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Q&As | How Can I Become a Networking SUPERSTAR?

In this edition of Q&As, I caught up with Lars Leafblad—recently named the "most networked" man in the Twin Cities—to discuss the ins and outs of becoming a top-notch networker. Find out what skill Lars says is even more important than networking, and how you can learn to do it!

Question: How can I become a networking superstar?

Answer: Stop thinking of networking as networking and start thinking of it as “netbuilding”. Netbuilding is a belief held by the most successful networkers and connectors. It requires that you always put others first in all when trying to build new relationships and connections.

How do I practice “netbuilding”?

  1. Be Prepared. Whenever you are meeting someone for the first time, do your homework. Google them, read their LinkedIn profile, and then ask them about those interests, organizations or initiatives. You’ll pleasantly surprise most people simply by spending a few minutes in advance becoming acquainted with their story.
  2. Listen More: The 80/20. This is the ratio you should be listening (80%) versus talking (20%) when meeting with anyone for the first time. You will learn more and leave a much more positive impression with the person you’re meeting. Challenge yourself to hone your active listening skills as you visit. 
  3. Show Thanks: The 5/95. The percentage of people who show their appreciation by sending a handwritten note (5%) versus sending a quick email or nothing at all (95%). Guess which percentage gets remembered and truly helped in the long-run from their networking connections? Take 5 minutes to send a personalized, handwritten thank you note within 48 hours of meeting someone for the first time. You’ll be glad you did.
  4. Stay Connected. Netbuilders don’t think of new relationships as one-time transactions. Instead, they think of them as potential catalysts for ongoing transformation–personally and professionally. Follow up with those you’ve met to share how their counsel, ideas or suggestions have been put into practice in your own career or life. Show them the return on investment that has resulted from the time they spent meeting with you.
  5. Stay Curious. You never know what a new relationship will lead to—a new breakthrough, opportunity or idea—so stay curious as you seek out new people to meet. At events and conferences, you’ll often find the most interesting—and thoughtful—people aren’t in the center of the room. They’re the ones standing on the fringe observing the action from the periphery. Walk up and introduce yourself. You’ll probably find a fellow netbuilder.

Follow-up homework:

  1. Read and follow the counsel found in these books:
    • Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty – Harvey Mackay, 
    • Never Eat Alone, Keith Ferrazzi
    • How to Win Friends & Influence People, Dale Carnegie 
    • Yes! Robert B. Cialdini 
    • Enchancement,  Guy Kawasaki 
    • Tribes, Seth Godin
    • Six Degrees of Connection, Liz Dow
    • How To Become a Nonprofit Rockstar, Trista Harris and Rosetta Thurman
  2. Join Pollen—a community of several thousand civic-minded connectors who practice netbuilding by sharing jobs, ideas, boards and events with one another. You can join Pollen on LinkedIn or Facebook and read the 2x monthly publication

Now go out and start netbuilding!

Lars Leafblad is an executive search consultant and a principal with Minneapolis-based KeyStone Search. He is also the founder and curator of Pollen—a community of several thousand civic-minded connectors who practice netbuilding—and serves on the board of directors of CaringBridge.org. Lars also serves on the advisory boards for The Salvation Army-Twin Cities and the Public and Nonprofit Leadership Center at HHH School of Public Affairs. Learn more about Lars. Find him on Twitter.


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