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Seven powerful tips to create and sustain successful networks

By pa360, Feb 9 2015 06:06AM

I remember watching a television interview a few years ago. The interview was with a sibling of a very famous sports personality. During the interview, the sibling spoke painfully about the distance that had developed between them and their famous relative. Towards the end of the interview, the sibling suggested that perhaps the reason for the 'distance' is because he "didn't measure up" to the high standards and lofty accomplishments of his celebrity relative.

As only one side of the story was presented, I do not know whether a failure to 'measure up' was indeed the real reason for the animosity between both siblings. But I never forgot that interview, nor the phrase "didn't measure up" and today it provides the inspiration for this blog. The point to make here is that no matter how much God given talent you have or how hard-working and committed you are, no-one achieves success by themselves. In some way, great or small, we are reliant on the support (direct or indirect) of others. So how can you ensure that you are able to create and sustain successful networks? Well, set out below are seven powerful tips.

1. Resist the temptation to make your network all about you

Here is a revelation: you are not the most important person in your success story - those who support and assist you are. It is a sad fact that we, as individuals, are often the first casualty and biggest obstacle to our own success because we live under the misapprehension that our success is all about ourselves. By contrast, we see others as incidentals, disposables and discardables, whose purpose in life is to make it possible for us to become the best that we can possibly be. Wrong! Both on the journey to success and whilst we are yet successful, we are reliant on an army of others to get us there and keep us there. The first learning point therefore is that if you don't understand the value and worth of those that have helped you to get there, you wont appreciate the sacrifice and selflessness of those who help to keep you there.

2. Beware of the temptation to trade valuable networks for valueless friends

One of the biggest risks that people face as they develop networks is the extent to which they reassess the value of their networks as they become more successful. Let's be clear, this is not to suggest that there is anything wrong with consciously and thoughtfully re-appraising the value of the networks in your life. On the contrary, the point being made here is the need to be cautious and careful when doing so. As a case in point, someone who has enjoyed a period of personal success may attribute much less value to those who might be inclined to 'speak truth to power' or others who might be inclined to help that individual 'stay grounded'. Strong networks are not about quantity, they are about quality. Build networks that give you what you need, not what you want.

3. Remember that networks don't just need a good driver, they also need a capable mechanic

Your attitude to building networks is of critical importance. Some, adopt a big picture approach and assiduously build new relationships in order to develop as wide a circle of opportunity for themselves as possible. Others adopt a 'shrink and grow' approach - developing and abandoning networks in response to the needs and demands of the moment. Then there are others who allow their networks to grow organically, without too much conscious thought given to how or where. Whichever approach you use, it is important to cultivate, manage and maintain your networks as this will ensure that they remain healthy, relevant and purposeful. Ultimately, networks are like motor vehicles, if they are not serviced and managed, they fall into disrepair and if they fall into disrepair, what is point of having them?

4. With networks, diversity is critical, but composition is king

The value of diversity, within and across networks, can speak to the richness, depth and breadth of those who comprise your closest circle. The reason why this is important is because in order to build a successful and sustainable personal economy, we also need to build sustainable and successful networks. A strong network will be comprised of those who can inspire, encourage, critique and challenge us. Some in our networks may be influencers, able to connect us to new opportunities at key points in our development. Others may be naysayers and pragmatists who act as a counter-weight to our penchant for impulsivity. Clearly, it may not always be possible to take such a considered and conscientious approach to the development of networks. None-the-less, it is still worth highlighting that a person with homogeneous networks is a bit like a tradesman with a box full of hammers; good for one thing, but not much else.

5. Do not travel alone

In my experience, the key to building and sustaining a successful network is to make the point of taking people with you or your journey to success. Taking people with you simply means recognising their contribution to your progress. At key points in our lives others will act in our interest in a way that proves to be crucial or useful to our progress. It could be a creditor who forgives a debt or a friend who encourages us when we are at our lowest ebb. It could be an employer who sings our praises in spite of our obvious shortcomings or family members whose patience we stretch to near breaking point. For every success story there are numerous 'others' who are involved in making that success possible. Rewarding others, through reciprocity, is not only an astute investment in the growth of your personal economy, it also adds value to your brand.

6. Develop the talents and apply the skills

Successful networks are successful for a reason. That reason is often attributable to a wide-range of things such as compatibility, composition and countless other factors. However, another critical 'active ingredient' for what makes networks successful, is sustained effort. In simple terms, you must be a convenor, a facilitator, an interactor, a sign-poster and a connector. Networking, by its very nature, is not a passive pursuit neither are successful networks the products of casual commitment.

7. What difference do you want them to make?

In life, a simple rule of thumb is that: if you are going to invest your time, effort and energy into something, then you need to be confident that it is going to be worth your while. That life principle is applicable to networking as well. From the get go, you need to know what 'success' looks like for you in the context of your network. Furthermore, in defining 'success' (however, you choose to do that) you need to give thought to what you are willing to give, not just what you are expecting to gain. A sure sign of a successful network is one that is mutually supportive, where everyone involved feels as if they have something valuable to contribute and something meaningful to gain.

In summary, whether we are consciously aware of them or not, networks are an essential contributor to our success. They provide comfort and assurance and help us to navigate our way safely in hard times. They can also be a rapid escalator to unexpected opportunity and be a valuable sounding board to test our ideas. Therefore, to the extent that we are consciously aware of our networks, means that we will be better able to make them purposeful and effective for ourselves and others. There is also a salutary lesson here about how we treat those, in our networks, who have contributed to our success. As a friend of mine once commented: be good to people on your way up, because you never know when you might need them on your way down.

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