important to me–it’s one of my core values–is I try to stay connected with people by offering up my assistance to them. And Julie knows this. We’ve had an opportunity to talk about this before. I’m always about asking people what I can do for them. And I tell you what, I think that puts people at great ease. I will do that long before I will ever ask for anything. And I’ve found that that has really been kind of the secret to my success is that people know that I’m genuine in that I’m offering to help them, and it’s very sincere.

Julie Holton: [00:04:04] I was just going to say you do that in such an authentic way. You’re making these connections, but when you’re meeting with people–I know I can speak from my own experience as a small business owner, you know, just a couple years in–you know, sitting down to talk with you and it’s like there’s no one else in the room. So connecting in that very authentic way, that care factor is always there, building those relationships. And I can see that come through in a very genuine way.

Audrea Fink: [00:04:29] I love this idea of offering what you can do for someone at the beginning. I think that takes a lot of the pressure off of like, what are we going to sit and talk about?

Kristen Beltzer: [00:04:39] Without question. And, you know, I’ve seen it before where, you know, maybe I’m taking a staff member with me when I was at the Chamber, and we’re going to a lunch and we’re meeting with people, and you sit down and, you know, sometimes it’s brand new, you don’t know these people, you have business to conduct, but how do you kind of get there? How do you kind of bridge that? And I am always of the mindset. I sit down with people and I always say to them you know, “Tell me your story. What’s your story, first? Let’s get to know each other.” And you know, sometimes, people will say, “Well, I don’t have a story.” And I’m saying, “No. You do. You have one. And so let me hear it.” And generally when people start to tell you their story, these walls come down. And all of a sudden you see people’s lights eyes light up because all of a sudden they’re making a natural connection with someone. Whether it be they went to the same university, or they know the same people. And so I always think that that’s an opportunity to really kind of start to build trust and honesty within relationships with people, even from the get go, even when it’s business related. It’s always going to come really back. You know, in terms of business and making sure that you’re doing something that’s advantageous for you professionally. But I am always of the mindset that you start with a personal relationship and you build from there.

Julie Holton: [00:06:03] What would you say is a piece of advice to someone who’s maybe just starting out on this road of building their network? And maybe not even necessarily someone who’s young, but maybe someone who wants to build some deeper connections within their existing network. What are some ways to go about doing that?

Kristen Beltzer: [00:06:19] You know I think that one of the things I think that you need to tell somebody right upfront: what you’re trying to accomplish. And, you know, trying to surround yourself with those people, to me it’s always about–especially for me and this is what I tell my kids is: surround yourself by the right people. You’re going to find those people that you really feel strongly about. They’re like minded. They have something to offer. They make you feel comfortable. And I’m always, you know, pushing people to say, well listen I’d like to just have 30 minutes of your time. I’d like to grab a quick cup of coffee. I’d like to get to know you better. What I watch, and see; and do some research on these people, go ahead and google them, and find something that there’s some commonality of something that you can talk about and ask them questions. But to say to them, “I’d like 30 minutes of your time. It’s important for me to build my network. Would that be something that’s possible for you to do with me? And I, again, I don’t want to take up too much your time but I’d like for us to be able to start to build a relationship.”

Audrea Fink: [00:07:21] I love this. I was just speaking to someone on Thursday and we were talking about how we both joined this Leadership Tomorrow program here in Seattle, which is a program that connects civic-minded leaders in the community together. And so both of us were saying that the reason we joined it is we really wanted to build up our networks, but we were both struggling with: now that we we know these people in this setting and we’re comfortable with them in this setting, asking them to get a coffee or really figuring out how to talk to them outside of the program has been challenging. And so this is a perfect way to say, “I just want to get to know you a little bit better. I’m here to work on my network,” and have it be right out there. That’s super helpful and really relevant. I consider myself to be someone who has a good network and this is still like a lightbulb moment for me.

Kristen Beltzer: [00:08:18] Well you know the thing is, I think that people really want to be helpful. I love this part of who I am and this opportunity now after working for so long to be able to give back and to continue to learn to from other people. You know Julie will tell you that, you know. She and I have great coffees and opportunities to talk and connect with each other and learn from each other. And you know I think that that’s really what it’s all about. I find that, you know, everytime I get together with someone, and whether it is about business and trying to accomplish something in business, I always learn something from them first. And that’s always the biggest takeaway for me. I always think that the things that you want from people whether you’re trying to build a client base or you’re trying to get them to do business with you, I think all of that naturally comes once you start to build the relationship and that they know that they’re such that you’re somebody that they want to work with.

