Have you noticed that some people network effortlessly? Others become "great friends" after merely exchanging a couple of emails or tweets - it seems that technology has offered us the opportunity to suddenly expand our social circles ten fold ...even one hundred fold, without ever leaving our desk.
But, do you ever wonder how shallow all of that might turn out to be? Some people appear unable to distinguish between "colleagues" and genuine "friends"
At the end of the day, I suppose it all boils down to one's definition of "friendship" I have been communicating online with some people for five or six years, and exchanged hundreds of emails, but I cannot think of them as friends - I certainly wouldn't enjoy having a couple of beers with them - although I might like and respect them very much. But I digress.
The point here is that they are part of my network, and I do consider myself to be an "effective networker" Effective networker? What happened to "Social?" Oh, I just added that in the header so that this post will have more appeal if it is picked-up by any sites who are "social media" focused. You know the ones - if you mention twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn etc. etc. you get hundreds of reads. I just digressed again, sorry.
Whether it is accidental or planned, formal or informal, random or structured, while discussing with other people, the effective networker offers his or her knowledge, skills, ideas, resources, guidance or data freely - without any 'hooks' or expectations that repayment is due in any form. In fact, the only immediate benefit may be the pleasure to be derived from assisting someone with information that was of value to them.
Whilst the giver expects nothing in return, the receiver has a very positive experience and memory of you upon which they can act (if they so choose) in the future. If they do, either directly or indirectly, at some indeterminate time, you may receive some reciprocal benefit.
Along with openly offering any possible help and support, the effective networker does not operate as a one-way helper or super person/white knight/angel coming to the rescue of everyone else, but never personally in need of assistance. He or she also talks realistically about personal goals, tasks, challenges, problems and general issues and acknowledges feeling vulnerable in not being able to do everything single-handedly. Being open means being receptive to help when it is offered and, on occasions, asking networking contacts if they can suggest ideas, strategies or approaches that could assist you.
These two processes operate at the same time and together to create a cycle through which 'favors' are continually offered to all who participate. These favors are both offered and taken in order to keep the network strong and capable of growing to include more and more people.
This process is called 'reciprocity' - it simply means that effective networking is a coin with two sides, rather than just one. You can't have one without the other.
Successful networking is therefore about:
• Giving and receiving
• Contributing and accepting support
• Offering and requesting
• Promoting other's needs and promoting your own needs
• Trust and persistence
All of this is "the essence of effective networking"
It is what a friend (yes, a genuine one) calls "getting it" - in fact I think she invented the term. She is also responsible for me standing back and re-evaluating my online relationships, but I haven't admitted that to her yet!
"Getting It" is certainly a great header for a blog post .... maybe next week!