Ask Those in Your Network What Matters Most to Them
It will be something different for each person. By asking this question, you and your network will get both passion and direction around more opportunities. For example, say your network partner shares that he wants to do more community work with a non-profit. You happen to know of a non-profit where you like to donate money and volunteer your time. What if you involved your colleague in the non-profit and, as a result, he ends up on the board. In turn, you are recognized for adding to the success of an organization you care about. In the 20+ years I have been helping individuals and organizations build networks, rarely has there ever been a time I have not seen a powerful ripple effect for myself and the other person.
You need only a few people with whom you are growing deeper, professional relationships to initiate an impact in your life. In fact, the average executive keeps in regular, monthly contact with only about five people. Therefore, on a monthly basis, spend time supporting just a few people. This attention will help you leverage the power of your network.
Ask Great Questions of Your Networking Partner
By asking questions, you can lead the conversation toward the most successful outcome, which should pertain to you and your network gaining value from a networking exchange. Questions also keep both parties participating.
Great questions set the stage for powerful answers that inspire. The best conversations start with thought-provoking questions—e.g. “Who is the best networker you have ever met and why?” This question creates a focus on another person whom you most likely would benefit from meeting.
In my mind, November starts the season of Thanksgiving. Therefore, I spend even more time than usual, thinking of people who are owed gratitude for connecting me with folks needing help with writing a book. These same people have also referred their friends to me for support in launching a face-to-face networking program in their organizations or an online training initiative as to how to leverage social media.
Life’s lessons keep bringing us back to this truth: Ultimately you don’t benefit when you take more than you give. (The same is also true when you give more than you take.) Keep a healthy balance with your relationships by looking at what I term “The Great Exchange.” This is all about remembering to ask for and offer support, just like trees give us oxygen—by the way, I love trees!—we give them carbon dioxide. Build your networks where there are healthy, consistent exchanges that establish great connections and opportunities. Finally, remember, less is more. Quality connections create quality opportunities. Start small and grow your connections and opportunities one person at a time.