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The Alchemy of Leadership Blog

How to Stop Your Networking Not Working

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Over the last few weeks, School for CEOs co-Founder David Sole has launched a brand new book, 21st Century Networking and a smartphone app, BizPrompt. He’s been prompted (geddit?) by the experiences of business people he’s worked with over many years, often as a coach. Many people get in a bit of a cold sweat about networking, worrying that they ought doing more of it but not knowing how to go about it. They approach networking events with dread. They fear it’s a manipulative, slightly shady process which lacks integrity.

These misconceptions get in the way of what is really a powerful and positive tool for success. The School for CEOs is hosting a series of seminars for people who’d like go about it more effectively. David and Belinda Roberts, his co-author, speak about some of the key lessons they’ve learnt over many years. Some of the bullet points that I’ve taken away are:

    • Networking is a two-way street. Don’t start networking when you need something from other people. Start now. Give something to the people you meet without ever thinking of getting something back, for example by making a connection with someone they might find helpful. One day, what goes around will come around 
    • Manners are the oil in a new relationship, reducing friction and smoothing the conversation. Look at the person you’re talking to, rather than scanning the room for someone more interesting to meet. Engage in the conversation rather than offering the same platitudes to everyone. Follow up afterwards with an email. Thank your host for inviting you. These small, basic things make all the difference
    • Networking isn’t about building an ever-expanding universe of contacts. According to Robin Dunbar, an anthropologist, we can only maintain cohesive contact with about 150 people. Decide who those 150 are and keep in regular contact with them. One way is to email a quick, targeted note at appropriate intervals. The note might draw their attention to an article of interest or it might congratulate them on, say, a promotion. Obviously, you don’t want to be a nuisance, so prioritise the people you stay in closest contact with.

And that’s where the neat little BizPrompt app comes in. To help you with this prioritisation, the BizPrompt app invites you to assign contact frequencies to your 150 contacts. The app then prompts you to get in touch with them at one-, three- or six-monthly intervals as appropriate. This simple ‘one-man CRM’ helps you keep your network alive.

There’s much more to networking than this, of course. In fact, there’s a whole book-full of lessons to work with! For me, the key message is to see networking as a positive and essential part of your business life. The core idea is to benefit the people you’re in touch with. It benefits you almost as a happy by-product. What’s holding you back?

© Patrick Macdonald 2015

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