We’ve all done it before.
Lunch or dinner, presentation, speaker, drinks… I love it. Especially if I get talking to someone interested or the speaker has an interesting story. Even better if I learn something.
From a networking point of view. What happens?
Exchange cards. Maybe connect on LinkedIn. Job done.
There is rarely any value in these connections, because they don’t evolve into a relationship. They become a number on your LinkedIn account and a piece of cardboard in your top drawer.
So how do you make it work?
From years of exploring networking and relationship development, expanding and creating a really powerful professional network is deceivingly simple. It all starts with one thing; a problem.
If you consider the deepest relationships you’ve had in your life. They usually started with a resolving a problem. Particularly if there is no other relationship or need to bond. Solving the problem becomes a way to ask more questions, understand motivations, challenge each other, and ultimately getting to know the other person in a much deeper way.
In the problem solving experience, sometimes you are the solution provider and other times you’re have the problem. Too often in a professional context, we trade something financial to do this, treating the problem with a price. This can still result in a relationship, but often, the simple process of help makes the relationship solidify.
Where do you start?
Most people are carrying some sort of problem at any time. Often they won’t share without you asking. So if you are in a networking environment, it would be good to start with a question.
What we learned is that this can be inefficient. People may not want to share a problem with a complete stranger and therefore in a traditional professional networking space, it may not always work.
The best thing to do is to find environments where problem solving is the name of the game. This could be in a learning environment or course that you attend, where everyone is working on something new in the pursuit of a goal. Where there is a formal method of regular engagement with other professionals. In our case at The Outperformer, we have a community where you can crowd-source a solution to a problem and connect with these people to further explore the solution. In either case, this becomes the catalyst to quality engagement.
If I start to help someone, then what?
The answer is pretty simple. Follow up and see if your advice was useful. Find out how the person had progressed with their problem. See if you can solve it with the help of another person and keep the relationship alive.
This is a very simple principal, but is not usually practiced in a busy corporate career. Especially when the majority of your energy is focused inwardly on a company. This is often why a huge 62% (The Outperformer survey 2016) of accounting and finance professionals that we work with don’t feel they have a well-developed network.
Some of the most successful careers in the world have revolved around and fantastic network. Often starting with a problem solving approach, and later the same person becomes the one that attracts others to solve their problems.
Create context to a relationship by solving a problem. It makes it easy for both parties to get something out of it.