Updated: Dec 31, 2020
Metcalfe's law states that the effect of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system (n2). Metcalfe's law characterises many of the network effects of communication technologies and networks such as the internet and social networking. It is overly simplistic in several ways; for example, it assumes every user or person is of equivalent value.
While the law has its origins in telecommunications, it powerfully demonstrates the value of a professional network and developing and maintaining relationships throughout one's career.
Is a professional network that important?
Yes! Think about how many more problems, issues and obstacles one can solve and overcome by tapping into the combined knowledge, skills and intelligence of a network compared to going it alone.
Successful people appreciate that relationship building is an essential skill to have and valuable use of their time. Paraphrasing from the classic book "Never Eat Alone" by Keith Ferrazzi:
"To achieve your goals, it matters less how smart you are or how much innate talent you're born with. These things are important, but they mean little if you don't understand one thing. You can't get there alone. In fact, you can't get very far at all."
We should all agree that cohesive and functioning teams will achieve far more than an individual, so it isn't a big leap to think about a robust network being like a loose nit team. i.e. the sum of the parts should add up to more than the individual components themselves.
The value of network intelligence is a central reason behind my new group coaching offering that launches in Q1 2020.
It's about connections which are at the core of a successful career but can be challenging to create, nurture and sustain over the long term. Through my coaching and broader activities, I come into contact with engaging and motivated professionals. I connect like-minded people who have an intrinsic interest in self-development and continuous learning. RYse Groups are a carefully selected peer learning group that supports and mentors each other. The most successful leaders we know learn by tapping into their network intelligence.
What to do, 6 safe and straightforward experiments to perform that will enhance your network intelligence:
First, change the words which help reframe the action: rather than referring to the task of networking, think about building relationships.
Second, view it as an opportunity, not a challenge or a threat. Networking is the opportunity to learn from other people, find out how you can help them and build relationships.
Third, there are regular opportunities to speak with new people everywhere, and you may be passing them up every day. Your employer will host internal events, and your college/University alumni will host regular events. Every coffee that you get, every lunch that you walk out of your office building to buy and bring back to your desk is an opportunity to speak with someone. Don't make excuses. Remember your immunity to change is in overdrive when it comes to this topic.
Fourth, set yourself a target for when you attend events, i.e. I will speak with three new people (new people!), don't gravitate to the people you know already.
Fifth, remember something about the people you are talking with and, if like me you need to, make notes. If you exchange business cards and you should do, write notes on the back of the cards or send yourself an email when you go to get another drink or use the restroom. Please don't leave the note-taking to the end of the event or the next day as I guarantee you will forget critical points (memory loss helped along with the glass or three of wine that often will get consumed at the event).
Sixth, follow up, this is the most important thing. Follow up! Do so the next day and use the information you gathered to personalise the connection and help them remember you. Don't forget to connect on LinkedIn.
If you want to discover more about building relationships, check out:
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