Web 2.0. Social networking. LinkedInPlaxoTwitterbarf. Blogaroni and cheese. Some people would have you believe we’ve entered a new era of business where the rules have fundamentally changed. I’d submit that the rules are the same and the way we’re behaving is self-defeating.
One of the most valuable resources you have as a professional is your network. All the people you meet in your professional and personal life enter that interconnected web of relationships.
But your network is only worth what you put into maintaining it. And many of us are destroying that resource. All this interwebz garbage makes us lazy. It provides an easy out. It enables us to expand our reach beyond our ability to control or maintain meaningful relationships. Admission is the first step to remission – there are two behaviors you need to stop right now.
I heard someone the other day advocate an approach of “connect to EVERYONE possible on LinkedIn so more people can find you and have a relationship with you.” Um, ok.
My perspective: stoooopid. Why? Any online community is only as good as the relationships you build. Having 9,000,000 LinkedIn connections isn’t worth a damn if you can’t actually have a relationship. And yes, you can go ahead and check my LinkedIn profile and I have over 500 connections – the thing is I actually KNOW all those people and have met 95% of them face to face. The other 5% I’ve had meaningful conversations with via phone on several occasions.
Do the math – even if you only spend 10 minutes a day connecting with people in your network and each connection takes 5 minutes (a quick call, an email, a note) that’s only 700 or so people you can maintain a relationship with in a year. I think 5 minutes per person per year is well below an absolute minimum you need to invest to have a relationship with an individual.
Don’t connect for the sake of the numbers, just to connect, or on the prayer that someone in the 14,000,000 LinkedIn users out there will find you and pay you gobs of money. Connect for the sake of a relationship.
My suggestion here is to simply say “no.” If I haven’t personally met you, I’m not going to connect to you. If you’d like to buy me coffee and get to know one another, I’d love to do that and then yes, we can connect. But just because you found me on the interwebz and want to have an ephemeral linkage in cyberspace doesn’t mean it will actually be a valuable relationship for either of us.
I actually politely decline connection requests from folks I’ve never met. And I don’t request to connect to folks unless I’ve met them and see some mutual benefit from being connected. Stop overextending. You’re diluting the value of your network.
Stop Being Lazy
It’s too easy to tweetIMblogfacebookmessage someone. It’s lazy too. Sure there are some relationships that can be maintained that way (if the person happens to be a twitter addict for example). But many relationships need more than 140 characters or an emoticon to keep them fresh and relevant.
I’d like you to do an exercise – open your contact list and scroll through the names. Ask yourself when is the last time you actually SPOKE to the person. I’ll bet for many of your contacts you probably can’t remember the last time you heard their voice let alone saw their face. If that’s the case, you’re being lazy (oh that’s right – I *totally* went there!).
Pick up the phone. Schedule coffee or lunch. There is no substitute for true interpersonal interactions. Texting, tweeting, and IMing are fine for filling the void between those real interactions but those real interactions do have to happen from time to time in order to maintain the strength of your relationships and the overall health of your network.
So there it is – two nasty behaviors I’d beg you to stop doing. Stop overextending. Stop being lazy. And if you’re in my personal/professional network and haven’t heard from me in a while, drop me a line. I’d love to reconnect. Odds are I probably called you last so you owe me a jingle.
What other behaviors do you see or experience that erode the value of a network? Please share.