Julie Holton: [00:09:12] Okay, as the digital marketer of the group, I have to bring up social media. How has, for better or worse–and you can give your opinion on that–how has social media really changed the approach of networking and building relationships? We have these new tools available to help connect with people. Is it helping? Is it hurting? How is it working with our building relationships?

Kristen Beltzer: [00:09:36] You know for me I think it’s helpful. I am on different platforms of social media. I actually pride myself on the fact that I was on social media before my kids. So does that make me really the cool mom?

Audrea Fink: [00:09:48] Totally. It totally does.

Julie Holton: [00:09:50] For sure.

Kristen Beltzer: [00:09:51] You know I use Facebook and Instagram for kind of like my family postings, more personal things. But Twitter and LinkedIn for my professional network, tools to promote ideas and thoughts, and you know I think it’s just invaluable. You know we talk a little bit about people; and I’ve listened your podcasts on some of those folks and, Audrea it might have been you! I think it was where you talked with the attorney maybe who didn’t want to be on LinkedIn and there were too many risks involved or something like that. It made me laugh because I think somebody said, well you’re not credible if you’re not on LinkedIn. And you know really for the most part, there’s a lot of truth in that. And you know it’s not an age thing with LinkedIn. It really isn’t. It is, you know, young people, from somebody who’s just going to start out starting to look for that first job to people like myself who might want to continue to grow their network and get in groups where you can continue to learn, and even people, you know, maybe an encore career! Somebody who wants to get back into the job market as well and to see what’s available out there. So I think LinkedIn is just a great, great platform.

Audrea Fink: [00:11:00] So I have a question about sort of managing a large network. Are there things that you do, little touches or ways that you say top of mind–maybe using social media maybe not–to keep in contact with that network? I struggle sometimes with “how do I stay relevant to the people that I’m connected to” or “how do I stay top of mind if I want to.” How do you maintain those relationships over time when you’re maybe not seeing each other every day?

Kristen Beltzer: [00:11:28] Well and that’s where social media comes in. I mean I think I do a lot of tweeting; a lot of re-tweeting. I like Twitter. You know I really tweet a lot of positive things that people do. I think that you know it’s a great incident. You know, you follow along, and I’ve watched the podcasts in terms of the number of times you should tweet/re-tweet a day; I don’t know that I probably am meeting that quota–but I really find that there is a great opportunity for me to promote my network: the people that I connect with. And I really like that. I like leadership tweets. I love professional development. I love the word “#empowerment,” following things that empower people. You know I have some great friends who’ve had some wonderful careers. I couldn’t be happier for them. So I really like to either comment or re-tweet and share things because that really to me makes me feel like I have an opportunity to be engaged with them, even when we don’t see each other that often. But there is an opportunity for them to know that I’m paying attention. And then a lot of people will comment back, too, on my tweets and you know they’ll give some feedback about things that they’re thinking. So I think it’s just a great opportunity to have dialogue where you’re not really seeing each other in person.

Julie Holton: [00:12:43] Such a great point. We’ve talked quite a bit in our podcast about how to promote ourselves, because as women we often have a difficult time promoting ourselves. We’re really good at promoting other people. But I like it. I like what you just touched on there and using social media especially Twitter. What a great way to be sharing things that are happening within our network and helping connect other people. Because Kristen that’s something that you and I have talked about a lot. You are someone who really likes to work as a Connector of other people. So taking your large network and connecting people on one side who might not be connected to someone on the other. And I think social media, as you just pointed out, is a really great way of doing that.

Kristen Beltzer: [00:13:23] I can’t tell you how many connections I’ve made with people on Twitter or I’ve said so and so I’d like you to meet so and so I have actually admired some work that people have done on Twitter before where I will write to them and say wow I really enjoyed blank that you did really positive thoughts behind that. I would love to connect with you at some point in time and then the next thing you know that person writes back to me and says, “Thank you so much, Kristen Beltzer, I really appreciate it. How would you like to sit down?” And then we do. And so you know these things. It’s not rocket science you guys it’s easy stuff. It’s easy for people to connect and you know let’s forget to how important it is still to send personal notes and note cards and just shoot somebody a quick email about something that they’ve done to compliment them. And I still do that all the time and I really think that that has been advantageous to my network. What I’ve been able to do in terms of growing that and having relationships that span now over three decades. And you know I’ve always wanted to make sure that people know that I admire what they do and it’s not a problem for me to see other people be successful. I like that. And I think you kind of get to that place where you enjoy seeing other people’s success. I think that, you know, your life kind of really kind of lines itself really well with being happy and having fulfillment and knowing your place in this world.

