How did Scott O’Neil become the CEO of the Philadelphia 76ers, Philadelphia Flyers, and the New Jersey Devils? Simple: networking.
Alright—that’s a gross understatement of his journey (listen or watch the On Leadership interview to learn more), but it’s foundationally true. In life, success is greatly predicated on who you know. Certainly what you know is vital, but if we’re completely transparent with each other, we know it’s more about our networks and our relationships with others than anything else that contributes to our professional success.
We all need to network to fulfill our dreams. To turn nothing into something. To help others do the same.
It’s easier for some of us than for others. For introverts, you likely need to move outside your comfort zone and stretch your skills. Like any talent, the skill needs to be developed, nurtured, and refined. I know many extroverts that have unbridled energy, have never met a stranger they don’t like, and love chatting up people they don’t know. This does not make them great networkers. It makes them…well…chatty.
Having the “gift of gab” does not build a network.
Networking successfully requires several principles:
- Having an abundance mindset: Always thinking through the lens of “there’s enough for everyone.” Credit, fame, attention, funding, press, leads, etc.
- Thinking win-win: Enter every relationship by asking, “Do I know what’s a win for them and how do I ensure that happens?”
- Let it rest: Don’t turn every meeting, every call, every cup of coffee into a networking session. Earn the right to ask for an introduction. People can smell a self-serving opportunist a mile away.
- Can you lend me your reputation? Remember: every time you ask for an introduction to someone, you’re requesting, requiring really, that person vouch for you, based on their own credibility, not yours. Don’t ask too much of people, but rather request judiciously for introduction. Instead, demonstrate your own trustworthiness and credibility by making and keeping commitments.
- The thank you: When someone in your network chooses to expand yours, thank them. Genuinely. Face to face. Look them in the eye, shake their hand, and express in simple and earnest words how much you appreciate the connection and your intent. Promise to make them proud. Want to earn more connections? Become the gold standard in delivering on your promises.
- Become a connector and pollinator: To quote John Maxwell, “Who do you know that I should know?” Or to quote Scott Miller, “Who do I know that you should know?”
- People can’t help you if you don’t ask: But remember, you need a strong sense of self-awareness to know if you’ve earned the right to ask.
- Be authentic: Feel comfortable admitting (if it’s true) that you hate networking or that you find it difficult given your strengths and weaknesses to meet new people or ask for an introduction.
- Offer to help: Don’t keep a scorecard, but be sure you proactively offer to help those around you, before they even ask.
Implement some of these concepts in your relationships and no doubt your network will expand.
Principles of effective leadership have not changed, but when some team members are co-located, some work from home, and even more follow a hybrid model, leaders must apply those principles differently.
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