The most powerful business networkers I have met have learned the art of genuinely helping others. This art is called many things – in Business Network International (“BNI”) they call it “givers gain.” This is a very important concept if you truly want to get the most out of business networking and day-to-day living. While helping others is an obvious key to success, many networkers are not very conscious about how well they maintain the ratio between their giving and receiving. Many are downright selfish.
Recently one of my clients, a lawyer, complained that the firm was getting little from participating in the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce. To protect the innocent, let’s call this person George. George went to most of the networking events every month and served on a committee related to his practice area. He is a nice person, has over 20 years in his field, and is one of the best in his area of specialty. So he cannot understand why he has not received any leads or referrals from the Chamber.
What George failed to see is that he has been selfish. When discussing this issue, I asked George the last time he gave a referral to any of the people he’d met. I asked how often he went out of his way for people at the Chamber when he had nothing to gain. I asked for a list of the remarkable things he did for the Chamber in the last 12 months? At first, his response was silence; then, he gave excuses. He told me how many hours he worked, that he did not meet the right types of people to give good referrals, that he is not comfortable with referring people he does not know well, and some other weak answers.
Actually, since I was his coach, I had gotten to know George well over the previous 6 months. He was someone to whom I had given several referrals, introduced to a lot of people, and for whom I went out of my way. In all that time, George had never done anything for me. I watched others also go out of their way for George and experience the same lack of reciprocity. It was obvious to all that George is a taker. Takers like George will get business once in while because they are good at what they do. However, after a while you get a reputation as a taker, and those opportunities lessen.
For those of you who are not already genuinely helping others on a regular basis, let’s discuss the main reason why you should change your ways. In Maximum Influence: The 12 Universal Laws of Persuasion by Kurt W. Mortensen, one of the 12 laws is the Law of Obligation. The Law of Obligation, also known as “reciprocity,” states that when others do something for us, we feel a strong need, even a push, to return the favor. Returning the favor rids us of the obligation created by the first good deed.
The adage “one good turn deserves another” seems to be part of the social structure in every culture. Well, this applies to business as well as our personal lives. I believe in “striking first” for as many people as possible and having a reputation as someone who helps a lot of people. Have you ever noticed that people who have a track record of helping a lot of people have no problem getting doors opened for them and have a lot of business?
Becoming a “giver” is not only easy, it is actually fun. Here are some ways to become a better giver:
In the end, being a great networker is directly linked to being fanatical about helping others. When you are good at one, you are good at the other, and when you are bad at one, you are bad at the other. Helping others is not only the right thing to do, it is good business.
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