It is a no brainer that the ability to create and nurture a good network is critical to succeed in a networked economy and this is one area where we all can continue to improve irrespective of how good we are.
It was a Sunday morning when i was alone and in a self-reflection mood. I was thinking about what i have done to cultivate my network in the past few years and was unpleasantly surprised that i have not done anything to nurture my network at all in the past 3-4 years.
“What have YOU done to nurture your relationships and your professional networks”
Once this realization set-in, I decided to do something about this. So, I started doing some research about how to go about nurturing the network so that we are able to develop good, mutually fulfilling relationships at work and outside of my work.
Based on the research and some amount of soul searching, I have decided that I am going to follow the following steps.
Why do you want to network
One of the key realizations and goals for me this year has been to be intentional in everything that i do. So, the first question is always “why do i want to do something”.
My answer to this question is that I want to network so that i can build good relationships with highly intelligent or/and interesting people; to be able to have an impact on their lives; to learn from them and also contribute to their overall success.
I want to network with people so that i can share their joy & sorrow. I want to build a network that will be there when me or my family or my business needs them.
So, deep, meaningful and personal relationships is what i want to build. That is my motive to network.
Whom do I want to network with:
I remember reading someone saying,
You’re the average of the five people you spend most of your time with.
I want to build two kinds of relationships:
- first where I want to network with people who are insanely smart, intelligent and successful at whatever they do;
- second set of people is people whom I can help become successful.
I believe in paying things forward. I want to learn from the first set of people and then pass on the wisdom and the learning to the second set of people. This could also be because i think that you learn better when you try to teach someone else.
The next thing that I have done is to create a list of people whom I want to build relationships with. The list currently has about 72 people. I shall continue to add people to the list. Some of these are prospects; some of these are existing customers; some of them are thought leaders in their existing fields; some of these are enthusiastic young talents; some of them are people whom I want to invite to my home with their family.
These are people not just from my field. They are from a large spectrum of industries and functions and from different levels in their organizations. This helps me get different perspectives and also creates opportunities for each other to add value, as each one will bring a totally new perspective.
I know that I have a life time to build these relationships. I intend to spend at least about an hour everyday to invest in these relationships.
So, I will go slow and start reaching out to them one by one, spending time knowing them, adding value to the work that they do, helping them spread their ideas and work, without being asked to do so; contributing to their work whenever possible.
Once, the relationship matures and becomes mutual, I shall then continue to find ways to support them in their initiatives.
How do I add value to my network:
The most basic and fundamental idea to build a long-lasting and strong relationship is to continually add value to each other. Below are some of the ideas that I have to add value to the people that i want to build deep relationships with:
- Understand the work and find ways to contribute to their work.
- Sharing their ideas and work with the rest of your network, who would benefit from knowing about them.
- Connect them with other interesting people, who could each benefit from knowing each other.
- Find any piece of information or content that they might like and share it with them. Do this regularly. In order for me to do this well, I need to understand the person intimately, through their work and personality. You also find out by trial and error, what their interests are.
- Create a system of information (like the Rolodex in the past), where I shall maintain all of these information and a system which helps me to continue to add value. Today, there are a lot of technologies that are available for you to either automate some of the tasks. You can also set-up reminders that will allow you to continue to stay in touch with your network, however busy you become. One idea is to use LinkedIn to maintain all these information, as you can now create notes and reminders on LinkedIn contacts directly. However, I prefer to create a system of my own which helps me stay in close contact with those whom I want to connect.
- Find ways to have fun with these individuals. It could be by sharing something that I know they will find funny or share a joke.
- Find ways & reasons to meet them in person. Make sure that it is worth their time meeting you.
- Stand out in their network. Send them flowers, hand-written notes, books, articles, greeting cards, holiday messages, ideas for their work, etc. Make them want to meet you.
This is how I intend to network and build relationships. How do you intend to network?