Networking and Friends

One of the strengths of a good networking group is that most of the members become friends.  And ironically, one of the weaknesses is that most of the members become friends.  It’s both a strength and a weakness.  Accountability becomes key in running a good network because friends don’t like to hold friends accountable.  But, people who truly understand networking are not going to have a problem with system and structure.

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at

It can be dangerously easy for a networking group that meets regularly to become a coffee talk session with little or no networking going on.  That’s exactly what happens when a group loses sight of their purpose, focus, system, and structure–or never has any of those things to begin with.

People begin to make up their own agendas and the networking loses focus.  When you lose focus, the meetings become social.  Networking should be about business.  Of course there has to be a social aspect, but it’s really about business, commitment, and accountability.  People can be like water and tend to take the path of least resistance.  Without the proper framework in which to operate, the agenda becomes the topic of the day and it ends up being whatever the person running the group thinks the meeting should be about.  That sort of inconsistency over time is a problem for a networking group.

Even if you have a good, strong leader, at some point the person’s life will change or maybe he or she will simply get burned out.  The problem starts if there is no one else to teach.  Teaching is a leaky-bucket process.  You start with a whole bucket of information.  When that information is taught to someone else, some of that information leaks out and the people being taught only get that limited version of the information.  In turn, when that person teaches someone else, the material continues to get watered down based on their understanding and ability to articulate the material.

By the time you are in the third or fourth generation of people passing along the information, you only have about half a bucket remaining.  When the bucket of information gets low, people start putting in their own stuff.  Very rarely does the material improve over time with this process.

In short, it is a beautiful thing when people in a networking group become close friends–the key to making sure it doesn’t detract from the goals of building each other’s business through networking, however, is to ensure that no matter what type of networking group you’re in the group has a strong sense of purpose, a solid structure, and that each member is committed to carrying out the systems for networking which are already in place. 

So, how does your networking group maintain its focus and its commitment to its systematic networking practices (e.g., careful selection of leadership, effective training programs, etc.)?  I’d love to hear your thoughts–please share them in the comment forum below.  Thanks so much for your participation!


6 thoughts on “Networking and Friends

  1. Dear Dr.Ivan,

    This article has clearly answered my concerns about the advantages and disadvantages of being part of a close knit network.

    Loved your detailing. Very useful. Thanks.

    Admirals Chapter
    Coimbatore, India

  2. In our BNI chapter, we have several people who have become very close to one another both profssionally and socially. A lot of the women in our chapter have developed a special bond and we not only socialize with one another, but also notify and attend other networking events together. One of these women is also in a power team with me. BNI meetings are structured and we follow the guidelines for professionalism. Power team and commttee meetings are also kept professional. Although our social time is fun filled and exciting, we always find ourselves including talk of networking and even end up passing referrals and ideas in the process of our girls nights.

    Km Taylor
    BNI- True North Networkers Chapter
    North Olmsted, Ohio. USA

  3. Totally agree… Most of the times friends don’t hold each other accountable…that is why we need to have systems and KPIs to measures our performance… numbers don’t lie… The purpose of networking is personal and business growth…if we don’t hold each other accountable then what for?

  4. I not only agree with this piece, but plan to forward it to our President and Education Coordinator to share this coming week; verbatim.
    In addition, what I have recognized having been a BNI member in different states along life’s path, is that the Leadership Skills we are referencing begin at the top. As in most professional environments, the heart and attitude of the Leaders impact the ranks. I am referring to personality styles or the perception of BNI materials and there shared “intent”.
    It is so important to recognize that every word spoken impacts every personality style in a different way.Some take each concept with a law like pretense, while other glean the intent and find a balance between the type A personality that wants to drive, the B who is excited for the road trip,the C is all about making sure to be considerate, intentional, and kind to the passengers along the way, and the D who will spend countless hours developing the best route.
    In addition, those of us who LOVE our BNI interact with our members to meet them where they are, express early the importance of additional training’s, so that concepts of personality style and how each leader (and leadership team) can impact every group…and that balance is always key.

  5. Ivan, I think the key to keep a BNI group from losing focus is having a strong area director who really cares about her chapters, is known to the members, visits the meetings and is available to the leadership team. Our island director, Lynn Howard, (we’re in Hawaii) stays involved with her leadership teams while allowing our groups to retain their own personalities. Whenever there’s a muddle about “well, this member hasn’t been an upright member, but we all like him a lot,” we’re reminded to go back to the Code of Ethics and especially what’s best for the group as a whole. I was president and then on membership and remembering what’s best for the group, and most of all why we come to the meetings every week helped keep us on point. BNI is a business networking group and everything that we do should be helping our businesses succeed. Remember this and you’ll be able to keep friends as friends and business as business.

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