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October 6, 2011

Don't Abandon Your Network

We all know by now that networks are critical to our business success and that the web has made our networking more dynamic. But the basics still apply, even as we are experiencing instant gratification -- like when we reach out to contacts on LinkedIn and we are instantly linked to former colleagues and new contacts when they accept our request to connect.

What are the basics? One of them is, don't abandon your network. If you are on a site like LinkedIn for example, it's unwise to assume that just because you have a hefty roster in your network, it means much.

Networks need to be nurtured. So just like the things that hopefully we learned as kids, we need to be gracious and communicative or our networks can languish.

So, let your network know your news that matters. Fill them in on what you are doing, but not just in the self-serving ways, in the human ways.

Recently, a friend in communications mentioned that she had helped several young professionals in their job searches. That's great, but she also commented that some of these wonderful young professionals have not come back to post her when they have secured their jobs. That's unwise.

Humans are social beings. And human nature being what it is, the next time any one of these folks is in need of professional advice or support, they are less likely to get it from the folks in their network that they abandoned when things were going well.

It is also unwise to use your network only to get what you need or to boast about your accomplishments. Tell the folks in your network that you appreciate their efforts on your behalf, so they will be there for you the next time you really need them. And, you will really need them at some point in your professional path.

Don't abandon your network ... it is your safety net for the good and bad times and needs to be nurtured.

June 29, 2011

Smart Network Must-Haves


Networks have a mind of their own. When they work as they should, they can enhance our business lives in very big ways. But they can also pull focus and time away from other important business development efforts.

Networks are not created overnight and then need attention. Left neglected, they can languish and fall away.

Recently, I came across a fine piece in the Harvard Business Review about people with really successful networks and why and how they work. In their piece Managing Yourself: A Smarter Way to Network, the authors describe the key attributes of really good networks and the people who use them wisely and well.

Good networks don't have to be big, but they do need to be effective. They need to include key participants that not only actually DO something when asked, but also provide ideas and support.

I have long been a believer that being generous in your own network, is the only way one can expect generosity back. "Reciprocal relationships also tend to be more fruitful; the most successful leaders always look for ways to give more to their contacts," say the authors of Managing Yourself. And this point is noted over and over again.

One of the most effective executives interviewed for the piece described her business success managing a major tech company's business unit this way: " 'People may chalk it up to luck, but I think more often than not luck happens through networks where people give first and are authentic in all they do.' "

If you are not thinking about "giving" and "generosity" in your own network when asked, and if you are not reciprocating without hesitation, it is urgently important that you study the HBR piece for the data that will alter your approach and help you develop a better, more effective network. And, if you are a giver and find that some in your network are not, remove them from your network. But whatever you do, when someone in your networks seeks your support and has given theirs, withhold at your own peril.