It's Getting Late and You're In Need:
Who Ya Gonna Call?
Each of us likely has a relatively select group of people in our lives that we feel totally confident in contacting if/when we are in need and could use their help. Hopefully, these individuals feel the same way about us.
This list is probably comprised primarily of longtime personal friends and family members. Could our professional network could support this type of trust and confidence? If we had the professional equivalent of a flat tire on a cold, rainy night, how many folks in our LinkedIn or Facebook networks would we feel comfortable about reaching out to, and confident that they would assist us?
While this list is probably pretty short for most of us, it may be longer than we might first think...especially if we view professional and personal relationships in terms of their reciprocal nature and are regularly making investments in what Dr. Stephen Covey would refer to as our "emotional bank account". Establishing this 'currency" is especially relevant in this era where external partnerships are becoming increasingly important to our work and lives.
A couple of weeks ago, I started work on a client engagement whose purpose was to quickly identify qualified supplier partners in a field where I had relevant experience, but not a very well developed network of expert contacts. Recognizing the need, I decided to access my professional network for input and suggestions. I had some hesitancy about doing so, however. While I had good rapport with these individuals and had previously approached many of them with value offerings to support their respective business interests, I had not previously thought to contact most of them to seek their assistance in helping me with any of my professional needs. As such, I had no way of knowing if or how they would respond to my request.
Happily, I am able to report that I received many rapid and helpful responses to my requests for networking assistance. In addition to some general suggestions, I also received some personal introductions to very qualified resources, including some with whom I am already pursuing more detailed discussions. I am quite encouraged that I will be able to meet my client's needs, aided in no small measure by these inputs. I am grateful for their contributions and to the individuals who made them.
The point to this story should be obvious: actively nurture your network so that you can feel confident about the relationships you're building in order to seek/give support if/when necessary. This doesn't mean that professional relationships should be thought of in a calculating way, as "transactional". It does mean that strong relationships based on trust, respect and goodwill can and should provide mutual long term benefit.
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