Sunday, August 8, 2010

How to develop a strong network

By Kevin L. Nichols

Networking is a skill — better yet, an art form. Those that intuitively have a propensity to get along with others and develop strong bonds are more likely to be successful networkers. There are various intangible components that contribute to a networker’s success. It is important to identify some of these attributes and to strengthen what may not come naturally in order to develop the powerful network that you desire.

The first intangible is self-confidence. Marcus Garvey described it best when he said, “If you have no confidence in yourself, you are twice defeated in the race of life. With confidence, you have won before you have started.” Since relationships are arguably now more of a commodity than the rise or fall of mutual funds or stock prices, confident people are more likely to network with people who they do not know. A confident person is not squeamish and is typically comfortable with striking up conversations, or introducing himself or herself to others in a crowd. This is essential for meeting new people and developing a viable network.

The second intangible is integrity. Integrity is an invaluable component because having it encourages your friends and colleagues to recommend/refer/introduce you to others whom you would like to get to know. (Sometimes you are not aware of why you need to know them, but your network does.) Essentially, having integrity is the best marketing tool because it creates opportunities for people to want to meet you and/or do business with you so that they, too, can benefit from being one of your acquaintances. How you carry yourself and how you handle your business is a direct correlation of how motivated and inspired other professionals will be to network with you.

The final component that will be discussed in this piece is nurturance. Frankly, many networkers underestimate the power of nurturance. Often, friends and colleagues are easily annoyed when someone only calls, emails, texts or sends a message via a social networking site when they “need” something. Your friends and colleagues do not want to feel taken advantage of or used. Thus, it is vital to create opportunities to reach out to your network on a periodic basis to make sure that you are connected in “peace time” just in case you need their backing to go to “war.” No matter how subtle, nurturing your network will allow you to lean on your network multiple times throughout a given time period because your network feels needed, not abused. Finessing this is similar to being in a committed relationship. If done correctly, you will develop a symbiotically respectful relationship with your network with the appropriate amount of giving and taking.

Like any relationship, developing a powerful network is not easy. It takes a lot of work and responsibility. But with confidence, integrity and nurturance, the building blocks are in place for a strong foundation. If you want to make something happen in your life, you need the courage to ask for what you want. Once you have asked, the decision that your network makes (whether or not to assist you) depends on what they know about you, your accomplishments and what type of person you are. How you have managed those relationships will determine whether or not you get the assistance that you desire.

The strength of your network rests in your hands. What will you do with it?

Kevin L. Nichols is an author and the President/CEO of KLN Publishing, located in San Francisco. For more information, visit www.klnpublishing.com.

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