Your BREAK THROUGH, Vol. 1, Post 44

It’s time we stop trying to redefine networking, and give what we’re really after a new name.  Networking has scared, dismayed and sent far too many of us running for the hills for far too long. We fear the glad-handing, business card swapping, schmoozy meet and greet. Our social anxiety goes into overdrive as our stutters come out full swing, not just when asked to talk about ourselves but to complete even the first task of networking 101: asking the other person about themselves.

There are a cacophony of blogs, articles, and even entire books about the art of networking. Tips and tools abound, and many of them are quite useful. But I think that just the word networking results in an unproductive intention no matter how we spin it, hack it, or adapt it.  Networking sets the stage for us to quietly think, ‘how can this person help me one day?’ Networking spinsters would immediately say that such a question should be replaced with ‘how can I help this person …’ but we all know that we’re still thinking about what follows that ellipsis, ‘how can I help this person … so that this person can one day help me?’

So today’s re-brand of networking: network building. Instead of considering how we might help a person, or how they might help us, imagine that you are spinning a web well beyond that singular quid pro quo transaction, a web that weaves together the grand collection of people you know, with all of their talents, abilities, and beautiful contributions to the human community.

Network building puts you at the center of creating a skills bank, a talent pool, and an unfathomable quantity of future relationships, interactions, and collaborations … hundreds of which you will never be a part. You begin by asking the questions “who do I know that can help this person?” and “who do I know that this person could help?” Your network soon becomes an indispensable community resource.

If this all sounds familiar, the infamous Malcolm Gladwell positioned his Connectors as the folks who do this type of network building constantly. But my call for innovators, entrepreneurs, and leaders then is not to ignore the concept of Connector because you might not fit the type, but to become a Connector so that you can communicate effectively, actively engage your community, and seek collaboration whenever possible. These practices are at the root of a creative leader’s success.