"Ensure you’re creating connections that not only benefit you but also excite and educate you."
Excellent networks can expand our professional horizons, but how do you prioritize investing in good quality working relationships? Discover pragmatic ways to network as a CEO that will help you drive your ambitions forward!
Assess Your Existing Network
Take Stock of the Network You Have
A crucial part of good networking is maintaining relationships, so start with the relationships you’re already invested in. Taking the time to inspect your existing network and addressing where it lacks will give you direction when you begin expanding your network.
Your network pertains to anyone you feel supports you in your goals. Whether it’s colleagues, mentors, friends, or family, your network is there to help you learn and grow. As a CEO it’s important to have a wide range of people in your network to provide you with a variety of perspectives. Often when we surround ourselves with people who validate our ideas and thoughts we aren’t getting much out of that relationship.
Look at those in your network from your past who may have changed the industry, risen to your level, or taken different paths - is there anything of value you can learn from them too?
Understand What You’d Like to Gain
Once you’ve looked at your network under the lens it’s time to start addressing the gaps. As we grow and change over time we find ourselves looking for different things in our relationships with others. This is the time to start addressing the areas your existing network doesn’t effectively help you with.
As CEOs, we’re constantly looking for ways to move forward. Finding the right people is key in moving yourself and your business in the right direction. You understand what your current network provides, now reflect on what your network could be helping you achieve.
As you better understand how your network could support you more, you’ll gain clarity on what is a priority in terms of expanding your network.
Now that you have a clear idea of what you want from your existing network and what you’d like to achieve by expanding your network, it’s time to set actionable goals. By building your network, you’ll not only achieve these goals but be able to create long-lasting relationships that mutually benefit both parties.
Begin to understand what it is you want to achieve for your business, as well as for yourself as a leader. As a CEO it’s important to be able to take personal development as seriously as business development, to stay fresh and focused on moving your company forward. Networking is as much about expanding your business’ reach as it is about your own growth.
Whether you’re looking to generate new business opportunities or become a leader in the industry, having some key goals in mind will help develop your network. You’ll have purpose and clarity when meeting new people, and understand the value you bring to the conversation.
Key questions to ask yourself:
- How could I show up more for the people in my network?
- Are there people within my network that I struggle to connect with? Why?
- Do the people in my network provide me with something of value I may be overlooking or resisting?
- What could I learn from others?
- Who are the experts in my industry?
- Who is doing something interesting?
- How would I like to see my business grow?
- How would I like to grow as a leader?
- What can I learn in order to help drive change?
Do a Networking Deep-Dive
Go Back to Basics
Like most CEOs, your calendar is sure to be filled with important events throughout the year. Whether it’s conferences, trade shows, or awards, events that pop into your calendar are an automatic opportunity to network. While some events may be less thrilling than others, it’s vital to keep an open mind about what you can gain from the circles you find yourself in.
This is not a time to start a business card collection or hoard phone numbers, this is a time to be picky and opt for quality connections over quantity.
Discover what you can learn from people within your industry as you attend routine events. Show an active interest in people’s niches and skills. Acknowledge their expertise and the value it could bring to you and your business.
Let this also be an opportunity to take ownership of the value that you as an individual provide, as well as your company.
You must advocate for your business, as well as yourself in this process. Take note of how your skills and expertise could be helpful to those you meet. This will help to provide a mutually beneficial relationship.
At a basic level, regularly attending networking events will support you in having frequent communication opportunities and finesse your networking skills.
As you continue to make networking a priority and strive to build quality relationships, you may find yourself seeking connections outside of routine events.
While your business is striving towards actionable goals and tangible results, it’s important to take the time to extend your view beyond just what your competitors are doing. Look at what organizations in your wider industry are doing. Regardless of whether your company sits in B2B, B2C, or any other categories, having an open-minded scope for networking can provide you with valuable insights from fellow professionals.
Make an effort to contact people who are setting an example of something you aspire to achieve within your own business or field of expertise. Speak clearly about what you observe and value about their work. Simply starting a conversation can spark a relationship that can expand your network in new ways and provide exciting growth opportunities.
Be Genuine and Altruistic
Much like yourself, most CEOs are also human beings. While it can be tempting to discuss personal and professional achievements, it’s important to remember that networking is also about creating human connections.
Going into a conversation to create a connection is one thing, name-dropping and showboating are another.
Let your networking experiences be chances to learn about people around you and share what you do. Be your genuine self and take interest in the person you’re talking to. Understand that your skills may be something of value to them and ascertain what your network could look like with this person in it.
Good relationships are a two-way street. Play to your inner altruism and understand what you can do to help someone, as much as they can help you. This will set a strong foundation for your network moving forward.
Key questions to ask yourself:
- What would building a relationship with this person look like?
- What skills and knowledge will this person bring to my network?
- What skills and knowledge could I offer this person?
- What do I admire about this person/business?
- What are the key differences between our businesses?
- What do I seek to gain from reaching out to this person/business?
Make Networking a Habit
Sustain Quality Relationships
Now that you understand how to create a strong network, lifelong network, you can focus on building and maintaining quality relationships.
In many cases when it comes to networking, less is more. You can have a thousand people in your network, but if only ten of those people are helpful to you, is it worth having that other nine hundred and ninety people?
Each relationship within your network will need something different from you just as you will need something different from those within your network. Your connections must remain sustainable over a long period.
Networks thrive when everyone has great respect for one another’s unique skills and aims to uplift each other. Ensure you’re creating connections that not only benefit you but also excite and educate you.
As you grow and change over time, you will find the goals you wish to achieve will change, as will what you need from your network.
Let your newfound networking habits help inform how best to meet new people that can guide you, as well as bring new skills and ideas to your existing network. You will pivot through growth and challenges as a CEO, adding people to your network who provide new perspectives and insights is a wonderful way to help you and your business move forward.
Key questions to ask yourself:
- Is there equal give and take in this relationship?
- Do I have more to offer this person?
- Do I need more from this person?
- How has my network changed?
- What are my next goals?
- Who can help me get there?
Networking is much more than just exchanging business cards, it’s an opportunity to connect with like-minded people who have skills you aspire to have. By creating a network that offers mutually beneficial relationships with a wide range of people you open yourself up to discover new skills and values that can inform new and exciting opportunities to move your business forward.
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