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!