What is NetWeaving and how does it differ from traditional Networking?
NetWeaving is, in many ways, an altruistic spinoff form of networking. It follows the Golden Rule of, “What goes around will come back around.” In the long run, the benefits and outcomes from NetWeaving will almost always exceed those of the more traditional, “What’s in it for me?” (WIIFMe) networking.
What’s wrong with “traditional” WIIFMe Networking?
Here is a common situation:
You go to a networking or business reception or meeting and have nice conversations with several people. You exchange business cards with great intentions to reconnect based on a common interest or possible strategic connection identified at the time. But then, as you get back to your office -- to the piles of emails and phone messages, meetings, etc. – you get caught up in your current work. A few days go by and no one follows up. A week goes by, then two weeks. Pretty soon, you come back across those business cards from the energized meeting you had with this person, and not only can you not remember what “Epoch Development Company” does, you can’t even remember what Mary Epoch looks like.
The two key weaknesses of traditional networking are its superficiality and the lack of follow-up and follow-through. Both of these frustrate the process of relationship building and ultimately the creation of trust which is the pinnacle of building and maintaining relationships.
Why do women tend to be much better NetWeavers than men?
Studies show that females, from birth, are more relationship-oriented. While boys are often over by themselves digging a hole or building a fort (now playing some video game), three girls are in a group carrying on a conversation and relating to each other.
Because they tend to build relationships more easily, women don’t agonize over connections they might make which don’t happen to work out. Men, especially those in professions (attorneys, CPAs, etc.), worry that somehow a connection that doesn’t work out will come back to negatively impact their image and their client relationship. Will some of these match-ups not work out? Absolutely, but that’s life and seldom will it ever come back to reflect badly on the person who did the NetWeaving.
What are the three main skill sets of NetWeaving?
In order to become truly proficient at NetWeaving, you must first learn how to improve upon your skills as a connector of others – constantly looking for ways to put people together in win-win opportunities.
The second skill set involves learning how to position yourself as a strategic resource-provider for others – no strings attached. You must find ways to develop a reputation as a ‘go-to’ person. A great analogy is that you want to be thought of as a real-life Google search engine. People call you and say something along the lines of: “Catherine, I know this isn’t your field, but you have so many connections, how would you suggest I go about …?”
The third skill set, in many ways, is connected to the second one. Pretend you are an executive search firm. You want to constantly be on the lookout for persons across all industries, fields and professions who are exceptional at what they do. When you identify one of these persons, you want to create a relationship and find ways to stay in touch. You want to make them a part of your Trusted Resource Network so that over time, the value of this network of “best of breed” folks exceeds anything you could do on your own.
Why is NetWeaving referred to as “The BUSINESS Version of ‘Pay It Forward’?”
Several years ago, before I had ever read the book “Pay It Forward” by Catherine Ryan Hyde (2000), I would invariably have someone come up to me after hearing one of my presentations on the strategies of NetWeaving and tell me how much it reminded them of the “Pay It Forward” concept.
In “Pay It Forward," a seventh grade school teacher gives an optional assignment each year challenging his class to come up with some idea that could change the world and then put it into action. One student comes up with the idea that when someone does a favor for you, rather than just paying him or her back, you have to "pay it forward" and do favors for three other people. Then they, in turn, do favors for three others and so forth.
One of the key elements of implementing NetWeaving is to make virtual connections of people over the Internet and, even more powerful, host meetings in person to introduce two persons to each other with their needs, problems and opportunities in mind rather than just your own. At the end of that meeting, when you, as the NetWeaver, have just sat back and watched them find ways to help each other, one or both of the persons might say: “Joan, thank you so much for bringing us together. We’ve found several people we realize we both know that we never would have discovered had you not introduced us. We also see several ways we can help each other. But, Joan, you haven’t said much; how can we help you?”
Now the natural response, especially if you’re in sales or marketing or in business for yourself, would be to describe a potential prospect or other ways one or both of them could help you. But, in true NetWeaver fashion, we teach people to challenge each of the persons whom you have connected to first “Pay It Forward” and agree to host a meeting to connect two other people, challenge them do the same and so on.
Just think, if the business world adopted this as a Standard Operating Procedure what would happen to our world and our economy.
What happens when women bring NetWeaving into various groups – companies for whom they work, organizations they run or support, etc.?
Those organizations that are able to build an internal culture of NetWeaving will see territorial walls and silos come down or at least decrease. I like to call this a “365-Day Softball Team.” How would you like to have the cooperation and spirit you tend to find on a softball team 365 days a year? Much of what happens within a softball team is just all about getting to know each other below that superficial level, across departments and across functions.
But unlike other “team-building” exercises which tend to have a short-lived impact, once a NetWeaving culture is established, the word tends to become ingrained in the company vocabulary as a noun and as a verb: "Thanks for introducing me to Beth. That was a great connection and a very nice piece of NetWeaving. What can I do for you?” “I’d like to NetWeave you with John Perkins in purchasing because I believe there are some ways you can help each other better understand each other’s area.”
What are the long-term benefits to society from NetWeaving?
NetWeaving is contagious and it creates a kinder and gentler environment since any time people are looking out for each other rather than just for themselves, it changes the paradigm. And unlike 9/11, which is now unfortunately too distant a memory for most to remember how we all pulled together, NetWeaving can have a daily impact -- now and every day into the future.
Those who enjoy and get greater satisfaction from helping someone else than when someone does something for them will find that NetWeaving creates a source of energy that will make them better at EVERYTHING else they do.
Women must recognize their advantages with regard to this key relationship-building concept and use it to build better companies, better communities and a better nation. They are already is doing so. NetWeaving just needs to keep growing and spreading.
Written originally for w2wlink.com by Bob Littell.