Although I have written in the past about the subject of networking, and how we can choose to interpret it really positively and empoweringly (what a lovely adverb!), I want to address this again, because I continue to be struck by how many of the leaders I have coached over the years still struggle with the word ‘networking’. I have noticed that many, many leaders associate networking with actively making artificial or false relationships with the intention of discarding or abusing the other party at the first opportunity, in a race for superiority and the next step on a ladder of perceived ‘success’ – and, unsurprisingly, these leaders do not like this. Equally, I have also come across a fair few leaders who perceive networking in this manner, and do like it – which strikes me as similarly problematic. And yet over the past 2 weeks, as I have spent time in Doha and latterly in Shanghai (from where I am posting this blog), a considerable amount of my activity (ie meeting school leaders, educators, founders and pioneers) could well be classed as networking, and I don’t recognise at all this negative description of what I have been doing.
When I think of networks, I think of the wonderful networks that are constantly vibrating inside our brains, as our neural pathways grow, stretch, strengthen, polish themselves up and prepare to achieve new and wonderful things. I think, too, of the intertwined ecosystem of the rainforest, which pulsates with energy, and where each element supports the growth of others, in different phases and stages, each of which has its moment and time to rise towards the sun. I think of the digital communications, media and transport systems that connect us across the entire globe – and beyond, in fact. And when I translate these images into networks of people, I see and feel connection, warmth, joy and an immense potential to learn from and with others, in relationships which are not only mutually beneficial, but which also create energy and insights that will benefit others in ways not yet fully anticipated, yet for which the seeds have now been sown.
And although, personally, I sit very much on the cusp of introvert and extrovert, I recognise that networks and their potential make me feel alive, bonded to the rest of the human race, and flooded with an immense sense of the possible. When we meet and chat with other human beings, and share our stories and challenges, then we create an entity that sits between and around us – a relationship that in turn introduces and links us to others. In a world where mistrust and a lack of understanding between people presents us with possibly the greatest danger of all, this kind of connection really, really matters.
So … go out, and extend your network today …