As I’ve discussed in previous posts, creating a strategic network has many parallels to building a computer network. In this post we’ll discuss how to keep that network running and how to optimize it for your professional and personal benefit.
Managing your strategic network is more of an art than a science, but there is an equation that can be applied — “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make” (many thanks to the Beatles for this insight). The effort you put into your network will be a direct reflection of the quality of your network.
Operating a “personal” or “strategic” requires maintenance which requires continuous effort. It is important that you stay on the radar of those people in your network. For example, you can do this by attending business or community events where you can meet with your network and keep the connections healthy. Also, with today’s technology, it is easier than ever to stay connected, there is no excuse for not keeping the network alive and strong.
Not sure of how or why to reach out? An easy way to keep connections and conversations fresh is to pass along interesting articles that apply to people in your network. Include a note along the lines of, “read this article and thought you would find it interesting. Hope you are doing well.” The exchange that follows may be a simple thank you or may lead to a deeper and more productive conversation.
With all this said, it is important that you do not pester people. If people inside or outside of your network don’t respond to an email or phone call, be patient. Also, absence from your network can be strategic – don’t saturate the market with yourself by attending every event in town. You don’t want to be seen as the person who networks for a living. If people are not being responsive to you, take a step back. More than likely they will reach out with a “Have not heard from you in a while.” You can respond, “I never heard back from you so I figured you were busy and did not want to bother you.” Above all else, be gracious and never take their silence personally.
Finally, the key to optimizing your network is to be a friend. One main premise of my book is, “Trust is the currency of all relationships.” Being a friend can build an affinity that leads to trusting relationship. In order to build that trust, being an effective communicator and understanding how others communicate is crucial. Certain people are better on email rather than phone. Some need prompting or a call to action to respond in a timely manner. Building a friendship over time will uncover these unwritten protocols and lead to a healthier and more productive network of true friends and colleagues.