Are your networking activities leading you
down a path to where you want to go?

How much time did you spend “networking” last week?

How much of that was activity and how much was productivity?

Most people, when they are doing their networking, tend to work on things which aren’t as productive as they could be. I’m not just talking about bottom-line, cash-in-the-hand, clients-or-contracts type productivity. I’m also talking about simply building stronger and deeper relationships which create a powerful resource that leads to those other benefits.

Let’s look at the difference:

Activity: Going on Facebook (or LinkedIn, or whatever social media site)
Productivity: Engaging other people on Facebook, etc.
Spending an hour playing Farmville is not networking. Reading other people’s posts is a good practice — you can find out more about them and their interests that way. To count your social media time as productive, however, you need to be comment on what they’ve said or respond to their comments about what you said. That will make you stand out in their minds. Otherwise you are only one of their hundreds of “friends”.

Activity: Attending networking events
Productivity: Attending networking events and meeting new people.
Most people just show up at the events and assume that this is sufficient for their networking effort. If you want it to be a productive use of your time, it needs to be more than that. You must have a specific goal for what you want to achieve while you are there — and that goal can’t be “to eat”. Only by setting a goal — specifically to meet new people — can the event pay off for you.

Activity: Meeting new people at the networking event
Productivity: Following up with new people after the networking event
Just meeting new people isn’t enough. Five to ten minutes of conversation doesn’t make a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship. Only by following up and meeting with our new connections outside the networking event will those relationships grow from simple awareness to the level of trust, where all the real benefits of your networking kick in.

Activity: Developing your networking systems
Productivity: Developing a networking practice
This is one that tripped me up for quite some time. As a computer programmer, I wanted to develop the perfect web-based application to track and maintain my network. Of course, I couldn’t get started networking until I actually had that system in place. Day after day I planned until, finally, my wife said, “Greg, use a spreadsheet and get busy. It will do for now.” She was right. In fact, I never did get around to creating that perfect system and I’m still using a couple of spreadsheets to this day (and very happily, thank you). We need to avoid the “constructive avoidance” of creating our tools (whatever that might be for you) and just get busy connecting.

Activity: Clearing out your email/voice mail/mailbox
Productivity: Sending the message/making the call/sending the letter
These are more “constructive avoidance” activities. Others might include sharpening your pencils, organizing your files, cleaning your desk, straightening your office, etc. Set aside your time to network and then do it. No excuses, no distractions, no exceptions. Straightening your desk will not increase the depth nor the numbers of your connections.

Of course, committing yourself to productivity in your networking practice requires a certain amount of self-honesty. So often when it comes down to focusing on our relationships, we want to take the easier path — the one where we feel like we are getting something done, but requires no real effort or risk on our part. If we aren’t careful, though, we’ll end up with an uncluttered desk and no real connections.

Your success can tolerate a messy desktop from time to time.

Photo by stock.xchng user ShadowRave