Audrea Fink: [00:14:53] I love that I feel like that is so aligned with what we are trying to do this idea of being really supportive of other people’s success and it feels very rewarding. It’s very rewarding to hear that there are people out in the world who are are aligned with this idea of we can all support each other. It’s not some game it’s an awesome game. So we all are better off if we’re helping connect to each other and build each other up. So on Think Tank of Three, we focus on growing our networks to get to that next opportunity whether it’s a job or position or something else. So how how would you coach someone to ladder up by tapping into their network?

Kristen Beltzer: [00:15:37] You know we’ve talked a lot about opportunities. You know when in a different career path that I’ve had with people about you know those access to CareerBuilder or LinkedIn or even indeed and and how you know those resources can be helpful. You know I think at the end of the day it’s still about people and who you know and someone who’s willing to make a call on your behalf is really probably that opportunity that gets you on the radar screen much more than sending a resume made through a network and waiting to see and hope that somebody gives you a call back. And so, you know, I would tell you, I bet over a hundred people I have helped find jobs during my career. I still have people who call me 20 years later and say, you know, “K.B., can I use you as a reference?” And I’ll be, “Absolutely I can. I will be happy to do that for you.” And you know, it’s a great source of pride for me. I am always of the mindset that when I help people that I try and encourage them to pay it forward, that they become that mentor and resource for someone else. I guess maybe at the end of the day, when we talk about this, you know, building the right network is probably the most important skill that you can possess. And, you know, we talk about soft skills in this day and age in the workplace and how important it is to, one, be able to be a critical thinker. And can you look people in the eye? And do you have good social skills when it comes to speaking? And that kind of thing. But I tell you what: building your network and having people that you can tap into over a long period of time is really just so critical, I think, to helping you advance. I know it’s been very, very beneficial to me. So many times I’ve been able to get a job and I never put a resume in for it. It was just knowing somebody, and somebody said, “Hey Kristen would you be interested in doing something? Would you like to advance your career by having this opportunity?” And generally that’s, for a long time, that’s the way that it happened for me.

Julie Holton: [00:17:42] That is such a skill set! I know. I mean Kristen your eyes light up when you talk about working as a connector to bring people together. It’s a skill that you have. It’s a passion, it’s very clear, and you make it sound so easy. But I know, I’m sure, that starting out it wasn’t so easy. Can you talk a little bit about maybe some of the dos and don’ts of bringing people together? For instance, how can we use a coffee meeting to accomplish an objective without making someone feel used or feel like we’re just there to meet a goal?

Kristen Beltzer: [00:18:16] Well I guess maybe first the dos in connecting is be authentic and be yourself. People want someone who is real and you know they can read right through that. I believe that I make an emotional connection ask people about their family their friends and their interests and really see if you can get to know someone first before you really get into maybe what your objective is. You know I was like to see and I think and believe strongly that connector stay in the moment you have to be a really good listener. And sometimes people can’t do that. They’re so worried about what they’re going to have to say next that they’re missing the conversation.

Julie Holton: [00:18:56] Yes!

Kristen Beltzer: [00:18:57] So you have to really kind of discipline yourself to be a good listener. And I also think that you need to demonstrate that you can be trusted. You know we’ve always, all have experienced that. You know, one person who isn’t truthful; and everybody can see right through it. And the only person that they’re kidding is themselves because everybody else knows it. So I think some of those things are dos. Obviously a don’t would be don’t judge. How many times you heard somebody comment in a negative way and all of a sudden the walls just shut right down? Nobody wants to continue a conversation when it appears to be very negative. So those are some of the dos and don’ts I think. Set up a coffee, start it out with relationship and just building a relationship and get to know someone. I think that’s it. Because I think it will naturally evolve into more as you find that you’re a little more relaxed with someone, that you know them a little bit better. That’s at that point where then you can start to kind of, where I say earn it; you can earn the opportunity to say, you know, this is what I’m really looking for. This can help me in my career, or this is what I’d like to talk to you about a business opportunity and that kind of thing. You know coffees are great. I think that that’s a great way always about face to face. Face to face to me still is still so important. I always enjoy that. But if you can’t do that as well as an email or something that’s going to get to the heart of what you’re trying to accomplish and let people know what you’re really seeking, so that you can kind of cut through the chase and that they know what the expectations are.

