Understanding the nuances of your network versus your contact database may change you forever.
It is imperative of you as a business leader that you fully understand the difference between a contact database and your network. Get this wrong and its like running with only one shoe – you can do it but it makes things a lot harder.
Seeding, nurturing, and harvesting a network will provide you and your business with a lot more horsepower then simply building a database of your contacts.
Full disclosure, I am a Malcolm Gladwell “connector” and have been for about eight years. Truth is, I had always been good at keeping a contact database up to date as I moved through my life and changed jobs. But I did not fully realize the power of a network until that point all those years ago.
Your contact database is just that – a structured collection of information that you can access for a variety of reasons. Most of us use the contact database to call people, or email them, maybe send a text message. Some of you may have this database tied to an email service so that we can send out large bulk messages. Regardless of what tools you use, the concept here is a one-way communication from me to one or many.
A network is something much different. The core concept of a network is the idea of interconnectedness. I think a lot of people miss the full idea of the network where nodes are connected to other nodes not just one node (the me as the center of my database view). We fundamentally understand this more today with the advent of social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn. But you don’t have to view your network solely through the eyes of these tools.
There is power and potential in how you help bridge connections between nodes in your network.
A few years ago I considered getting involved with a new opportunity, which would drive this existing business into the future. Their current operational thinking has roots that date back over 30 years. When considering this opportunity, I many times saw examples of their activities as contact database building versus activities that encouraged, facilitated or supported interconnectedness. They have a database not a network.
As you consider improving your position or your company’s position, take a few moments and assess whether you are building a database or facilitating a network. Morph your thinking to full network and you will reap the benefits for years to come.
Want to up your network activities? Try these two simple tasks:
- Every day introduce 2 people in your database to each other with the simple sentence, “I thought you two should get to know each other.” Do this for 3-4 pairs.
- Convene a lunch or a late-in-the-day beer social where you invite 8-10 people who don’t already know each other. Hold no agenda other than getting the group to share who they are and what they do. (One simple trick is to have everyone share something silly like, “share one embarrassing fact about yourself”.)
Each of these two tasks can be started tomorrow. You don’t have to buy lunch or the beers, everyone is on their own. We all enjoy these get togethers (for the most part) and are always waiting for someone to be the organizer. Be that person and you will yield the benefits for years to come.