No matter what we do, the ability to network and connect with people is an important skill to have:  it is both a part of our jobs and our everyday life. Beyond just knowing people, we need to know how to connect with them in a genuine way that adds value to their life. No one wants a relationship with someone they perceive as insincere, like a used car salesman!

I still remember the first person I met when I attended Park Community Church for the first time:  Deb Knupp. Deb is one of the most outgoing, friendly individuals I have ever met; her warmth made me feel right at home. Rarely have I had such good first impressions with people as I had with her, and over the years we have become great friends. Deb is a natural networker and connector, and watching her has taught me a lot.

A couple months ago we invited Deb to speak on her mastery of networking at our Barnabas Quarterly Gathering in the Loop. Here are some of her thoughts on the subject.  

Networking is more than just a relationship skill; it's a life skill.

Have you ever felt like you would rather get a root canal than go to a networking event? Or perhaps you are on the other side of the spectrum and think to yourself, even though these people are strangers, I am going to meet someone awesome! These are the two extremes, but most of us tend to fall somewhere in between. Wherever you find yourself, I have come up with four fundamental keys to networking success that we should all be applying when engaging with other people. I hope these keys will make networking either less painful or even more enjoyable for you.

The first fundamental key is to focus on building authentic relationships. Between believers it is easy to understand the importance of actually caring about each other and translating that into authentic relationships. But in the marketplace, how can we as leaders go beyond seeing people as a means to an end—to reaching our bottom line? This is where our faith comes in and gets put into practice through what I call "The Three Ins:"  three authentic reasons through which we can engage with people and develop deeper and more fruitful relationships.

The Three Ins:

  1. Invitation – invite people to engage in things that they want to engage in. Invitations are one of the most successful ways to develop an authentic relationship, especially if you are inviting someone to something that they desire to do, and find both valuable and edifying.

  2. Introduction – we live in a world where people want to meet other people. A wonderful way to engage with people and build a fabulous network is to help other people meet people they want to meet.

  3. Information/Insight – it is a blessing when other people take interest in our lives and go beyond to find information or give insight into the things that we are already doing. This can lead to deeper trust and a more genuine relationship.

The second fundamental key is the "Platinum Rule." The Platinum Rule goes beyond the Golden Rule. It is not just about doing unto other people as we would want done to ourselves, but about doing unto other people as they would want done to themselves. In other words, it is meeting other people where they are. It takes more compassion and empathy to meet other people where they are most comfortable and confident. We have to listen and speak to them wisely so that eventually they will want to engage in the things we are interested in.

The third fundamental key is to have a heart for service and to act on it. Networking is an act of service. As believers in the workplace, we know that God has bestowed upon us gifts to use to serve other people. We may still be in the process of discovering our unique gifting, but that should not stop us from taking every opportunity to bless other people with words of encouragement, messages of truth, grace, and/or empathy, or even a job opportunity. Offering others-centered solutions is a way to nurture high-value networks.

The fourth and final fundamental key is to secure definitive next steps. One of the most powerful things we can do as believers is to live our faith through words of truth and a life of integrity. Too often we fall into the trap of using trite phrases like "we should get together," or we promise to follow up with people, but never do. When next steps are immediately defined, we chose to not leave it up to chance, but to recognize and act on the fact that God has called us to engage with this person. Try to, in the moment, establish what your next steps together will be and how you can create a mutual kingdom-enhancing benefit!