Audrea Fink: [00:20:33] I love this idea of face to face. I was recently at a conference where Mo Bunnell, who is the founder of GrowBIG, which is a sales methodology for professional services. But in his presentation he was talking about how someone is thirty four times more likely to say yes to you if you are face to face. And so that yes might just be like, can I get to know you? But the yes might be asking, you know, how can you help me level up? Or how do I tell myself level up, however that goes. But I love this idea of connecting with people face to face. I think it’s so much more effective.

Kristen Beltzer: [00:21:14] I agree. And you know the thing is you know in this day and age when things go so fast and can be misinterpreted and e-mails or even something that’s posted on social media you know to sit in front of somebody and to watch their body language and to watch the smile on their face. Being genuine can really be apparent to somebody is, you can just read it all over someone’s face. I mean you know I’ll say this again about Julie when we had coffee a couple weeks ago. Julie is just a happy individual. I want to be around happy people. And so that’s the kind of thing that you miss if you’re communicating with somebody in a note via email or on social media. It just is not the same.

Julie Holton: [00:22:00] And our coffee was amazing because Kristen and I sat down to have coffee and even as I was driving there I was thinking like, I’m just so excited to see Kristen this will be great. And I had no underlying agenda. I just wanted to go and see her, I hadn’t seen her in a while. And Kristen it was so great, because afterwards, you know by the end of this hourlong coffee, you know I had all of these mental notes of OK I want to connect her to this other person, and before the end of the day they had actually had a phone call and helped you know him to move something forward. And then I also realized as Kristen and I were talking that, wait a minute, actually there is something new that’s just come under my radar that she is excited about and she can help me make a connection with someone else to help maybe move this other project forward. And I hadn’t even been thinking along those lines before we got together. It hadn’t even dawned on me that Kristen could be someone to help make connections, something that I wasn’t even quite on my radar yet. It was just kind of starting to form. And so what a cool way to just get together and have coffee and then all of the sudden all of these creative juices get flowing and you start thinking of all of these other cool projects that could come along the way.

Kristen Beltzer: [00:23:10] Can’t agree more. And you know the thing is, that’s the thing I like too, is that I want to be so external. Being in an office and being behind a computer is not advantageous. It’s not advantageous for me. I like people. And so I like to be out like that circumstance with Julie that we get an opportunity and all of a sudden she starts kind of just holding a progny and there’s little things that kind of pop up and I’m like, “Here’s what you could do. Here’s a thought for something. Have you ever met so and so? You should really think about–” And it just is very natural and starts to come out. And so I think there’s a lot of people out there that are interested in doing the same type of thing. I would suggest that people find mentors and people that they connect with and say that. Say that, I’m open to learning. I want to take the experiences that you’ve had and I want to be able to figure out how does that benefit me? And how can I do that? I was talking last week with some folks about mentoring and you know people want to give back. They want to be mentors or counselors. I want to be sounding boards to people. I just had a conversation with the governor last week and he was talking about next steps in his journey too. And you know he’s looking forward to this opportunity to chat with people about startups entrepreneurship being a mentor to people after he leaves office at the end of December and so you know people really; they really do want to provide an opportunity to help and guide people in their careers. I see it every day.

Audrea Fink: [00:24:47] I have some questions for you on tips for someone who is maybe not extroverted; someone who’s really shy. Asking someone out for coffee is like an act of courage for them, and then also for people who maybe are a little scattered and aren’t really–like they need like a safety blanket and going into these meetings. What are some tips or tricks you would offer for someone who getting out there is scary?

