Help Others - Give Before You Receive
Always prioritise helping and giving to others ahead of taking and receiving for yourself.
Networks of people are highly complex - often it is not possible to see exactly how and why they are working for you, so you must trust that goodness is rewarded, even if the process is hidden and the effect takes a while. Use the principle of 'what goes around comes around'. You could think of this as Karma in business. A possible explanation of how Karma (or whatever you call it) produces positive outcomes is found in the rule of 'cause and effect', or the scientific law (loosely speaking) that 'every action has an equal reaction'. Good deeds and helpfulness tend to produce positive effects.
They are usually remembered and often repaid. The giver builds reputation and trust. Referrals tend to result. Imagine yourself having lots of personal connections like this. You become known as a helpful person. Word about you spreads, and your reputation grows. People who give are seen to have strength to give. Followers gravitate to strong giving people. Helping others extends far beyond your personal specialism or line of work. Networking is about working within a system (of people) enabling relevant high quality introductions and co-operations, which get great results for the participants.
These enabling capabilities transcend personal specialisms. At a simpler level, always try to ask helpful questions. These typically begin with 'what' and 'how', and address an area of interest to the other person, not you. Open questions (who, what, how, when, etc - also "Tell me about...") give the other person opportunity to speak and express their views and feelings: Ask people: "How can I help you?" "What can I do for you?" Closed questions (requiring a yes or no answer, or another single response, for example "Is this your first time here?") do not offer the other person much opportunity to talk, although at certain times a good relevant closed question can be vital for clarifying things: "Do you mean X or Y?" "Do you want to do X or would you prefer that I do it?" Be creative and constructive in how you regard others and how you might help them.
Being defensive and making assumptions tends to limit options and growth. For example try to see your competitors as potential allies. There is a fine dividing line between the two behaviours, and positioning too many people/companies in the competitor camp can make life unnecessarily difficult. When you talk to your competitors you will often surprise yourselves at the opportunities to work together, in areas (service, territory, sector, application, etc) where you do not compete, and even possibly in areas where you do compete. This is particularly so for small businesses who can form strategic alliances with like-minded competitors to take a joint-offering to a market and compete for bigger contracts.
Keep your integrity - build trust and reputation
Always keep your integrity. Sometimes a situation arises which tempts us to do the wrong thing, causing harm or upset that could have been avoided. Making such a mistake can damage personal integrity. We are all human; mistakes happen. If you do make a mistake or wrong decision - whether it significantly undermines your integrity or not - always admit it and apologise. Failing to apologise for wrong-doing often damages a person's integrity and reputation far more than the original misjudgement itself. We only need to think of how we view people in high and public authority, notably politicians, when they fail to take responsibility and admit their mistakes. Some integrity is lost. Do it a few times and all integrity is lost. People of low integrity sooner or later find that the only friends they have left are other people of low integrity. Significantly, integrity is vital for trust to develop. Trust is simply not possible without integrity.
Building trust is essential for growing a strong business network especially for manufacturing and technology companies. Lack of trust prevents successful business networking. Certain connections are absolutely impossible to make until a very high level of trust is established. Empathy and effective listening greatly assist the process of building trust. These qualities require you to be genuinely interested in others; to listen properly, and to reflect back meaningfully and helpfully. Following up (covered below) is also a vital feature of building trust and reputation. You will probably know a few very solid people who always keep their commitments, and who never make a commitment which they cannot keep. Aim to be like this. Reliability and dependability are highly valued qualities in relationships, especially relationships involving referrals and recommendations, because someone's reputation is at stake. The words 'reliable' and 'dependable' do not mean that you are always available to everyone. These words mean simply that when you say you will do something you will do it.