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Leadership Q&A: Qualifying Your Network

Four Questions images - Who

A couple months back I bumped into a guy that had recently met through another friend. After a couple minutes of catching up he made the following statement to me.

I know how to network. My problem is knowing how to qualify my network.

Think about your network and how you build your network.

Do you go to networking events and collect as many business cards as possible? My friend and colleague, Meridith Elliott Powell has a different approach. She has a process of networking that builds it around introductions, social events and follow up meetings.

For Meridith, she’s qualifying her network not just adding numbers of people to a list.

Qualitfy your network requires three criteria.

1. The purpose of your network. Why do you need a network? It is a legitimate question. Networking, and especially social networking, in some respects is a business fad. It is all about collecting names, profile addresses and business cards. Why do you do this? Because everyone else is? That is not a sufficient reason to invest the time and energy to build a network.

Your networking must have a clear purpose to it. Is it to sell to the widest possible audience? Or is it to create a resource team whom you can draw upon to serve your customers or clients. The purpose of your network matters.

2. The values of your network. There are different kinds of networks. The widest and weakest network is one of acquaintances. There are professional networks where members act as peers to help create new opportunities and resolve the challenges to operating a business.  There are internal networks in corporations. Typically they are called teams, like a customer service team or a business development team. What makes any network strong are the values that are the core reason the network exists.

If you are seeking to qualify your network, then you want to qualify members by the values that they share with you. The values may be ethical ones or ones focused on how you want to work together. So, consider what is important to you, and build your network around people who are like minded. The one caveat with this principle is that we should not be closed and restrictive about this. We should remain open to discovering values that we build relationships that enhance values that we’ve traditionally held.

3. The relationships of your network. There are two criteria that I use to help me qualify my network. One is confidence in the person. My confidence is in them as a person. It is another way of identifying trust. What I’m confident of a person, I trust them. The second criteria is competence. This is simply they are able to do what they claim as their talent and do it well. Many of the people who might be in our network are people we trust, but lack a similar confidence in their competency. When building a business network of any type, this two criteria are key.

Once you qualify the people in your network, it is important that you define how you will work together. Setting appropriate boundaries and define the financial relationship is key. It begins verbally and then should be put in writing if this network is to be more than just a group of acquaintance who enjoy each other’s company.

Qualifying your network is one piece of a much larger picture that I’ll be addressing over the next several weeks around the theme of an idea that I’m developing called the Collaborative Network Group. Stay tuned, and begin to talk with people with whom you’d like a more active, beneficial networking relationship with. Let’s create a conversation that can advance all our endeavors through a better qualified network.

About the author

Dr. Ed Brenegar I'm a leadership speaker, writer and consultant who is a mentor and catalyst for change. I assist leaders and their teams in the transitions required to succeed in today's complex organizational environment. I live in Western North Carolina. I'm involved the Boy Scouts, a charitable leadership training group called Lessons In Leadership, an ordained Presbyterian Church USA minister, and am the host of the Say Thanks Every Day social network.

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Posted in General Leadership, Leadership Q + A, Work Life Lead.

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