No matter what your position or industry, networking is an important role any leader has to play. The word networking typically conjures up images of attending mundane events and pushing your business card to strangers. To some, this skill comes quite naturally while there are many that cringe at the thought of networking. Networking does not have to be hard, painful, annoying, or a waste of time. It is your approach that can make it fun, productive, and enjoyable. It is about making your net of relationships work for you. Here is a six-step process you can follow to be able to make it rewarding:
Step #1: Goal clarity
You can meet the most influential people and have a great relationship with them, but that will be of no assistance to you strategically if you don't have a clear goal in mind. Not only must the goals of your business be clear but also your personal goals. What do you want to achieve in life? What goals inspire you and get your heart pumping with excitement? Don't even bother to start networking unless you can answer these questions. This is a vital component for strategising.
Step #2: Embrace networking
This step requires an attitude shift. If you think of networking as a chore, it is improbable you will be good at it. Any inhibitions or distaste you have for networking will translate into your interactions. Maybe attend fewer events, but when you do, give yourself wholeheartedly to it. Acknowledge the benefits and advantages of it. Have fun with it.
Step #3: Intend to give
Think of networking as a platform for random acts of kindness. Go in with an attitude of contribution instead of retribution. Assume the role of a catalyst. If you hear someone talking about challenges they are facing, think of who you can connect them to that can help them and do it immediately. The more you give, the more you get.
Step #4: Be ready to receive
If you have helped people in your network, and they express their gratitude, don't brush it off as insignificant. While humility is a virtue, don't dismiss credit that belongs to you. You could say to them, "You are welcome. I am certain you would have done the same for me." Set the stage for a future opportunity for that person to reciprocate that gratitude to you in the future. Also be grateful for whatever is coming your way.
Step #5 The courage to ask: Sometimes, you need things from people. If you have been practicing steps one to four, you will find that asking others directly for favours comes from a place of strength and confidence, not out of weakness or neediness. It is overt, straightforward, and unapologetic.
Step # 6: Cultivate your network: Invest in strengthening your connections. Develop a system that works for you for genuinely keeping in touch with the people in your network.
If you are not a natural at strategic networking, these six steps will elevate your networking skills.
The views expressed in this article are not those of Fortune India.
The author is the founder and CEO of Talent Power Partners a global Leadership Development company based in Bangalore. She is a Leadership Development Specialist, an ICF Certified Executive Coach [PCC] and author of the book - Team Decision Making.