People are the connecting dots in your journey. Lessons along the way – Part Four

Picture your most elaborate goal. Focus on it for a while. Hold it…and now release it. Next, begin to think about how you will achieve it. Money? Possibly. Opportunity? The right exposure? The right platform? A groundbreaking idea? I’m sure you could come up with many “maps” to get you to your desired end.

Here’s the thing, you won’t be able to achieve anything without the right people. Knowing them, working with them, supporting them, and being a part of a community. Whatever you want to achieve will be facilitated by people and in my experience sometimes these people are the most unlikely ones. It’s easy to focus on a particular individual for a solution but because life is so interesting and unpredictable, usually the assistance is likely to come from someone you did not expect it from.

That’s why it’s important to be active and intentional about building your network. I have spoken extensively on networking at a number of events and there is a chapter in my book, Sales 101: What Everyone Should Know About Sales, that addresses this. Here, I was speaking at the Obaasima Summit at the University of Ghana, Legon in 2022.

Consider this – the six degrees of separation theory states that at any point in time, you could meet anyone in the world with a maximum of six or fewer mutual connections between you and that person. Your mutual connections may be acquaintances, friends, or family members. Social media, according to some studies has shrunk that number from six to an average of four. You know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, who knows the person you want to meet, your next big opportunity, or your next helping hand through a sticky situation.

Social media is a wonderful tool for this but there’s a method to it. You need to be able to move the conversations from being virtual into the tangible world. Extending your support to other people and their causes is a great way to start. Attending events organized by members of your social media communities and meeting the faces behind the names is another way. Whatever you do, remember that behind those accounts are real people.

In building and being a part of a thriving network, do not be a parasite. A parasite feeds off its host and doesn’t give anything. A parasite only thinks about themselves. You’re a parasite if your mindset is that you have nothing to offer and are thinking “At this point all I need is help”. You can also help. You are also a connector. Each of us has a role to play in supporting another person, one of my favourite Shakespeare quotes is from his book, As You Like It:

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.

Indeed! Our roles are interconnected and related to the successes and failures of other people. You will interact with hundreds of individuals in your lifetime, some will be positively impactful, and others not so much. The challenge for most of us is how to ensure that we are intentionally building relationships with other people in a collaborative, healthy manner. Let me add here that maintaining adult relationships is hard! With all the things adult life brings to bear, ensuring you are a good friend and actively engaging your community will require effort and intentionality. So, this is not something you can leave to chance.

Here’s my simple road map to building a network – I use NETWORK as a mnemonic:

N – New friends: To build and maintain a thriving network, you have to make new friends, strike new acquaintances, and maintain them. This can be scary to many an introvert but you don’t have to talk to 100 people at a party, you just have to talk to a few and then stay in touch with them and commit to

E – Existing relationships are part of your network. Building a network does not mean you focus only on new people, it means you engage your existing family, friends, old schoolmates, etc. They also are part of your network.

T – Trust is an important value to have if you are going to be a committed member of a network. Building trust requires that you say what you mean and mean what you say. You have to be dependable and predictable. Predictable in the sense that people who know you can depend on you. Without trust, relationships do not thrive.

W – Work at it. Networking and being an engaged, effective member of a network requires work. Keeping in touch is work, making time to hang out is work, and making time to be present and available is work. Consider it as something important, yet fun, and work at it.

O – Originality. This means that you present your authentic self. There are approximately eight billion people across the globe but you are an original. This reality means that there is no one with the exact same traits, personality, and abilities as you. Presenting your authentic self means that you are comfortable with the person you are and what you represent in terms of values, principles and aspirations. Whilst being part of a group may require some amount of blending it, I advise that an individual should always maintain their sense of individuality in terms of judgment and choices. Do not do anything simply because the group wants it. Be a person of conscience.

R – Relationships – Networking is about relationships…make them mutually beneficial and not parasitic. Be available and willing to give your time, skills, and talent to members of your network.

K – Keep at it. The consistency that matters!

Think about your destination at any given point as the centre of a spider’s web. The connecting points on that web are relationships with friends, family, mentors, coaches, sponsors, colleagues, and even sometimes enemies. A network is an asset and social capital is currency.

Share This

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *