Networking may be the most valuable thing that a leader can do in today’s leadership culture.
I have spent my entire adult life networking, and now know thousands of people all over the world. Being part of and building a network brings multiple benefits. Here are a few:
One of the greatest benefits of building a network is the friendships that grow out of your network. We were created for and designed to be in relationships with other people. Networking brings opportunities for deep and meaningful friendships. I have built some of my closest friendships through networking.
Most opportunities in life will come through your network. All of my employment opportunities have come through my network. I have spoken at over a dozen conferences this year. These speaking engagements all came through my network. I have coached hundreds of leaders. Most of these leaders found me through my network.
Networking exposes you to ideas, practices, and experiences beyond what you know and have. I once read that you are the average of the five people that you spend the most time with. Surrounding yourself with the right people will bring continuous opportunities for growth.
Looking for help and can’t find it? You probably don’t have a quality network. Looking to hire someone? Reach out to your network. Your network is critical for getting the advice, help, and assistance that you need.
Knowing the value of networking is a start, but how do I network?
There are right ways and wrong ways to network. It’s possible to be draining to others while networking with them. How can you be a life-giving networker rather than a drain on those with whom you are connecting? Follow these five tips from a self-proclaimed master networker:
1. Serve Rather than Take
The right way to network is to serve the people with whom you are building relationships. Every time you network you should be asking “How can I give to this person? How can I listen to this person? How can I bless this person?” Networking does not mean sucking the life out of a person to move your thing forward. The networker who only takes will end up having a single conversation. The networker who gives will build long-term mutually beneficial relationships.
2. Always Pay The Bill
When you initiate a meeting with another person, pay for lunch or coffee. Regardless of how powerful or prominent the person you are connecting with is, show him that you are looking to serve him, honor him, and value his investment in you.
3. Don’t Play 20 Questions
Asking endless questions just to move your interests forward makes you a self-centered interviewer rather than a networker. Drilling a person with self-centered questions makes you a taker. Look for a mutually beneficial relationship rather than just looking to have your questions answered.
4. Network Both Behind And In Front Of You
Networking only with people in front of you benefits only you. There are people out there that want to learn from you. Perhaps you are familiar with the New Testament examples of Paul, Timothy, and Barnabas. Paul was the Spiritual Father, Timothy the Spiritual Son, and Barnabas the alongside encourager. You need people like Paul, people like Timothy, and people like Barnabas in your life. Networking with people behind you is an opportunity for you to give to those who are not as experienced as you. If everyone networked only with people in front of them, you would never have anyone from whom to learn. Network in both directions.
5. Show gratitude
Recently, I gave a couple of hours of time to a person building a new consulting practice. Two weeks later I received a handwritten thank you note and a gift in the mail. This new friend is the kind of person that I want to spend more time with. I helped him. He encouraged me. He showed gratitude. When a person gives you time, show thankfulness by sending a thank you and perhaps a gift.
Networking is an essential skill for today’s leader. Do it in the right way.