Sunday, September 28, 2008

Networking Diagnostic

In the fourth quarter you should run a networking diagnostic. Take the time to assess how you treat your professional relationships and associations. Set goals for the new year on ways that you want to change your networking habits.

Here are four things to think about when it comes to your network of professional contacts:

1. Are you actively growing your network?

Many people I know who have reached a comfortable level of success shut down on networking. Some forget that it was other people who gave them opportunities on the way up the ladder and stop seeing the importance of meeting new people. Others claim that they are too busy or that the quality of those they meet is no longer high enough.

Time is a limited commodity, but I think you should always be exposing yourself to new people with new ideas is an important step to staying relevant in your business community.

Many "senior" executives avoid the younger generations, but this is often the folks that is plugged into the newest ideas and trends. People matter. I suggest that everyone continue to network and expand their horizons throughout their lifetime. The other option is becoming obsolete. Remain relevant is always an option.

You never know enough people. Continue to add interesting souls to your circle of influence. Open your heart to individuals who cross your path and you might be surprised by what they bring to your life. Reach out to others and introduce yourself. They might be shy, but might desire to expand their networks too.

2. Organizational Reality Check.

Are you involved with business, civic and charitable organizations? You should be. Nobody should be so busy that they cannot support a cause. Every community organization needs to have the involvement of intelligent critical thinkers who can help them achieve. I believe that everyone can have one or two groups in which they actively participate in a substantial manner. I spent most of my time serving on the boards of business oriented groups, but have recently moved my attention to being on the board of a not-for-profit (Heart House). While making connections is part of the experience, helping others is just a good thing.

Many who have never served on a board are often disappointed that they cannot just walk into a board position with an organization. It takes time to build your volunteer resume, so start where you can and work hard. I began ten years ago by spending a few years on the board of the local chapter of several business groups. You need to participate for a while before being elevated to the board level. Once there you must honor you commitment or you will earn a negative reputation. Do not volunteer if you will not follow through. Those who volunteer will forever cross paths in the world of board participation, and if you are seen as lazy, unreliable or just there to build your resume, you will be passed over for the best opportunities in the future.

Finding the right groups in which to participate is a personal choice, but over time you will develop good instincts for the organizations for which you dedicate your time.

3. Help others.

If your only reason to network is to make contacts that will help you, you will fail. People can smell a "taker", and you will never see any of the benefits that come to those who network with mutually beneficial goals.

Do you currently review your database of contacts and see whom might want to know each other? I am often surprised when people tell me they never have considered doing this. They want others to make key introductions and referrals to advance their career, but they do not invest the time to do unto others.

Additionally, ask others what they need. Most of the time when I ask people "What is your biggest challenge?" or "Whom in town would you like to meet" I am unable to solve their quandary. However, sometimes I can. If I did not ask the question, I would have never known how easily I could help them succeed.

Some who achieve forget that many people along the way gave them a boost. But there comes a time when you must pay it forward and extend a hand to others. The most successful people I know (not just financially, but spiritually and emotionally too) have a servants heart and enjoy being part of another person's success.

4. What Do You Want?

Clearly think about what success looks like. Know how you want to treat the people in your life and how you can be a catalyst for good in their world. This clarity makes it easy for you to make the right choices when facing decisions about how prioritize your networking activities. Cultivating a network of contacts that can and will improve your life is an important way to pave your path toward success. Do not leave this up to chance.

Many people never think about the power of business relationships. They let people come and go from their life without regards to how mutually beneficial friendships can assist everyone involved.

Invest the time to run a networking diagnostic this fall and review how you network.

One reader of this blog will receive a 30-minute networking diagnostic consultation phone call. Email me at thom (at) thomsinger (dot) com to enter. All names will be entered into a drawing and the winner announce on Friday, October 3rd.

Have A Great Day.


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