Newsletter: Relationships Through Networking

How are you tracking on building and maintaining your network of relationships? You know, calls that you resolved to make beginning New Year to connect with past friends or co-workers. If you’ve fallen short, run out of enthusiasm, or are feeling ineffective in your efforts, rest assured that you’re not alone. Let the following tips from T Squared Leadership, LLC help you get back on track to fruitful networking efforts.

First of all, let’s review some of the reasons that it is important to network with other professionals. For the purposes of this newsletter, we will focus on networking within your company, outside your company, and outside your industry. Your reasons can take the following forms:

Expand Your Thinking: Are you isolated? Do you need other executives with which to generate and bounce ideas around? Expanding your network of peers enables you to leverage off of the strengths and experiences of others in your field of expertise. You can learn a great deal from individuals outside of your specific industry who afford you a different point of view. Networking with other executives will keep your ideas fresh and vibrant and will challenge you to stay on your toes and achieve your best results.

Develop Professionally: Do you anticipate or foresee changing jobs anytime in the next two years through merger, changes in the industry, technology, or in the economy itself? Or, are you looking intentionally for a position at a different company? Your networking efforts now will pay off in this type of endeavor. Being caught flatfooted without an effective network in place will cost you valuable salary dollars, time and effort in the case of an employment crisis. 

Identifying Your Networking Focus

If you’ve identified your primary purpose for networking, the next step in networking is to identify your networking targets and the best method to make quality contacts within this pool.

Your goal is to maximize your effectiveness for the time that you plan to spend.

Expand Your Thinking: In order to expand your network of peers, identify key people in your field, selectively choose and attend conferences or professional association meetings, volunteer in outside organizations or committees, consider joining a narrowly focused professional networking group to discuss issues in your field and, above all stay current by reading professional trade publications and newsletters. Be willing and open to share with others in order to network.

Develop Professionally: Strategize to develop key relationships within your company and outside your company who are your internal clients, partners, or peers. In other words, if you are a recruiter in a Human Resource department, don’t neglect to network with managers who tend to have numerous openings in their organizations. Let these potential clients know how indispensable you are in your field, (i.e., top-notch recruiting, your successes in developing a learning organization, . . .) and they will think of you the next time there is an opening in their organization or the next time they need to bounce an idea off a person they respect.

The networking relationship, by definition, is a mutually beneficial relationship that takes periodic maintenance in order to benefit you in the future. Nurture the relationship by making regular contacts, staying interested and flexible and willing to help out throughout the relationship. It is difficult to obtain help if the networking relationship door doesn’t (or won’t) swing both ways.

Building Relationships: Recording for Success

Networking isn’t the only task that you have to do in your business, so make it easier to be effective by recording your networking efforts. Keep a database of complete contact information and along with a log of your contacts and previous conversations. Dates and good notes are important here, so be as exact as you can. Many of our clients successfully utilize Outlook and the notes area to track prior conversations. Record non-business personal information such as spouse name, children if any, hobbies, vacations, etc. along with the individual’s expertise.   Effectively recording your contact’s information will allow you to pick up where you left off with a contact without pause or bobble. This effort leads to an effective, personal touch which maintains the relationships that you’ve built.

Look globally at your networking efforts on a regular basis to determine whether your strategy needs to be altered to keep it fresh and at its maximum effectiveness. Revise as needed.

How many calls or contacts do you need to make? The answer is specific to your business and the purpose for networking that you’ve identified above. Now that you’ve identified your reason or goal for networking, and your target contacts, you’ll need to determine a goal of contacts to be made. We recommend dividing your goal into bite-sized pieces that fit within your week rather than placing your networking calls all on one day of the week, or month.   A very reasonable and modest goal would be to call one person you have not talked to in quite a while and one new person you would like to build a relationship with per day.

Effective Relationship building and Making an Impact

Great leaders know that they can leverage their network contacts to be more effective in the development of business, in generating ideas and solutions and in their own personal, professional career path. Taking the time to strategically network and to maintain networking relationships pays off in the short, medium and long runs for those that persevere to target and build relationships