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Flip the Script on Networking

Thursday, February 22, 2018

It started with a simple suggestion. “Bill, you should meet Halelly. Tell her Elaine suggested you reach out to her. She can help you a lot with getting the word out about your book, and you might learn a lot from her and help her out, too.”

And that is how we met. It’s how many relationships start—networking.

So many people think networking is a waste of time. It’s collecting business cards that you will never use. It’s schmoozing or brown-nosing, and no one likes a fake who does that. They think there is no real purpose to networking. Bill even felt that way when ATD colleague and prolific TD industry author Elaine Biech suggested he reach out to Halelly. Well, we’re both glad he didn’t listen to that voice in his mind, and that we both followed Elaine’s advice and began a conversation that was the start of a great collaborative professional relationship!

We urge you to flip your script about networking so you, too, can discover great connections like this.

We define networking as building and maintaining long-term, mutually beneficial relationships. Therefore, superficial, one-off transactional interactions and one-sided conversations will not do.

As leaders, we need to be aware of the important value networking brings to our success and that of the people we work and connect with. Networking builds our relationships and opens channels for new ideas, resources, and information. Networking allows us to add value beyond what we can do alone, thus expanding our influence and the impact of our shared work.


There’s research that demonstrates the many benefits of networking: It helps us in our work activities and in managing our careers (including finding jobs). In our own research, training, and work, we see networking as one of the most useful ways for both new and experienced leaders to survive and thrive in workplaces that are inherently political and socially interconnected.

We’ve found that one of the keys to more fulfilling and effective networking is the right mindset. Here are some examples:

Adopt an abundance mentality. Instead of a scarcity mindset, adopt an abundance mentality: Networking is full of possibilities rather than a zero-sum game of winners and losers. Share your knowledge, ideas, and time with others.

Use the trader principle. When adopting a trader principle approach, always ensure you are offering value that is equal or greater in exchange for the value you receive from any relationship. Values to trade are always measured from the receiver’s perspective and can include many things, like time, input, gratitude, recognition, feedback, appreciation, introductions, opportunities, and more.

Give first and give often. Research like that of noted organizational psychologist Adam Grant suggests that those who give without the direct expectation of any reciprocation are at the top of the success ladder. Those who take more than give don’t experience lasting success. Be a giver.

Develop small habits; they make a big difference over time. Networking, when seen in this context, can be a collection of small actions over time that you can habituate in ways that don’t require a big investment of your time or energy. It does not have to be a huge gesture; it can be as small as making an introduction, sending a thank-you note, or reaching out to see how someone is doing today (or this week or month or quarter). It’s like what famed basketball coach John Wooden said: “It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”

Networking has helped us in undeniable ways. When Bill reached out to Halelly, we didn’t know that we would get to know each other, start a friendship, and collaborate. Halelly hosted Bill on one of her podcast episodes. And at the ATD 2018 International Conference & Exposition in San Diego, we will co-facilitate a session where attendees will flip their script on networking. We will work with attendees to help them understand what a successful leader’s network should look like, and practice activities and exercises to network with others easily, without the “ick” factor that often accompanies the word networking. Networking worked for us in so many positive ways that we never imagined when we started, and it can work for you. We hope you join us there!

About the Author

Halelly Azulay is an author, speaker, facilitator, and leadership development strategist and an expert in leadership, communication skills, and emotional intelligence. She is the author of two books, Employee Development on a Shoestring (ATD Press) and Strength to Strength: How Working from Your Strengths Can Help You Lead a More Fulfilling Life. Her books, workshops and retreats build on her 20+ years of professional experience in communication and leadership development in corporate, government, nonprofit and academic organizations.

Halelly is the president of TalentGrow LLC, a consulting company she founded in 2006 to develop leaders and teams, especially for enterprises experiencing explosive growth or expansion. TalentGrow specializes in people leadership skills, which include communication skills, teambuilding, coaching, and emotional intelligence. TalentGrow works with all organizational levels, including C-level leaders, frontline managers, and individual contributors.

Halelly is a sought after speaker at conferences and meetings and is a contributing author to numerous books, articles and blogs. She was described as a “Leadership Development Guru” by TD Magazine. Halelly blogs at, publishes a leadership podcast at, and has a popular free weekly subscription newsletter – sign up at

About the Author

As a researcher and practitioner, Dr. William A. Gentry examines what leaders can do to be successful and avoid derailment. As a keynote speaker for conferences and events, he informs and inspires leaders, particularly entry- and first-level supervisors and managers who are leading for the first time to be their best. During his career he has amassed more than 70 academic presentations and has published more than 40 academic articles. In addition, his research has been featured in more than 50 internet and newspaper outlets including, the Wall Street Journal,, Harvard Business Review, Chief Learning Officer, ChiefExecutive.Net, and TrainingIndustry.Com. Most recently, William has used his passion for research and developing first-time managers to write the highly-acclaimed book Be the Boss Everyone Wants to Work For: A Guide for New Leaders (Berrett-Koehler publishers, 2016). Currently, William is the Executive Director of Brave Leaders Inc., a Brené Brown company that provides courage-building programs for leaders at every level of an organization by bringing Brené’s latest research on leadership development and culture change to teams, leaders, entrepreneurs, change makers, and culture shifters.

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