The NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement publishes a journal for senior leaders - “In View”.  In their latest offering the theme is service re-design and improvement, and there are a range of insightful items, even if you aren’t a “senior leader”.  What caught my eye was the item headed “Network”, author Mark Duman.

It talked about how to maximise opportunities for networking at meetings, (listen twice as much as talking!) how to get the best out of your business cards (watch out for dog-eared versions) and how to get outcomes from discussions. Mark suggests using their business card to jot down actions (but on the reverse) and keeping a filing system using Outlook (or whatever).

It was all good stuff, and his suggestion to be positive and spread the infection of happiness and enthusiasm made sense to me. Better than swine flu!

In a coaching session a few days later, I was struck by how complex networking was.  It is influenced by our behaviours and preferences, and we are influenced by our own perceptions.

For example, my coachee was talking about how to improve their business networking and were clear that cold calling was not an option. As we explored this, it became clear that they really valued the individual introductions and connections that they had - and did not feel it was worthwhile to make contact with people they did not know.  Their entire philosophy was based on how they perceived they would be received if they contacted someone they did not know.

We assume that because we don’t like a particular approach, it won’t work for others.

I know I don’t really appreciate it if someone emails me or rings me out of the blue.  It almost feels like an invasion of my personal space.  Yet it must work for some people, otherwise why do people use this method?  There is a real skill to getting the best out of networking, and making sure your pitch is right.

Social networking sites (and LinkedIn with a more business focus) can be helpful in keeping in touch - but if you aren’t keen on utilising the web, it may be a complete turn off. If you don’t make the effort, though, are you missing a trick?

Networking may involve some work - you may hate bone crushing handshakes at the next conference you are at, but it may be worth the pain if the business card you end up with is the one contact that gets your improvement project moving forward. 

“No pain, no gain?”