by Ken Keis, CRG Consulting Resource Group International, Inc. —
In an increasingly noisy world, we are all becoming more immune, and even resistant, to messages and information from others. A generation or two ago, you’d find most business or personal contracts were transacted over a handshake - with someone you knew or someone you were introduced to, by someone you knew. Today, your path to success is still tied to your roots, through the relationships you have built in your life that are based on trust: your network.
A network is a group or system of related or connected parts. Networking is the exchange of information or services between individuals, groups, or institutions. Both networks and networking are significant.
Studies show that almost all human beings are no more than six people or contacts apart. But without an intentional strategy to build your network or to be involved in networking, Six Degrees of Separation is only a mathematical principle with little or no intrinsic value.
Think about it. With whom do you prefer to do business? Whom do you refer to others? Generally, it’s people you already know. The key to success is to consistently connect with more individuals; the more people directly connected to you, the more people inside your network, and the more waiting just six contacts away.
The art of building a valuable network is strategic; it does not happen by accident. Successful networking is built on trust. It’s also more about giving than getting. Inexperienced networkers tend to think “What can I get out of this relationship?” whereas experienced, successful networkers have the opposite mindset. Yes, you must have specific goals in mind for those with whom you connect, but for successful networking, you must also move intentionally to give or contribute, rather than take or get.
Even though you’ll want to connect with more people, remember that networking is about quality, not quantity. It took me several years to learn how not to be anxious or frantic when attending networking events or opportunities. I used to try to meet as many people as possible. With that approach, I did meet everyone, but I really knew no one.
Building relationships takes time and effort. I find that if I attend a networking event and connect (not meet) with one or two individuals, I have invested my time well. Society wants us to believe that fast and the furious win the race. When building a network, being focused and intentional is far more productive.
Many of us will try to determine, in advance, what will result from a specific networking opportunity or contact; in my experience, the opposite is true. Networking is a principle that usually defies logic or predictability. My experience is that the exact opposite holds true. Successful contacts, connections, and contracts usually come from somewhere we’d least expect.
For example, in 1989, I joined the National Speakers Association (NSA) and attended my first national convention in Dallas, Texas. Admittedly it was an intimidating event. I met Zig Ziglar, Cavett Robert, and other luminaries from the speaking industry. On the first day, I met fellow speaker Brian Lee and we became friends. The next year at the NSA National Conference in Atlanta, Brian introduced me to his friend Patti, a trainer who lived in Atlanta, and who became another friend.
This is where the story reveals the power of a network. Two years later (1992), Patti called me, very excitedly, having just met someone in Atlanta who was looking for trainers for a large project in Canada. She had given him my name, and gave me his contact information.
The next day, I called him and arranged a meeting. That one contact, referred by Patti, resulted in a contract with a Fortune 100 company that, over 10 years, was worth over $10 million to our firm. I could never have predicted the sequence of events that occurred, and the impact they had in the end. I have often wondered, where I might be today, had I not made that single contact with Brian nearly 30 years ago.
These days networking is found in numerous online communities from LinkedIn and Facebook. Are you there to contribute (give) or just to get (take)?
10 Action Steps to Expand and Increase the Value of your Network:
1. Acknowledge that your network and networking efforts are influencing your success to a high degree.
2. Build a true network of value. This does not happen by accident.
3. Become intentional and strategic about your network and networking activities. Determine how you want it to look and who should be in it.
4. Define the objective, purpose and benefit of networking.
5. Target not only the type of individuals but groups online and offline that fit.
6. Focus on what you can contribute rather than what you can obtain.
7. Think quality not quantity.
8. Connect or contribute on a consistent basis
9. Scrutinize your personal appearance, presentation, style and comments. Make adjustments where necessary to become as likeable, confident, and interesting as possible.
10. Prioritize. Because none of us has unlimited time, we must prioritize our networking efforts and networks. Be willing to let go, if necessary, and acknowledge the fact that a more mutually beneficial relationships may be made elsewhere.
Be intentional, be strategic, be giving, and watch what happens. You will be amazed at the power of networking. Remember the old cliché – success is not about what you know, but who you know - and now, it’s about who they know too.
Have fun, enjoy, and let the process unfold.
Ken Keis, Ph.D.
CRG Consulting Resource Group International, Inc.
About the Author — Ken Keis, Ph.D., President of CRG, is a global expert on leadership, wellness, behavioral assessments, and life purpose. In 28 years, he has conducted over 3000 presentations and invested 10,000+ hours in consulting and coaching. Ken Keis is considered a foremost global authority on the way assessment strategies and processes increase and multiply your success rate. He co-created CRG’s proprietary development models and has written over 4 million words of content for 40 business training programs and 400+ articles. His latest book, The Quest For Purpose: A Self-Discovery Process To Find It And Live It! is available at thequestforpurpose.ca.