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Additional Thoughts on Networking

| March 17, 2015

by Jim Bruce

Last week I was attracted to a short piece [1] on networking by Marc Thompson.  Thompson is an author, leadership coach, and investor.  The article’s title, “Why Jeff Bezos, Tony Hsieh and Al Gore Told Me to Stop Networking,” was what caught my eye. 
Thompson notes at the beginning of the piece that the typical advice you find in books and articles focusing on networking often feels manipulative and self-serving.  He goes on to note that these entrepreneurs and others have given him advice that is very different.  He quotes Bezos as saying that a better way is to “seek to build a community – to make better choices in the people with whom you partner – that’s the only way to have a greater long-term impact on the world.”  He also says that longer term success is not about quick wins but about finding the people who matter most and learning what’s happening out there just beyond your field of vision.
To do this, he suggests five ways to shift your thinking about “return on relationships”:
1.  Don’t confuse transactions with relationships!  Stating from zero with a relationship is not going to solve a current issue, a transaction.  Take a step back, look for those individuals that you would like to have as a long-term colleague and resource.  Then do a deep dive to discover how you can work together.
2.  Don’t ask for anything until you’ve added value.  Al Gore:  “The only way to earn reciprocity from anyone else is for you to show generosity first.”  You need to go first at adding value.
3.  Don’t make this about you.  Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” research ranked “being understood” as one of the most treasured desires of human beings.  To understand someone, you show interest in them.  The “best way to be interesting is to be interested.”
4.  Don’t go after the biggest network.  Go for quality over quantity.  Maintaining your network or relationships takes time if you are going to keep the relationships current and therefore more meaningful.  So, select fewer, go deeper, and find more interesting folks.  Thompson suggests that you make a list of people who are essential to your future and find out what they value.  Make sure you are spending enough time to understand this value.  And, you may want to spend time with them doing what they value.
5.  Don’t just go along for the ride with any network.  The third “I” in the 4 I’s is “involve.”  Are you involved with people who are significant in your network?  Are you doing things together?  If not, maybe you should be, both an activity that does something worthwhile as well as one that builds the relationship.
So, here are five things about your relationship building for you to think about and reflect on how you’re doing.  I hope that you’ll do some of this this week.
Have a great week.  .  .    jim
1.  Mark Thompson, “Why Jeff Bezos, Tony Hsieh and All Gore Told Me to Stop