A successful network is about quality not quantity. We don’t need more contacts, we don’t need more ‘friends’ and we don’t necessarily need to spend more time connecting online. If this were all we needed, then every one of us would be enjoying unparalleled success through the sheer number of opportunities we have to connect.
Cultivating your relationships takes you to the tipping point between networking that is mildly effective and a successful network that works exponentially, where influence is increased and connections become transformational.
Here are 5 secrets for cultivating a successful network:
1. First Impressions Count
James Uleman, a professor of psychology at New York University explains: ‘You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. In spite of the congeniality of many professional gatherings, judgments are being made and impressions formed all the time.’
So what’s the first impression your network has of you? Professional? Intelligent? Ambitious? Lazy? Sloppy? Disinterested? Because your first impressions will affect future job opportunities, collaborations and more.
2. Confidence Matters
Confidence is about understanding yourself inside and out, knowing your talk, walking it and then being willing to share that with others from a place of generosity and authenticity. It is also about acknowledging when you don’t know something and being willing to say, ‘I have no idea what’s happening here’ or ‘can you please help me’.
Give your confidence a workout – act as if you already possess the confidence you want, strike the power pose as Amy Cuddy shares in her TED talk, visualise success and mentally rehearse your meetings.
3. Listen To Be Present
When you are engaged in conversation are you truly listening or are you rubbernecking, checking out who else is in the room or what other people are doing? Are you focusing on the conversation at hand or trying to listen in to other conversations? Or are you so in your own head that the only thing you can think about is what you are going to say next?
Effective listening is a skill that underpins all positive human connections. Make a point of staying focused and present. Make eye contact, concentrate and make a conscious decision to remove all distractions. Show a genuine interest because listening builds trust.
4. Become An Action Taker
If you say you’re going to do something, follow through and do it. It sends the message that you are serious about the relationship, that you are proactive, respectful and willing to invest the time and the effort.
Irrespective of whether it’s the first time you’ve met, or it’s someone who is already part of your network, make sure to send them a thank you. And schedule a follow up.
It’s important that you don’t just connect when you want something.
5. Keep Your Network Alive
Take the lead and expect nothing in return. Share openly because the collective thinking and active sharing of knowledge and ideas creates opportunity for all. If you continue to give in this way, then I promise you it will come back to you, in spades. You will boost your personal positioning and your reputation, and you will be seen as someone who is committed and invested in building relationships that matter.
A successful network is built over time. It’s about building trust and belief. It’s about giving and adding value to people and their lives first, and having the conviction that this investment will pay off in the development of more transformational connections.