Northwind Pharmaceuticals, Office Medication Dispensing

Networking is Dead. Engage Instead.

people engagementI recently responded to a blanket email from someone in my LinkedIn network soliciting interest in mutual business opportunities. My note simply said that I was interested in meeting to “shake hands and compare notes.” Though I wasn’t sure if I had immediate interest in his business opportunity, I was sincerely interested in building a bridge and getting to know him and his business. My response was greeted with a redirect to his assistant and 4 weeks later, a visit to his office. After compulsory introductions and niceties, he got down to business, made his pitch and essentially closed by saying “let me know if you’re interested”. I walked away shaking my head. This wasn’t a meeting with a 30 second window to close the deal – I had invested the time to drive to his office and was there to explore possibilities. Nor were we talking about a $100 transaction – the ramifications of a potential relationship were financially significant. I realized that I showed up ready to establish a relationship and he showed up ready to quickly qualify or disqualify me as a viable prospect.

Is there anyone in your “network” who only reaches out when they are looking for a job or a lead of some sort? We all know them. The occasional networker who only appears when they need something. What kind of relationship is that? The person who only sends an email or says “hello” or hits the “Like” button when it might benefit him or her. We’re all guilty. Some relationships don’t merit additional effort. As is the case with most everything in life, you will get out of that relationship exactly what you put into it.

We are all busy and have to make qualifying decisions in almost every aspect of our life: where we invest our time, money and energy are very important. However, in our quest to protect our time and qualify where we invest ourselves, have we lost something? We are so conditioned to build our networks, increase our connections and attract our followers that we’re losing the point. Isn’t it really about building meaningful relationships? I’m not suggesting that transactional relationships aren’t necessary and I’m not saying that we shouldn’t build more connections. But perhaps it is time to consider what we want out of those connections and how we best maximize them. In other words, how do we make them more meaningful for all involved?

It probably isn’t prudent to cancel your next networking event and simply focus on 10 key relationships. The reality is that our connections must constantly be evolving as we evolve. Maybe its time to evolve our notion of networking. Rather than maximizing the breadth of our connections, perhaps we should consider how we maximize the depth of our connections. Maybe relationship building is about engagement and engaging someone might be a better approach to networking. In this case, the goal might be to engage a person or group of people in a meaningful way with the objective of building some kind of ongoing relationship. What would happen if you approached your next networking event with the goal of engaging each person you met? What would you do differently?

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