Sunday, March 4, 2012

Networking is a Lot Like Life

Guest Post: Dr. Christopher Kuehl (PhD) is a Managing Director of Armada Corporate Intelligence

Steve:  Three reasons for this post:
  • Many association management professionals as well as association members say “networking” represents one of the principle benefits of the organization. 
  • Today’s digital media platforms have expanded and enhanced networking. 
  • I’ve always admired (and tried to emulate) “connectors” – those colleagues, friends, acquaintances who have and use the ability to “link” strangers who have common interests. In fact, I recently organized a conference call to connect three strangers who I knew had a common interest. 
So, when I read Chris Kuehl’s column last week, I asked him for permission to use his thoughts on networking as a guest blog for SCDdaily. He said yes … so, here’s Chris Kuehl. A good friend of mine sent along an article on networking through Linked-In the other day and it made some points that should be obvious but probably aren’t. The basic message is that when one enters the realm of social interaction one’s motives need to be pure. If you do a favor for someone or offer to make an introduction it should not be done with any expectation of reciprocity. This is the way we should treat most relationships in our lives but we rarely do. We do something for someone and expect something back in return. Some of us are even good at keeping score. The problem is that other people know this game when they see it and tend to resent the implication.

A few years ago there was a woman I knew who had some powerful connections that probably would have been helpful to my business. She offered to make some introductions but there was always a set of caveats. I needed to essentially pay her for the contact and the price quoted was high. I refused to engage and some years passed. Now her business was in trouble and she wanted my contacts. I could have been the magnanimous type but I wasn’t. At the same time there have been people who have never stopped making introductions and providing help. They ask nothing in return but I guarantee that when I see something that might help them I am not the least bit hesitant.

It is like any other form of giving. I do not expect anything from anybody but I am delighted when someone chooses to think of me or gives in return. I give because I want to and because I can. I don’t calculate that a favor done here will yield another one there. If it does I am thankful and appreciative but I am never disappointed if nothing comes of it so long as I do not perceive the relationship to be exploitative.

Perhaps the most classic case of mutual favors involves the BIB (Business Intelligence Brief). It was just a concept when we approached Pam Whiting at the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. We did not know if anyone would read it or want it. She gave us a chance. It has been over five years and we are now all over the world with the BIB. Pam let us prove the concept and make a business out of it. In return I always try to make time in my schedule for a Chamber event when they need me.

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