Networking should never be predicated on transactions. Certainly, from time to time, networking can lead to transactional interactions. However, the best connections are built based on a series of touchpoints – a number of interactions that can lead to business opportunities for all parties, but, at their core, are focused on establishing and building trust.
Taken on a micro-level, any given networking meeting may be perceived as “good” or “bad,” “efficient” or “a waste of time,” “lively” or “a drag.” But, when viewed collectively, I firmly believe that the good outweighs the bad, that getting together with and getting to know others is, in fact, efficient, effective, lively, and energy boosting. Essentially, when it comes to measuring your networking prowess, instead of picking apart each individual interface, I encourage networkers to see the big picture.
Creative thinker, Roger von Oech, tells the story of a farmer based in Iowa who, in 1866, watched the construction of the transcontinental railroad near his fields. Once he watched a locomotive steam through, he said, “so that’s what railroading is all about: tracks and trains.” Well… not exactly. Yes, those are literally the components that comprise railroading, but it is much grander than that. The farmer failed to see that he could get his products to market faster and once there compete with other products from many more locations. He failed to see that people, for the first time, could travel coast to coast in less than a week. He failed to recognize that trains would bring people together from far and wide – people who would dream up new ideas, new innovations, new opportunities. He was so focused on what was right in front of him he couldn’t see the broader implications.
My friend, Michele Bailey, created an employee engagement program, “MY BIG IDEA,” to demonstrate for professionals that both the micro and the macro are crucial for success. One tool, the MY BIG IDEA Planner, is a sleekly designed accountability tool with monthly and weekly calendars to track daily successes as people work toward their broader goals. Each month starts with an action plan and objectives that build toward the achievement of defined goals. With guiding questions to prompt reflection, each planner includes monthly, quarterly and year end check-ins to track progress and help people see the way those daily, weekly and monthly efforts have led them to where they are. Michele says, “I’ve seen magic happen when people step back from having performed a series of tasks to see the big picture – the brilliance that they have created! Of course, they could not have gotten to where they did without the small steps along the way, and it is so fun to see the larger impact that those little efforts had on the world.”
So, what are the larger implications of your efforts? How do they fit into the big picture?