A network doesn't just grow on trees, although the image can help us remember how it is maintained. You are the life force that helps it stay green and strong through its cycles. Expecting that others will do it for you is a recipe for disappointment.
The title of this post says it all -- your connections need tender and loving care (TLC) to flourish. This means attention, time, and the secret fairy dust: interest. In other words, it's not about you, it's about them. Before you can have a return on involvement with any activity, you need to have involvement.
A connection is not a one time deal, it actually develops from an initial spark of interest. Imagine the life force of your connections as a positive spiral.
At the center of that positive spiral (the roots of the tree) is the occasion that led to your coming in contact with another person. Maybe you were introduced by a common friend or acquaintance, maybe you just happened to be commenting on the same blog post. The mental bow is the personal acknowledgment of the other as a definite and distinct presence vs. an extension of us.
Let's list a few expressions of that:
- while we talk, we remain present to the other
- we try to figure out ways to help them
- follow through with questions to clarify our interest
I wrote that to go from start to success in creating a new network you must pass from quitting. What self-centric behaviors do we need to quit to be receptive to the other? I used to have a hard time remembering people's names.
Although that was the product of my being a visual learner and not getting the pronunciation of a name right in my head, to others that might have seemed like lack of interest.
I learned to ask for a business card early on so I can give myself a visual impression and associate it with the person and story. My follow through is to wait a couple of days before entering their information on my Palm along with notes of resources and people they might enjoy.
Depending on their communications preferences (when in doubt, just ask) I follow up with either a paper thank you card, an email or a phone call containing information about an event, a resource, or a person that might be of interest. On some occasions, I even sent a book. This is what I call putting 'skin in the game'.
Let the other person guide you in your choice of medium and timing. In the same breath, show interest early on and stay present to what you learned from the other in your follow up.
There are times when I will pass on an idea for a blog post to someone whose sweet spot is that topic instead of publishing about it myself. Show interest in developing connections over time and you will go from start to success.
What questions have you not asked me? How can I help you go from start to success?