I will come out and say it. I hate networking. I hate the idea of it and loathe when I am having a conversation with someone who is “networking” me.

I hear you say, “But Raj, most successful leaders have not got to where they are without building strong networks!”

Here’s my take on this.  These people are successful not because of their “network”. Their success has stemmed from the genuine relationships they have built over time.


So, how do you identify the difference between Networking and Relationship Building?

Imagine you are at a conference during the lunch break. There’s the usual awkward standing around and eating, and then you will often meet two types of people.

The first, usually talk fast and fire the following questions at you in rapid succession – where do you work and what is your role? Translation, they are trying to quickly identify if you are an ideal target for their next sale, job offer or business pitch. If you meet these “important” criteria, they may launch into the “let me tell you about how <insert product, service or them> can solve all your problems”.

Conversely, you might meet someone you have an engaging conversation. They seem genuinely interested in you and your business and vice versa, and there’s no offer to solve your problems or provide a magic silver bullet solution.

Here are some more differences:

Has a set objective or motivation Doesn’t have a defined objective.
Tends to have an immediate, short-term focus Allows for a long-term focus. A ‘slow burn’ approach
Usually a business investment only An investment that is personal, emotional and intellectual
Often uses a ‘one size fits all’ approach Is personalised and unique to each relationship
Essentially, self-serving Is a partnership that is mutually beneficial and offers personal fulfilment
Can easily be destroyed and forgotten Involves trust, rapport and commitment
Unique to your current situation Endures through changes, e.g., changes in roles, employers, industries, hard times. You continue to remain in touch.


In summary, networking tends to have a particular purpose; establishing connections that are beneficial to you with tangible outcomes in the (ideally) near future, i.e. help me close this sale, find me a job at your company etc.

Relationship building is about making connections with a range of stakeholders both within and across your industry in a manner that is mutually beneficial at some point in time. As a leader, it is important that you build strong relationships with your team and key stakeholders both inside and outside your organisation. Business is won and lost through connections.

So how do you stop networking and improve your relationship building?


Step 1: Identify ‘Who’

We often don’t have time to meet with everyone. The focus here is building quality relationships with a few people rather than shallow relationships with several. The first step to building business relationships is mapping out ‘with who’? This step is simple and often overlooked.

Write down who you need to build relationships with and why? Also, look beyond the usual suspects that are good for your career, i.e. your boss or skip level manager. A process I use with my clients is to map out key influencers and decision makers both within and outside their organisation (email me at info@bareinc.com.au, and I can share the template and instructions on how you can do this).


Step 2: Make the Approach

My best friend can approach anyone, and within minutes it seems like they have known each other for years. I am always amazed at his ability to do this and assumed he had some incredible opening lines or jokes. He told me it was all about finding common interests as quickly as possible and building from there.

It is easier when you are building relationships with people within your organisation. Show a genuine interest in understanding who they are and what they are interested in. For example, you may have mutual interests in a specific program or project, you (or your kids) may have studied at the same schools or play the same sports. Spend time getting to know them and finding out what drives them both at and outside of work.

If you need to approach people outside of your organisation, then consider spending time reviewing their LinkedIn profile, and Google search their names. Spend some time getting know them virtually and determine if there’s a common ground or mutual connection who can provide a warm introduction for you.


Step 3: Deepen the Relationship

Assuming the initial approach went well then the real work starts with creating a deeper relationship.  A great leader I once worked with took an under-performing business with an engagement score below 40% and moved it up to 85% within 12 months.  I asked him what magic voodoo he used to make this happen. Was he providing free lunches, chocolates to all at 3 pm or giving everyone a pay rise?

He did one thing. He walked the floor every morning and said hi to different groups of people in his team. Each time he would remember what was said, and on the next visit build on it. Over time this developed a genuine connection with people, and it also encouraged them to start talking to each other. Eventually, they started seeing themselves as a single unit, rather than merely 200 people on the same floor.

The key is once you have found some common ground; keep deepening the relationship through regular contact. This does not have to involve formal meetings. Instead, it could be floor walks, coffee catch-ups, after work drinks, lunches, anything. The key is to keep them regular, genuine and always be open to helping without asking ‘what’s in it for me’.


Hope these tips can help you. If you have any you want to share, then leave a comment. You can also like or share this article.


Remember, to email me at info@bareinc.com.au, and I can send the relationship management template and instructions on how you can do this.


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