Unlock the Power of Authentic Networking: Tips for Personal Growth

I’ve been told my network is my net worth. I love this idea. Then I started thinking, after a point, will this conventional view of our network begin to devalue its net worth if I don’t hold the relationships with an authentic intention? We live in a world where the quantity of LinkedIn connections and social media follower ship begin to outstrip the quality of the connection.

Imagine being part of a vibrant, supportive community where every point of contact holds potential for personal and professional growth. That’s the power of intentional networking. It’s about building genuine connections, listening actively, and embracing a spirit of generosity. It’s about going beyond the conventional idea of networking and tapping into the heart of what truly matters – the relationships we cultivate, the insights we share, and the opportunities we create together.

This was the focus of a HAPPINESS SQUAD Podcast between Ashish and I to reinforce Practice #8: Build a Community.

We shared and discussed ideas that I seek to further unlock myself. I have friends whose approach to networking I truly cherish. Friends like Joel, Steve, Fredrik, Ashish, and others to name a few. They’ve never met a stranger and even today they have become close friends and confidantes to me. I do not expect my social or LinkedIn following to yield the same, however, I’d like to be sure that I form the habit to unlock the power of authentic networking.

There are three areas that make this my competitive edge:

  1. Embrace intent and curiosity in networking
  2. Unleash generosity in interactions
  3. Value Active Listening in conversations

“Instead of better glasses, your network gives you better eyes.”

Ronald Burt

Embrace the Power of Intent and Curiosity in Networking

Growing up, my father took me to various business meetings and, most memorably, the Asian Chambers of Commerce of Denver networking events. I was 13 going on 33 learning how I have ‘never met a stranger.” As my father explained to me, networking, at its very core, is all about finding connections and creating bonds with people around us. It provides an excellent opportunity to tap into their potential, experience and ideas, which in turn, can lead to exploring new spaces, perspectives, and possibilities. My initial insight was the significance of embracing the power of intention and curiosity in these conversations. I began to understand that a successful way to network is to approach each interaction with a sense of purpose and a genuine interest in the other party.

Adding curiosity into the mix not only ensures you are actively engaged in the conversation, but also paves the way for you to discover more about your contact. Reflecting back on my formative years and leading into business school, it was crystal clear how intent and curiosity play pivotal roles in developing meaningful networks. I learned how setting a clear intention before stepping into a networking session can help in keeping interactions focused and purposeful.

Ashish shared a story with me. While attending a client dinner, each member of the team sitting at the table was encouraged by him to share their ‘origin story.’ What followed was magical. Despite working closely with each other, new understandings and fresh perspectives were unlocked. New found appreciation for their respective team mates emerged. Setting the intention can create new paths with those both near and new to you. Simply POWERFUL! 

The invitation is to embrace the power of intent and curiosity to ensure that the relationships we build are not superficial, rather meaningful and enduring. This approach involves recognizing the inherent value of each individual’s unique journey and story, and this understanding forms the bedrock of strong and sustainable networks. It is about transforming networking from a chore or a necessary evil into an enriching and enjoyable process of relationship building.

The Significance of Generosity in Networking Interactions

In the realm of professional connections and networking, there’s an underrated currency – generosity. Often, we connect with others with a mindset of what can we gain from the interaction. I’ve been there and I can say hand over heart, the interaction and relationship did not last long.  We ask, “What could this person do for me?” But what if we flipped that script. Imagine entering into a conversation with someone with the motive of understanding what you could offer them.  “How could I be of service to you?”

Now, this doesn’t have to be something extreme. Sometimes, the most valuable thing we can offer another is our genuine attention – to be seen, to be heard, and to be acknowledged. As I reflect on recent conversations – either at work, at home or during our podcasts, the most meaningful interactions were those where a sense of mutual generosity was present. For instance, Ashish shared with me that he had recently reconnected with a colleague and exchanged updates about our respective projects. Much to his surprise, they found points of intersection between their work that they hadn’t previously considered. What started as an exploratory catch-up soon became a brainstorming session – enabling both of them to approach their tasks with fresh perspectives. It was through focusing on what we can offer each other that we reap unintended benefits.