Kristen Beltzer: [00:25:11] Sure. First I would find someone that can go with you. It’s always have better to have a buddy with you. And somebody that can kind of help and bridge that conversation. And that’s one of the reasons that I would take staff members with me. I wouldn’t have to take them. It was a lunch that someone wanted to have with me, but I would think to myself that is advantageous for their professional growth if they go and they can sit there and they’re really just listening. And I even said to them, not only if we would do that or if we were in a meeting and they had just started their career I would say, “Just listen. You just listen for right now. And when it feels comfortable and natural, you’re going to add to the conversation. And I know it’s going to happen.” And you know I will tell you it would be so funny on that one day that it finally did happen. And afterwards we would laugh about it; we would say, “You know what you did today that you haven’t done before?” And they would laugh and they said, “You know what. I added to the conversation.” And that’s always–probably that first and foremost to me is to take somebody with you. So see to it and find someone who’s going to be a mentor somebody that works within your office that you could take along with you. Other things: listen to podcasts listen to things like Think Tank of Three! This is such a great learning experience for people! And I know it’s a shameless plug for you guys, but I mean it! And people should tune in. It’s a very easy thing to do, you can do it on your own time. You can do it. As I said, if you’re at the gym or in your car, and you know it’s like anything: it’s practice. You have to practice. And so you know just taking small steps in terms of outreach. But you know I feel for somebody that’s pretty introverted, that must be kind of painful. And I always do the best I can to make sure that those people feel comfortable.

Julie Holton: [00:27:00] Kristen you talk a lot about lifelong learning. Is there anything that you really–are there any authors you read? Are there any motivational speakers? Are there any you know podcasts, other than Think Tank, of course, that you follow? What is it as you are as you are in this process of lifelong learning? I think this is something that we can actually learn from. What are some of your go to?

Kristen Beltzer: [00:27:22] Absolutely. Well of course Jim Collins and Good to Great. But also, you know Gina Whitman wrote Traction.

Audrea Fink: [00:27:31] Oh, so good.

Kristen Beltzer: [00:27:32] Just a great leadership book. And you know I had my team at the chamber, they listened to that. We had some great conversations about it. You know I’m always about kind of expanding yourself out. I read a lot on Forbes and Inc. and I do the same types of things that you do. But I tell you what, I love that whole EOS. And even if companies don’t follow it precisely, the takeaways about disciplining yourself and understanding your role and making sure right people write seats. And it really kind of helps right-size organizations. So you’re not just kind of operating all the time without any road map and not having any direction. I will tell you, you know, with the team that I have right now in the appointments division of the governor’s office, we talk a lot about where we’re going. What are we trying to accomplish? You know it started back in August: we had five months. What do we need to accomplish over the next five months? Well now you know we’re down to 50 days! But we still have weekly meetings about what we’re trying to accomplish. I will tell you that I see that they’re motivated, and then they’re enthused, and they’re all about outcomes and results because they know where we’re going and they know what we’re trying to achieve. And so I would say that in terms of that direction and Gina Whitman and in what he does in terms of trying to lay out a process for people and companies and organizations, it’s just a great tool. I’ve talked to people who said that they actually implemented it in their family. They have racks meetings and leadership meetings and they come together and they sit down and talk. I thought that was actually kind of funny but, there’s some great takeaways that you can have not only professionally but personally too.

Audrea Fink: [00:29:18] I can’t imagine having like anything outside of drinking meetings with my family. I can’t imagine anything that productive.

Kristen Beltzer: [00:29:28] That’s great. We’re going to have to get together offline one of these days.

Julie Holton: [00:29:30] You know I’m thinking we can combine both. Like I’m thinking like let’s sit down and have our meeting with a couple of drinks to get us started.

Kristen Beltzer: [00:29:39] Well it’s interesting that you say that because I just read the other day you know the you know the coffee shop has been that kind of go to place for people for their work. And now all of sudden it’s walking over into the bar. There aren’t as many people there. They say that there is more space to put your things out. You don’t necessarily have to drink, but if you do want something, you can take advantage of happy hour. It’s just really funny to me to see that kind of evolution, that coffee shops were getting just a little too crowded so bars are now offering up Wi-Fi and that kind of thing and trying to attract people to come in and think a little bit about how they can accomplish their workplace objectives by being in a place where all of a sudden you get that done and your friends come and meet you and also you’re going to have glass of wine.

Audrea Fink: [00:30:24] That makes a ton of sense to me, especially if you think about how busy everyone is. Not everyone can walk away multiple times a day to have coffee, but I can almost always make time for a cocktail.

Kristen Beltzer: [00:30:39] Probably a lot of times that’s where the best ideas are generated from wouldn’t you say?

Audrea Fink: [00:30:44] Absolutely. So I have, sort of as a follow-up to earlier questions, do you have tips for setting agendas or talking points when you want to get to know someone (specifically someone who’s maybe really busy), but you don’t just want to invite them to coffee? Is there a way to invite them to come talk to you; to get to know you; for you to get to know them that is not just asking them for their time? Is there a way make connections where you’re not just taking?

