If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, you know I return to networking time and again. It’s the most powerful tool we have to develop our biggest lives and baddest careers because we live in a web of interconnection; that is, opportunities come in the form of other people. The comfort and joy of support come in the form of other people. Networking is ultimately a process for acknowledging and actively cultivating that wonderful, wondrous interconnection.

I often tell newbies to networking not to expect any sort of dry cause-and-effect action from their efforts, though. Networking Effort A tends to lead to Outcome Giraffe. That is, the outcomes are often hard to track to the exact effort, and are often different than we would have predicted. Networking strategy matters but networking reality is often full of surprises.

Take, for example, the colleague I was networking with last week. Linda Howard uses her prodigious expertise to support not-for-profits so they can be even more efficient and focused in their their world- and community-changing efforts. During our recent conversation, she was reflecting on her best referral source and her most recent referral source.

Best: An ex-partner.

Most recent: The husband of a person who was in a group Linda presented to over a year ago.

Did Linda know that on all of those nights that she lay next to her ex, musing about life and work, that it would one day lead her partner-turned-dear-friend to send prospective clients her way? Of course not. She was simply sharing of herself, in the way that we do in a trusting, loving relationship.

Did she know that a member of a group she was facilitating would someday hear her husband musing about the support his organization needed while they lay with heads on cushy pillows and pass along Linda’s name? Of course not. She was simply giving the best workshop she could, in the way that we do when bringing our expertise and professional ethic into our work.

And more to the point of her musings during our lovely, expansive phone call, is there a way to somehow factor pillow talk into Linda’s marketing plan? She came to the same conclusion as you: Nope.

This is not a dead end, though, because the mechanism wasn’t the pillows. It was everything that came before, most importantly Linda’s way of building trust.

She built trust with her ex that transcended their separation.

She built trust with the room that she presented to in a way that was profound enough to last in this wife’s memory for over a year.

She was building trust with me on that very call by sharing authentically of herself, allowing me to see her expertise, professionalism, ethic, integrity, and yes, humanness.

Yes, strategy in networking does matter, but it’s icing on a cardboard cake without a primary and authentic focus on building trust.

What’s the mechanism of building trust? I get into that in my weekly email along with other bonus insights and ideas, and an invite to my mid-week community gathering, Chomp & Chat. Get all the goodies here.

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