I was reminded recently of how important networking is in the life of a highly effective leader. Jim, a colleague and a very successful leader, was in the middle of a job search. He was interviewing with several companies. As he presented himself to each company as a candidate, he listened and asked questions about their strategy and looked for ways to add value to their organization if he were to join them.
Jim received a lot of interest and some offers. He chose one of the offers, and you would think that’s the end of the story. Not for Jim because he is a skilled networker. Jim had learned through the interviewing process what each company was trying to accomplish. He had taken the time to build relationships with each of the people with whom he had interviewed. Based on what he had learned, Jim offered to connect several of the people he had met from the different companies, helping them gain something they did not previously have.
Connecting vs. Networking
I think I am pretty good at connecting with people, however, connecting and networking are different. Networking requires an intentional mindset and a unique set of skills. Here are ten strategies if you hope to become a world-class networker.
#1 – Put yourself in a position to network – Everywhere you go, whether business or personal, on the road or around your neighborhood, there are always opportunities to grow your network. Be alert to the opportunities to meet and network with new people.
#2 – Do your homework – If you have a planned meeting with someone, invest time to learn about them, their company, their interests. If going to an event, research the event, the members, the regular attenders. Be prepared to meet new people.
#3 – Initiate conversations with others – Don’t wait for others to find you. If you don’t start the conversation, it might not get started. Be the initiator, show interest in others.
#4 – Ask good questions – Avoid the temptation to talk about yourself and instead ask good questions of the other person, the organization, the market.
#5 – Be curious – Develop a sense of wonder. Ask why? Ask the other person to “tell you more.”
#6 – Listen with an intent to serve – Don’t just listen to understand; listen with the intent to serve needs the other person or the organization may have.
#7 – Look for synergies – Where do your worlds connect? Where does what you do fit with what they do or vice versa?
#8 – Look for ways to add value to them – Where can you add value to the lives of the people you meet. Make yourself valuable to them personally or to their organization. Instead of looking for what they can do for you, find a way to add value to them
#9 – Share contact information – This has never been easier than it is today with tools like LinkedIn. You can also exchange business cards, but don’t make it more difficult than it needs to be.
#10 – Find a way to Follow up – Sending a LinkedIn request to connect and/or a thank you note for their time talking with you. Reach out as soon as possible and offer something that may be of value to the person you met.
It’s easy to think you are too busy to network, but it really is the lifeblood of outstanding leadership, and it is the way opportunities magically find a way to appear.
Perry Holley is a coach and facilitator with the John Maxwell Company’s Corporate Solutions Group as well as a published author. He has a passion for developing others and seeing people grow into the leaders they were intended to become.