The Five Essentials of Influential Networking
“If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together!” My friend and quintessential networker, Paul Fleischmann, in his book Better Together, sited this African Proverb. It is a perfect illustration of Influential Networking. Whether you call it networking, partnering, connecting, collaborating, or just plain “working together,” the reality is we can do more together than we can alone.
We understand it takes many members playing an assortment of instruments to make up an orchestra. It takes numerous workers with a variety of skills to construct a house and a collection of scientists trained in variety of fields to discover a new life-saving medication. However, we often forget God bestowed a diversity of gifts upon the body of Christ, each providing an opportunity to complement one another.
This diversity of giftedness makes networking vital and highly effective when utilized properly. In my various roles of ministry, I have networked with individuals, churches, organizations, and businesses for over forty years. I have discovered Five Essentials of Influential Networking.
- Be Intentional. – “The key to intentional living is being able to clearly identify what the results of our work and life ought to be…” according to T. J. Addington, Leading from the Sandbox. Determine the individual, church, organization, or business with whom you desire to connect, and then take the first step. Plan your first contact, communicating in advance, so you both know why you are making the connection. Do not call or go to an appointment without a plan.
- Be Teachable. – Influential networkers ask more questions than they make statements. Your meeting is not about impressing or soliciting support: you are there to learn about them. Avoid asking obvious questions you could have discovered by doing advance internet research. Your questions should demonstrate your desire to go to the next level with the relationship.
- Be Trustworthy. – Influential networking is built on trust. Remember you are both volunteering to help each other. “Volunteers do not need contracts; they need covenants…A covenantal relationship rests on shared commitment to ideas, to issues, to values, to goals….” says Warren Bennis in his book On Becoming a Leader. I am not suggesting forgoing the use of contractual agreements; however, I am saying that strong networks are first a matter of trust.
- Be Generous. – Influential networkers are truly interested in giving more than they take. They do not hesitate to offer ideas or services to help solve another person or organization’s problem. Our goal in networking should always be to strive for a win-win relationship.
- Be Relational.– Influential networkers are more concerned about relationships than results. If all the network means to you is the growth of your program or event, then it will produce short-term gain at best and be a shallow partnership. However, relational networks not only produce short-term results but long-term impact.
Networking is powerful when we approach it with the proper mindset. As believers, we are simply acknowledging the power of the Body of Christ. We can leverage each other’s gifts and abilities to accomplish more for the cause of Christ. Leonard Sweet in his book The Gospel According to Starbucks said, “The future belongs to the connectors…”
How has networking personally helped you?