Reid Hoffman’s face popped up unexpectedly on the TV screen in front of my elliptical machine. Fortuitous. He is the guru in professional relationship building. To get ahead as a manager you must employ the skills of networking.
Reid is the Founder of LinkedIn, an early investor in Facebook and the author of the networking book best seller “Start Me Up.” I have always been a devotee of networking. Reid has taken the art and added science.
- Be genuine and put the interests of others ahead of your own
- Form ten alliances – people you would get up in the middle of the night for
- 3rd degree relationships are the best – someone in the mix who knows you personally
- Nurture your relationships
At the start, let’s agree that successful businesses and people stay in touch. They gain something from one another.
Here is a great example – publically traded Lululemon Athletica’s manifesto proclaims that “friends are more important than money” and since their IPO in 2007 their stock has climbed 263%. Top motivating speaker Tony Robbins states, “Proximity is power.” Combine the two and, voila, you have networking at its best.
Yes, networking is important. But how do I include it as an important aspect in my daily routine?
I see two problems for me:
- Reid famously carries 5 phones/laptops to stay connected. I don’t!
- And to stay that connected moves one into Information Overload – less productivity due to a never-ending barrage of distracting contacts and data.
So, let’s see what some of my network thinks. I randomly sent reconnecting emails to my allies and some 3rd degree connections. Responses were swift – perhaps because there was no ASK (“I need a favor”).
Here is a sampling:
“Sorry I haven’t been in touch lately. How are you?”
“I’ve been slammed. Glad you reached out.”
“No, I don’t do LinkedIn or Facebook. Too time consuming.”
One of my contacts responded with this actionable networking framework that she follows successfully:
- Create a formal alliance of folks who agree to help each other. Agree to talk once a month.
- Be disciplined in sharing leads and offering help and advice. Take this alliance seriously.
- Look for articles/information that would be interesting or useful to a contact. Send with a brief email. This shows you are thinking about them, limits your investment of time and keeps you connected.
- Make a personal decision to help someone in a big way. It will pay forward.
- Routinely make introductions and ASK for introductions.
- Send messages for key milestones (promotions, big business wins, awards).
More comes from networking than meets the eye. According to Harvard Business Review, being a good networker has other perks as well like moving from the non-promoted pool to being in the top 10% of getting promoted. By making a point to network up and down the ladder in your organization you keep yourself in the front of peoples’ minds and have allies in place who are ready to help you make that next move.
My conclusion – successful networking requires work and a personal approach. It is a snowball effect that gains momentum as you build and nurture it.
But designing your own framework of connectivity and working at it every day is absolutely doable.
By Debra Koenig, President of B2A Consulting
For further support around networking see Three Degrees of Separation: Building a Powerful Professional Network