Cultivating Winning Relationships – How to network successfully

A guest post with Morag Barrett, founder of Skye Team and author of Cultivate: The Power of Winning Relationships.

In an article, the Harvard Business Review found that social bonds were the major predictor of team success. The other two were “initiatives to strengthen relationships” and “leaders who invest the time to build strong relationships with their teams.”
If team success (and individual success) is dependent upon social bonds, on being connected, then it would follow that spending time getting to know the team members, and articulating the rules of engagement for the team would be a good investment of time, right?
You’ve heard the phrase “six degrees of separation” I have come to appreciate that in today’s world, it is more like “six degrees of connection”.

Here is a personal story to illustrate how closely we are connected. I was sitting at Anchorage airport having facilitated leadership programs at the North Slope, Alaska. It was my first trip to Alaska, and I knew no one in Anchorage. The royal wedding was being broadcast on the screens in the terminal, and the lady next to me started to chat. It was early, and I wanted to see the dress before boarding, so we talked. Eventually the conversation turned to current things. I shared that I lived in Colorado. She knew someone in Colorado… it turned out that her friend was someone I know well. We immediately went from strangers with nothing in common to acquaintances with someone in common.

Whether you find it easy to strike up a conversation with a stranger or someone who has a hard time meeting and talking to new people, networking and cultivating winning relationships is a necessary skill if you’re looking to get ahead.

With that in mind, here are six tips to help prepare you for your next networking opportunity.

Build Your Network
1. Start before you arrive. Review the agenda and speaker bios, check your social media connections to see who is attending and who you might like to meet. Then contact them via email, LinkedIn or twitter.
2. Practice your “hello”. You need to think about how to say “hello” and introduce who you are and a little context as to why you are at the event. 30-seconds or less, make it genuine and remember the intent is to open up a conversation not simply toot your own horn!
3. Get out of your comfort zone. Talk to “strangers” you may be surprised at just how connected you are. Remember relationships are not just for today… maybe this new contact could be your boss, colleague or new client next month, next year.

Maintain Your Network
4. Connect. I use LinkedIn to keep in touch with my contacts. Send a personal invitation (not the standard wording) to the people you would like to remain in contact with.
5. Stay in touch. There is a new tool on LinkedIn that allows you to set reminders to get in touch with people (open a profile, click on ‘relationships’ and then reminders). Look for opportunities to send a quick congratulations message, or an article and “thinking of you”. Ask for help and input from your network, you may just receive a suggestion you hadn’t considered!
6. Share your network. In Cultivate, The Power of Winning Relationships I talk about the concepts of Generosity and Abundance. The most successful people are the ones who share their network and expertise; they give more than they take. Make introductions, share your wisdom and build a reputation for being the go-to person.

Don’t simply attend events, participate, get involved, speak to those around you and cultivate a strong and powerful network that helps ensure your success, and theirs.

How do you cultivate and maintain your network?

You can learn more about cultivating relationships through our SoundviewPro course with Morag titled Business Relationships – Moving from “Me” to “We”.

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