If you’re a student of networking, then you’ve likely heard the Golden Rule. If not, here goes: The Golden Rule of Networking says, “Give First, Get Second.” In a nutshell, those who are highly proficient at building relationships know that they need to do things for other people and then simply trust that good things will come back to them at some point in time.
From time to time, however, someone you’ve never done anything for does something for you. That’s okay. The Universe is not out of whack. It’s likely that all your prior “giving” efforts have made their way back to you. In essence, fate has simply shined on you. Graciously thank them for what they have done. Then make an effort to learn how you can add value to them. And finally make a mental note to keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities to serve them.
Humans are hard wired for self-preservation. That is, you’re geared to steer clear of potential dangers and protect yourself at all costs. In many respects, this is a good thing. It’s largely kept mankind safe and thriving for literally eons.
This is good, but beware. Sometimes that instinct can undermine your relationships. How? When things in your life don’t work out, that impulse to safeguard yourself can lead you to blame others for the misfortunes you encounter.
No doubt, other will wrong you or simply makes mistakes. But before you lash out (whether inward or outward), think through the situation. What could you have done differently to avoid it?
No, this does not excuse a mistake or misdeed, but it allows you to get a grip on your emotions. This will help you move forward in a mature, professional manner. And that will ensure you continue to win people over in your relationships.
In his book Who Do You Need To Meet, professional speaker Rob Thomas reveals that achieving his Boy Scout Eagle Badge taught him the value of community, relationships and service.
He shares, “That training inspired me to become a civic-minded adult. I discovered that if my goal is to meet more people and have them know me better, the easiest way is to volunteer and really become involved.”
Thomas continues to make the point that when you come out of your corner of the world to volunteer, you find yourself shoulder to shoulder with people who share your passion for something. Likewise, they’ve also come out of their corner of the world to serve too.
So, if you want a “feel good” way to get yourself networked, find a charity, organization or initiative you’re passionate about. Then offer up your time, talent and conviction to make a difference. As Thomas might term it, network like a boy scout.
To be successful in any business or profession, you cannot just hole-up in front of your computer and work the phone. You need to shower up, brush your teeth, and get out amongst people. Find groups and organizations to join.
Know this, however, you cannot just belong. You cannot just be in the community. You cannot just be in the Chamber. You cannot just be part of the Church. You cannot just belong.
To develop strong relationships – you know, build know, like, and trust – you must get involved. Roll up your sleeves (actually or figuratively) and lend a hand. Be an officer in a group. Be a committee member of an organization. Be something (anything) more than just a name on a membership roster.
By doing so, you raise your level of exposure. And you demonstrate your level of commitment to something more than just you. When you do these things, others will not be able to help but know, like, and trust you.
An effective use of social media is to share with your online network. Sure, you can enlighten others on who you are, who you’re with and what you’re doing. But beyond just being like your own personal publicist, you can use social media to add value.
Adding value is important whether you’re networking in a traditional manner or online. People simply want to associate with those that have something to offer. It is human nature. So, you can provide significant value to your online network by sharing content. This can include offering information, providing insights or simply alerting others to opportunities.
Furthermore, just like contributing content, you can add value by engaging your network. Ask questions that allow others to share. Solicit feedback, allowing others to chime in with an opinion. Create a forum for discussion and debate. Each of these creates interaction. With you. Amongst others. And all of it creates value within your network.
In his popular book, More … Word of Mouth Referrals, Lifelong Customers and Raving Fans, professional speaker Matt Ward introduces the concept of the Personal Care Package as a means of really staying on the radar of your best referral sources.
He shares, “To cut through the noise of marketing and advertising that bombards your contacts every day, you must find some very clever ways to reach them. Developing your personal care package is the key. This is a series of things you do to ensure that you remain on the top of your contact’s mind.”
Ward essentially asks, “What is it that you could send to your best referral sources?” And he shares that it has to show that you’ve taken note of who they are, what they’ve said, or what really matters to them.
Maybe it’s a unique trinket … an article or other information … or maybe chocolate-covered bacon. Figure that out and then take action.
In the summer of 2005, Kyle MacDonald shared on the Internet that he was attempting to own a house by trading up from his starting position –a red paper clip. Immediately he traded the paper clip for a fish-shaped pen.
Another person saw more value in the pen than in the handmade doorknob he had. And similar logic followed as the doorknob was exchanged for a camp stove, followed by a 100-watt generator, then a Budweiser sign, which ultimately garnered a snowmobile.
From here, MacDonald secured an afternoon with rock star Alice Cooper, which he traded for a KISS snow globe, which converted into a paid movie role. Finally, someone offered a farmhouse in exchange for the movie role.
This is a wonderful metaphor for networking. The things you offer up to your network have more value in the hands of others. And what you get in return has a whole lot more value to you. In short, networking arithmetic is a whole different breed of math.
Think of the last person you spoke to. What qualities about them do you admire? Did you somehow convey that sentiment to them? Why not?
Now think about this. When you discover that someone admires qualities you possess, do you tend to have a heightened degree of admiration for them? I bet you do.
So, it stands to reason that a super simple, highly effective and very inexpensive means of drawing others to you is to let them know what you sincerely appreciate about them. You only need a moment to say it. Or a few keystrokes to fire out an e-mail. Or a postage stamp and a little ink on a handwritten note.
With this little bit of effort, you set in motion powerful forces that serve to amplify your relationship with whomever you choose.
So, what’s stopping you? It’s easy to do. And the rewards are amazing. So, let someone know why you appreciate them.
As Brian Ahearn reminds us in his book Influence People, “Studies show people are more likely to comply with a request when it comes from an expert.”
While that’s insightful, it likely begs the question, “How can I make this influence tactic work for me?” Well, Ahearn offers insight for that too. He shares, “Studies show you can increase your trustworthiness – and in turn your authority – simply by admitting a weakness early on. Then, be sure to share your strengths immediately afterwards.” According to Ahearn, this approach will ensure that people remember your strengths more than your weaknesses.
So, to ensure you have a lasting impact with your message, say something like, “No, I don’t know anything about the political implications. But I’ve spent a year studying the financial implications. This pays for itself in a year or less.”
As Ahearn reminds, your authority is built through your weaknesses and then on to your strengths.
You want a productive network. You know you do. One that keeps you flush with people you can turn to for great referrals, insightful information and additional priceless contacts.
You want this. Everyone does. How do get such a productive network? Simple. Make it a priority to share great referrals, insightful information and priceless contacts.
It’s no secret. To get things out of your network, you first need to build those same things in your network. When you contribute to others – family, friends, colleagues, clients and even people you hardly know – you build those relationships. And you set in motion amongst your network a powerful desire to contribute to you in return.
So, every day commit to doing something to contribute to your network, as each action is a step towards building the network you want. What are you doing today to build your network?