Networking and Relationship Building
It is often the case that we don’t really know very much about even close people around us (let alone distant contacts). Even if we do know a little, we are even less likely to know how far or deep the skill, knowledge or resources they make have access to extend. And, if this is true of your knowledge of others, how much do they really know about you? Herein lies the basic secret of networking and relationship-building success, especially in business or organizational life – you have to become interested in anybody and everybody and you have to share more about yourself than you may have done in the past. It is out of this mutual exchange of knowledge that network contacts will connect and start to offer support, help, advice, favors, referrals and other benefits on a regular basis.
To help with this mutual exchange effort, the networking diagram above offers a six-step process for anyone to use, which should help to accelerate overall networking and relationship building efforts. This diagram has the steps around the edge, starting and the top right as follows:
- First, we need to learn about the benefits of networking and why it can be useful to ourselves and others. If we don’t believe this or have the wrong attitude, temperament or style when talking with others, then people will be slow to connect with you, and you to them.
- Then, we map our existing contacts, ideally using a model like the one shown in the center of the above diagram. We can then add potential contacts we can approach almost immediately and then think about creating a contact pyramid or hierarchy of most likely to need help from us to the least to need help or assistance.
- Next, we need to invest time in building up contacts on a committed and regular basis. Over time, an effective networker will form a positive image about him or herself to generally promote, and offer particular skills and knowledge. The person will also regularly ask open-ended questions about how collaboration might occur.
- Then it is on to build our overall contact list. This may include using systems and technology (such as social media sites like LinkedIn) but don’t forget that these relationships also need to be developed-a connection to another person should never be the end of the relationship.
- In the next step, we nurture our contacts and relationships by working closely with them and in the longer term by building trust in the mutual exchange of favors to one another.
- Finally, we keep driving and persisting with our efforts to network and build new relationships as often as we sensibly can (asking to be introduced to new people by the people we know).