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Work Life Lead: CNG – the frontier of social networking

Lemhi Dawn 3 9-16-04

Everyone networks. Everyone makes and receives referrals. Everyone, eventually, will have a Twitter account, a Facebook page and an interactive website. Utilizing the tools and strategies of social networking is no longer a distinguishing factor in business. Everyone gets the idea that they need to do something with these new technologies.

Not everyone gets Why?.


A decade ago networking was the wild frontier. Today, it is a sleepy suburb. Yet, somewhere out the back door of your business is a frontier waiting to be discovered.  The question for us all is …

What is the frontier of social networking today?

As odd as it sounds, the frontier has always been within reach.

The frontier is our relationships with clients and colleagues.

The frontier isn’t technical or strategic, it is relational.

The frontier of social networking is the capacity of an individual to mobilize a network of relationships to do something that matters.

Before long, numbers won’t matter. Everyone will have numbers.

What everyone won’t have is a network that matters.

What everyone then will need, and will have to be taught to create is what I call a Collaborative Network Group.
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A CNG is a group formed to support and enhance the value of relationships in a business context. A group forms when one person wants a stronger network with colleagues from different fields that may provide services to her client.

The characteristics of a Collaborative Network Group are:

Collaborative interaction
Values-centered
Relationship-driven
Giving orientation
Adaptive

In many network groups, whether peer or referral, the referral is just a pass of the client to someone else. In a Collaborative Network Group, the member who brings the client to the group remains with the client like a concierge to insure the client is served well.  The relationship matters. And, yes, it does take more time.

The traditional customer-centered approach is typically not about the relationship, but about the customer’s needs.  It is less relational and more transactional. As a result, the full potential of the relationship is never realized. The same is true for these huge lists of names in our social networks. Their potential is never fully realized because they really are not relational, but transactional

How is a Collaborative Network Group created?

Remember a couple weeks ago when I wrote about Qualifying your Network? This is where you begin. Think of the people with whom you work that share a common outlook and values. With this short of list of relationships in mind, you begin to talk with them about how to build a group characterized by the list above. With this group gathered together, begin to talk about how you together can do the following.

Establish a Common Purpose
Practice Values of Collaboration
Build Relationships of Trust & Giving
Develop a First-Among-Equals Leadership
Create Shared Vision of Impact

You may already being doing many of these things in your business. The key is to make them the center of a committed group of colleagues and friends.

What are the benefits of investing the time and energy to create a CNG?

1. A context for innovation, problem-solving and adaptation to a constantly changing social and business context.

2. A network of associates that is clearly distinctive in the marketplace. Your CNG, especially for the independent professional, becomes a team that you can market to clients.

3. The level of care and service to customers will exceed your competitors.

A Collaborative Network Group isn’t for everyone. Not everyone wants to invest themselves in building relationships. Yet, for those who are willing work at it, the frontier of social networking will become the street where they live.  And all those numbers can begin to matter in ways they never did before.

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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