When we hear the word networking, we tend to first think of social events allowing us to meet new people, both inside and outside of our own industries and areas of influence. Most people think of networking in terms of how forming connections directly and personally will benefit us.
That school of thought is changing, rapidly, and a new group of super-networkers are gaining prominence (and with that value), and they are taking over networking as you know it.
So, if you are going to make networking successful for you, you need to become a connector. Here’s why!
Networking drives performance and development
Networking is one of the foundations of being successful in business right?
Absolutely! Networking is a great way to meet new people and can open doors to new opportunities, but it isn’t just about making connections to people who make it easier to achieve your goals and advance your own career. Believe it or not, networking is also the key to helping others pick up the skills and experience they need to improve their performance and enhance their development.
There is an emergent, and ever-expanding, group of business people in the know, who are capitalising on providing this coveted skill set of being the conduit between others, linking them and people or places that are the solution to others’ problems. These people are like a powerful group of super-networkers, and they’re known as Connectors.
Connectors build solid networks
Being a connector means connecting people to solve their problems or meet their needs. For example, if you know one of your colleagues is looking for someone with a specific skill set, you know a person who can fill that need so you connect the two.
In the Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell articulates the essence of a connector beautifully; “sprinkled among every walk of life . . . are a handful of people with a truly extraordinary knack of making friends and acquaintances. They are Connectors.”
Now, this may not sound like networking as you know it, but that’s exactly what it is. Networking is about helping the people in your network to achieve, as much as it is about helping yourself. Think about it, if someone within your networking community were to help you, for no reason other than helping you was within their reach, even by something as simple as connecting you to someone else who could solve a problem you were experiencing, would you not remember them favourably? Would you not perhaps by nature want to help that person or make them a priority were they to one day need something from you? People feel good about reciprocity, and inherently, people enjoying returning the favour. Maybe not now, but being a connector is not about the immediate, it’s not a “if I give this, I will get that” proposition. It’s about a genuine desire to help others, and create a broader community around you that extends beyond your typical networking spaces.
You see, being a connector is a powerful thing. You’ll be remembered by every person you connect to an opportunity and every person whose problem you solve.
When you’re remembered, people will refer opportunities to you. It’s a win-win.
How connector leaders improve performance
Rather than relying on just their own skills and experiences to coach team members and improve their performance, the best leaders connect their teams with people outside their own sphere of knowledge and influence.
The most successful leaders take advantage of opportunities for their associates to learn and improve by connecting them with the right people, both inside and outside of their own organisation. The best leaders don’t just network to expand their list of personal contacts. They use their networking skills to bring together talented professionals with the right background and experience and connect them with the right resources at exactly the right time.
As the performance of your team grows, it allows your talent and skill as an effective leader to shine, opening more opportunities for both you and your team.
How to make and facilitate connections
The key to becoming a connector is to be genuinely interested in the people you meet. That means talking to people beyond the networking events. Some of the best connectors, don’t necessarily network in the traditional places, they network doing things they love, activities they enjoy or just talking to people with a sense of curiosity about who they are without an agenda. For when you get to know people, you know what they need and how they can help others. Talk about things other than work, too. You never know what hidden talents or ideas you’ll discover. The more you talk to people, the more you’ll find connections for yourself and for others.
Don’t be a just a networker; be a connector. It’s the most sound basis to build long-term and sustainable networks which benefit you all.
Take the next step to build your network
If you or your team needs help to ensure you are building the right networks, then get in touch. Through the Athena Leadership Academy’s Building Strategic Networks workshop or through executive coaching we can ensure your networks are helping you towards your success.
And of course, I’d love to hear from you! Please feel free to send me a message and connect with me on LinkedIn!