Embracing generosity in networking interactions is more than a strategy – it’s a mindset. In a world where everyone is busily building their networks and striving for professional growth, approaching networking from a place of giving rather than receiving could be the differentiator. Beyond tangible benefits, the act of generously investing in relationships strengthens our sense of community and interconnectedness. It reminds us that in pursuing our individual goals, we are still essentially part of a broader human network. And by offering our time, our insights, or even a listening ear, we’re enriching that network, one interaction at a time.

The Importance of Active Listening in Networking Conversations

Established relationships and connections have always been pivotal for my personal growth and career advancement. I learned that the art of active listening is equally as crucial. It often plays a vital role in networking conversations and opens avenues for new information and opportunities. This aptitude does not merely involve hearing the other person speak but truly understanding and interacting with their thoughts and ideas. Importantly, active listening promotes respectful communication, builds stronger relationships, and demonstrates sincere interest in what others have to say. Moreover, it unveils underlying messages and indispensable facts that may not be perceptible initially, stimulating not only personal but also professional developments.

“The single greatest ‘people skill’ is a highly developed and authentic interest in the other person.”

Bob Burg

Reflecting on the countless conversations, I realized the instances where I learned the most were when I truly listened, not just to reply, but to understand. I appreciate this is difficult – we have so much to say! Our mind is waiting to jump in with our stories, ideas and thoughts. There have been numerous instances where engaging in a networking conversation has led me down avenues I never previously considered, resulting in unexpected collaborations and shared experiences. For instance, my introduction to Ashish during lockdown has led me to an unanticipated opportunity, giving me fresh perspectives and expanding my personal and professional sphere. This wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t been open to possibilities and developing my skills as an active listener (albeit on Zoom!), which involved consciously investing time in our conversations, understanding his perspective, and appreciating his unique insights.

Active listening is not only beneficial for the listener but also empowers the speaker. It validates their thoughts and opinions, and fostering a more profound, and reciprocal connection. When we listen actively, we demonstrate respect and interest, which motivates the speaker to share more and, thereby, enriches our knowledge and understanding. Moreover, it enhances our empathetic capacity, enabling us to discern the feelings and viewpoints of others, fostering stronger bonds.

As a suggestion, I’ve been forming a habit by offering the “gift of attention” when connecting with someone I know or meeting for the first time. Listen not only to the words they are saying, but also notice the tone (excited, calm, agitated) and their pace (fast, slow). Maintain soft eye contact. Notice if they are gazing directly at you or avoiding eye contact. Pay attention to their body language, their facial expressions, and their mood state. Notice their posture (is it slumped or held straight), their stance (wide, or narrow, turned toward you or away), their hands (composed or fidgety). As you listen, refrain from giving advice or interrupting them with your thoughts. You can simply say something like, “This must be really tough/hard/exciting/new for you. I’m glad I’m here with you. Let me know how I can be in service or support to you.”

In the realm of networking and strengthening relationships, active listening paves the way for more rewarding relationships and collaborations, bridging gaps and facilitating mutual growth. Thus, harnessing the power of active listening can foster a more supportive and valuable network, fueling both personal and professional advancement.

In Conclusion

The power of networking lies in its ability to bring people together, fostering strong personal and professional bonds that can lead to growth and success. Intent and curiosity can transform mundane interactions into meaningful dialogues, and generosity can build trust and respect. Active listening, too, is a skill that can unlock deeper understanding and stronger relationships. And when genuine connections strike unexpectedly, they can bring forth opportunities that were once out of reach. it’s equally important to note that establishing genuine connections also requires time, patience, and investing mental and emotional energies. It’s about cherishing every interaction, every shared laughter or shared adversity as a stepping stone to building a foundation that goes beyond the common transactional networks.

So go ahead, invest time in building your network with intent, curiosity, and generosity. Listen actively and remain open to the unexpected. This can become your competitive edge.

Your future self will thank you for it.

Listen to the two part podcast with Ashish and Anil below.

Part 1: Personal relationships
Part 2: Networking and Professional Relationships

Access and subscribe to the all of the episodes of the Happiness Squad Podcast here.

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With the focus on enhancing joy, health, love and meaning in your life, my transformational approach is interdisciplinary and integrates learnings from spiritual wisdom traditions, philosophy, positive psychology, neuroscience and organizational development.

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