One of the biggest truths that I have learned in growing a network is vitally crucial but often overlooked.

Not to say that it is forgotten on purpose, we just are not wired for this naturally. Since the invention of man, we have focused on our needs. If you are a parent, think about it. Your little bundle of joy comes into this world all cuddly cute, quiet, obedient to your every instruction (like sleeping all night). They are fully independent and able to feed, bath, change themselves. If this is your child, then you have given birth to a unicorn. This doesn’t truly exist. I know, my wife and I have four kids. In reality, we cry if we don’t get attention, expect someone to feed us, expect someone to change us if we mess our pants. We start out life focused entirely on our needs and wants. At some point in early childhood development, we are taught to share, work with others and love others. We are taught to give. But this is LEARNED.

The key to truly growing a network is to GIVE.

So many people forget this all-important principle. When we network, we have to get past what can we get out of a relationship and focus on what can we offer to a relationship. I want to give you three realities why you should look to give. Before I do, you have to hear me, this is so important:  DON’T GIVE TO GET! These keys are not a magical formula to use in manipulating others to get something.

Key 1:  It is better to give than to receive

This really flies in the face of our human nature. This requires us to be others focused. I have found that when I have a mindset to give and help connect someone to a resource that may help them, that is where a relationship can start. After all, what is networking if we are not building relationships? To grow and invest in relationships. 

You may be reading this and think: “What about the time-wasters that all I do is invest in them, and they don’t return the favor? You can possibly think that I should give my valuable time to them.” True, there are real time wasters in the business world. I had a multi-millionaire tell me once, that he only spends time with people he can duplicate himself through (invest in) or learn from. If you put deposits into someone, and they discard them, dust off your feet and go deposit somewhere else.  

Key 2:  Give without an agenda

One of my favorite Christmas movies is Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.” Bing tells Rosemary Clooney, “Everybody operates with a little larceny in them…” This is so true. Most people have an angle; they are trying to get a meeting with someone in order to get their foot in the door to land a big client or to get an introduction.  

These introductions, these closed sales can and do happen. This is great, but it can’t be the motivation of a meeting. Go into your next networking meeting without a selfish agenda, and without your presentation materials. Go to learn about the other person and what drives them. See if you know somebody they should know and make the connection for them.

Key 3: Live life with open hands

If you want to be truly happy in life, you need to adopt this as a life philosophy. The more we live holding on to what we have, we limit the ability to be given more.  

Look at Spider Monkeys – they are cute and cuddly. You may or may not know how to catch one. You have put some of their food source in a jar with a small opening at the top. They reach in and grab the food, don’t let go, and thus are trapped. No matter what happens, they will not let that food go, even in the face of danger. Don’t be a networking spider monkey. Learn to give and invest in others.

Work on developing these keys as an attitude in networking.  Put them into practice. When we take our eyes off of ourselves, and put them on others, that is the way we truly grow relationships.

 

Ethan is a co-founder of NWA Networking, and is passionate about teaching people the correct way to network. He is a native of Northwest Arkansas, and is very active in multiple facets of the community.