Kristen Beltzer: [00:31:18] Well maybe you know a lot of times it can be at social networking events; an opportunity to talk to someone there so you know you’re utilizing their time wisely. A lot of times you know before an event will be a lot of networking time and so to walk up to someone to talk to them and ask them some questions that you would be interested in, one, learning a little bit more about them, but two, that you are interested in the profession that they’re in and that you’d like an opportunity to connect with them. You know a lot of times things happen too when people get connected to boards and commissions. You know when you sit on a board with someone, you get to know somebody and connect with them a little bit more. And so all of a sudden those natural conversations really kind of lend itself to you understanding what they have to offer; what you could do for them, and it really builds on itself after you kind of start to get into a place where your objectives are the same. It’s not that you’re really sharing yourself personally but you’re really hearing how that person operates. And a lot of times that’s something where you learn to be a little more open to building those relationships in that kind of setting and maybe wanting to ask them if they could be available to meet with you or to connect with you somehow.

Julie Holton: [00:32:33] And I wonder sometimes too, Kristen, if some of these connections aren’t necessarily comfortable connections. Or maybe–I’m thinking of some of our networking that we do that is important networking, and perhaps with people–I’m thinking of you in the governor’s office especially, connecting with those maybe with different political opinions and those across the aisle who you still have to work together to get things done. And so sometimes as we’re building our network we have to include, or need or want to include, people who are–I’m thinking too, some of my work with the Alzheimer’s Association. I sit on the board of directors for the Alzheimer’s Association and there have been times when I’ve really had to find creative ways to connect with people who might not necessarily be interested in connecting with me to talk about things that are on my agenda. Maybe we have differing opinions of how to allocate within the budget for different things that maybe are on my agenda for Alzheimer’s, but maybe not; maybe they don’t agree with some of the certain tactics or ways of doing things. So how would you offer, when we have to build those connections and build those authentic relationships as you’ve talked about, with people who might have differing opinions or might have different objectives or goals?

Kristen Beltzer: [00:33:51] You know the thing is I think first and foremost we need to be open to that. I don’t think that our way is always the right way. And you know I think that is too one of those things that you learn as you get older is that, you know you want to be a little open minded. You want to be nimble. You want to be open to change. And so I find that when I’m having an opportunity to be on boards that, you know I really respect those people who have a differing opinion than I do. As long as they do it in a very diplomatic way; you know sometimes you think to yourself, wow, that’s not a perspective that I’ve thought about before. So I think that those things are important. I do see a lot. Julie, just as you said, you know that especially in my line of work, so much kind of party affiliation and people who can be very divisive and you know that’s one of the things I’ve kind of made a priority to me is that I wasn’t really kind of get too sucked up into that. I have prided myself for a long time of having relationships with people who are Republicans, people who are Democrats, Independents, because it’s going to serve you well long term down the road. You might have an issue with someone at a given point in time and you might be on opposite sides. That’s not to say five years later you’re not on the same side. And you burned a bridge with somebody, rectifying that and correcting that is awfully difficult. And so I think that you have to kind of remember and keep focused on what the objective is. But to also say to yourself, you know the relationship part of this is more important to me than the given issue at this time because that relationship is going to outlast any issue that you’re working on. And I know a lot of people that throughout my political career were probably on the opposite side of the aisle than I was. And I have great working relationships with them right now. Matter of fact I spoke not too long ago to a group, and one of those people was there, and he got up and he said you know, “Kristen I’ve had a fantastic relationship for 20 years, and we didn’t always see eye to eye, but we were so respectful of each other and to this day we could continue to work together.” And that’s the thing that you got to keep in mind. It’s going to be advantageous for you to do this long term.

Audrea Fink: [00:36:10] Because I think you can’t say; I think it’s fair to say, “I know I respect you. I hear you. I see your perspective and I respectfully disagree.” And I think that’s something that we just we aren’t seeing a lot of and I think in a lot of these connecting and networking opportunities we shy away from that instead of just being very upfront and honest about it. We come from different places and that’s okay and that doesn’t mean I can’t respect you and have a relationship with you.

