If he lived next to us, my wife would already have
cleared the cars for him.

Networkers have to have a split personality.

They have to be strategic about putting themselves at events where they will meet the people who will be able to help them succeed in their goals. Then they have to forget being strategic and just look for ways to help the other people without expectation of immediate return.

When I presented this idea at a workshop, a young woman stopped me. “Isn’t that impossible? I mean, you know you want something from them. Doesn’t that sort of taint any relationship?”

I’ll admit that at the time, I didn’t have a satisfactory answer. I’ve been thinking about it more lately, though,and now I think I can better respond. Ironically, I didn’t have to look any further than my wife, Lisa, to find a counter example.

Lisa and I live in a nice neighborhood on the southeast side of Ann Arbor. We’ve got a very safe street, good schools, and are within easy distance of just about anything we need. In particular, our neighbors are a friendly lot, especially toward Lisa.

She’s always doing nice things for them. Sometimes it’s a plate of cookies at the holidays, or just stopping to chat when she’s out for a walk. Over the wintertime, she will often shovel the walk in front of the houses around us. What a nice surprise for the family that they can take a few more minutes inside on a cold winter’s day.

When she thinks of doing these things, does she do it strategically? Does she think “I will shovel Mary’s walk today. That way Mary will owe me.”? Is she expecting a plate of cookies from them at any time? Nope. She does what she does because in her mind, that’s what a good neighbor should do.

With no expectation of return.

The funny thing is, most of the folks on our block would bend over backward to help her out should she have a need. She really only needs to ask.

We need to have the same attitude when it comes to our behavior with any networking group to which we’ve chosen to belong. We want to look for the opportunities to help — to serve on a committee, to give advice, or to pass referrals — without an expectation of immediate result.

Our goal? To be a good neighbor.

Photo by Jenny Erickson