With any significant objective or task in our lives, we establish a process to achieve it. From cooking a meal, to working towards a career milestone, we each create systems and processes to help us get closer to our goals. The same goes with cultivating a network that serves us, and one that we can serve in return. It’s a matter of perspective and habit. The way we tell our stories to connect with people, how we follow up with them, and learning to prioritize contacts and communication are habits that, with some practice, can be refined.
Networking, a term ubiquitous in professional circles, prompts questions about its true essence and purpose. Why do individuals invest time and effort in networking? While it holds significant potential for career advancement, it can become messy and chaotic if not managed effectively. In this sense, the important distinction to make is that networking is the result of relationship building. We may not “network” every day, but with every interaction, we nurture our personal and professional relationships.
Poor habits can lead to lost contact information, forgotten engagements, and missed opportunities, which are common pitfalls. There are, however, various systems, tools, and mindsets that can make relationship building habitual, more efficient, and more impactful.
Foundation for Meaningful Connections
Before delving into making networking a habit, it is important to understand why people nurture relationships, and how they can impact a workplace environment and individual’s creativity. Professor Robin Dunbar, leading evolutionary psychologist, in a series with Covve analyzing the science behind networking titled Wired to Socialize, highlights that when meeting new people, commonalities are gauged based on seven pillars.
They include elements such as beliefs and perspectives, music, humor, language, location of where one was raised, and education, and hobbies and interests. Professor Dunbar expresses that “when we first meet somebody new, we devote a lot of time to them, we make special arrangements to meet them more often, checking out where they sit on the seven pillars. Are they a six pillar person to you, or are they a three pillar person to you?”
Using this system consciously helps people gain clarity as to where they are allotting time to their network, and who within their network is a priority. He accentuates how critical this system is when cultivating workplace relationships as well, and how establishing relationships with colleagues improves working conditions and enhances collaboration.
Finding commonalities marks the beginning of building relationships. However, how do people maintain them, and turn them into long lasting ties? This, again, comes down to habit. Making note of personal details when meeting someone is typically not commonplace. With the right tools, though, this becomes second nature when forming connections.
Tools for Seamless Connection
Doug Lester, renowned career coach to alumni of Ivy League universities and Fortune 100 executives, shares his insights with Covve on the value of finding the right tools to amplify networking efforts. He found that using a personal contact relationship management like Covve’s Personal CRM, taking notes on interactions and organizing his contacts was made easy, simple, and effective. It is a tool geared towards nurturing personal relationships rather than on closing deals and sales funnels.
A personal CRM has the capacity to act as a personal assistant when nurturing a network, helping people develop habits with ease. Making each interaction personal builds a sense of trust and compassion. These elements are critical to relationships, and making a habit of scheduling meetings, noting down what was shared in an interaction, and prioritizing contacts can be challenging without versatile tools.
Individuals can build their own, simple personal CRMs on Excel or Outlook, however, doing so is tedious and may not be optimal when looking to cultivate a network. That is why professionals such as Doug Lester advocate for bespoke personal CRMs, as they help people make the most of their network and relationships. Though, even with the right tools, there must be effective systems in place to give structure to networking habits.
Systems for Habitual Networking
Prioritizing contacts is the first step to establishing a system when networking. It sets the tone for who will be contacted and how frequently they will be contacted. Through Covve’s insights, Mo Bunnell, business growth expert and CEO and founder of the Bunnell Idea Group, shares that there are three ways to think about relationship building.
The first is sporadic, which is unorganized, uncertain, and leaving things to “fate”. The next is sprinting, where targets of attending events and making new connections exist, but they have deadlines and require constant iterations. The third approach, as Mo refers to them, is systems. Systems thinking states that every year, there is an aim to attend a set amount of events, a regular time set each day to reach out to individuals, and overall slotting time in calendars to evaluate networking progress.
Establishing a systems thinking approach to networking helps build structure to networking endeavors. It can act as the foundation of people’s networking habits. Paired with an understanding of how people formulate close relationships, such as Professor Dunbar’s seven pillars, and a personal CRM, networking habits are easily created.
Lastly, forming habits in networking is about intention. Attending events and meeting people aimlessly, regardless if meetings and attendance are thoroughly scheduled, will result in wasted efforts. Instead, attending events and meeting people with a clearly defined intention will make every interaction all the more meaningful for all parties involved. Making a habit of networking is about structuring interactions with precious contacts and making the most of every interaction.
At Covve, we help people cultivate healthy and effective relationship-building habits through our bespoke tools, systems, and educational arm. Thought leaders and industry experts such as Professor Robin Dunbar, Doug Lester, Mo Bunnell, and more share their insights and best practices in the fundamentals of relationship building, and how to make a habit of it.
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