Kristen Beltzer: [00:36:40] Well this is just like working in the workplace. You know this is what leaders do. And, you know, when you manage people and you know when you have to sometimes be critical of something, or you have to address an issue. It doesn’t have to be bad. You can have conversations with people and say you know first of all tell me a little bit about how this happened, what did happen here; what did you do or what was your input on this? Because a lot of times, it’s just miscommunication. But, you know, to be able to address issues and say, “OK here’s what’s happened. How do we learn from this? How do we grow? How can I help you? How do we make sure it doesn’t happen again?” I am completely in agreement with what you’re saying. I mean we’re live in a day and age now where people just want to be angry and unhappy. And you know first of all it drains so much energy out of you. But it’s not healthy for people’s physical being. So you know I just really it’s about personal responsibility. I can only be responsible for myself and I try to do the best I can to make sure that people understand where I’m coming from. Audrea, you’re right. It’s just being honest with people. I want to be honest, but I want to do it in a very diplomatic way.

Julie Holton: [00:37:54] Let’s face it, we’re human. So there are going to be missteps along the way. We’re going to stick our foot in our mouth. We’re going to do something that might impact our network or hurt our relationship. But Kristen it sounds like you’re saying that just being being authentic about it, owning our responsibility in it, and putting people first is always going to help us to come out on top.

Kristen Beltzer: [00:38:17] Well and admitting when you’re wrong too. I mean I think as leaders we have a responsibility to do that too. I’ve said to my team before, you know, I don’t think I handled this correctly or I think that I could have done this. And, you know, I’m going to learn from this as well. I did the same thing with my kids. I’ll say the same thing to them! “I’m gonna be better. And I’m going to try and do this a little bit better.” And I tell you what, when you do that when they can really see the real you, the authentic and genuine you, it is a game changer. It is a game changer for relationships and they also too are going to say, you know what, I can be better as well. And so you know that’s what organizations need. That’s what families need. That’s what this world needs a little bit more of.

Julie Holton: [00:39:00] Kristen Beltzer, the director of appointments for Michigan’s governor, thank you so much for joining us today on Think Tank of Three. Before we go, we are collecting advice from successful women in our communities and we’re sharing it in our Think Tank forum. So we have three rapid fire questions for you. Number one: is there a lesson that you’ve recently learned that you wish you would have learned earlier in your career?

Kristen Beltzer: [00:39:23] Absolutely Julie. It is to capitalize on opportunities that are in front of me. And you know my mantra now is forward only. I am only going forward and embracing the next steps and whatever that next chapter is I’m looking forward to be rewarding and exciting. But I’ve learned that there are so many opportunities and you have to embrace them and you have to be open minded to what they look like. And so I’ve learned that I think in the last, probably, five years.

Audrea Fink: [00:39:55] So number two: what advice would you offer to your younger self, say maybe 10 years ago?

Kristen Beltzer: [00:40:01] Oh, this one–I would’ve been much more assertive in stepping into my new career opportunities. I would’ve made moves sooner. I think sometimes, you know, especially as a mom; you try to balance it all. And instead of trying to grow professionally, I think you kind of get yourself locked into a job and you just kind of sit in it for a little while and, you know, my advice to my 21 year old daughter all the time is, you know, continue to grow, be a lifelong learner and do not settle. I think you guys covered that in one of your podcasts. Do not settle.

Audrea Fink: [00:40:35] Love it.

Julie Holton: [00:40:37] For women especially–and I think of your 21 year old daughter–so for women especially today, what do you think is the most important skill to hone in today’s professional setting?

Kristen Beltzer: [00:40:48] I think the most important skill is to be genuine and authentic. I think that when people really get to know who you are, you know, it becomes invaluable. And you know my greatest skill, I know it, is being a people connector. And it comes so naturally to me. And I like that I find great fulfillment, personal fulfillment, by helping people. I love people, I love helping them. I like it being selfless. When I don’t make it about me, I find that my connections become even stronger. Great things happen to me. I think it creates energy for myself and other people. Positivity kind of follows me, and so I think most importantly: being really authentic and genuine. Can’t say it enough.

Kristen Beltzer: [00:41:37] Well definitely an authentic person yourself. K.D. thank you so much for joining us today. You can connect with Kristen and Think Tank of Three online at think If you subscribe on our web site you’ll get an email once each week when we have a new blog or a podcast. You can also find us on social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Audrea Fink: [00:41:58] And be sure to join our private group on Facebook. Just look for the group on our Facebook page and then request to be added to the private conversations. And if you liked what you heard in this podcast today, share it. We would love to be able to spread the word a little farther. You can find the podcast Think Tank of Three on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, and SoundCloud. And if you ever have any questions or maybe topics you want us to discuss, if you’re interested in joining the podcast or guest blogging for us, send us a message at

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