I have found that one of the strengths of a good networking group is that most of the members become friends. Ironically, one of the weaknesses in networking groups is that most of the members become friends. Yes, it’s both a strength and a weakness. Accountability is crucial in running a good network because friends don’t like to hold friends accountable. I have also found that people who truly understand business networking recognize the need to have a system and structure to get results.
It can be dangerously easy for a networking group that meets regularly to become a talk session over coffee with little or no networking taking place. That is what happens when the group loses sight of their purpose, their focus, system, and structure – or it happens if they never had any of those things to begin with.
Often, people begin to make up their own agendas and they lose their focus on networking. When you lose focus, the meetings become social. Networking should be about business. Of course, there will be a social aspect, but it’s mainly about business, commitment, and accountability.
Leadership and Teaching
People can be like water – taking the path of least resistance. Without the proper framework in which to operate, the agenda might become the current topic of the day’s news, or it ends up being whatever the person running the group thinks the meeting should be from their own personal perspective. Inconsistency like that, over time, is a problem for a networking group.
Even if the group has a good, strong leader, that person’s life will change at some point or maybe they will simply get burned out. The problem starts if there is nobody else to teach. Teaching is a leaky-bucket process. You begin with a full bucket of information. When that information is taught to someone else, some of it leaks out of the bucket and the people being taught get a limited version of the information. Then, when that person teaches someone else, the material continues to get watered down based on their personal understanding and their 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 content. The problem is that it might not be good content. I’ve seen this time and time again. By the way, very rarely does the material improve over time with the leaky bucket process.
I learned early on that the best solution is to write everything down to develop “train the trainer” material so there is consistency in the system and the way the training is conducted. Making the leadership training part of a replicable system is the best way to fill the leaks and have good leaders for the organization.
I think it is a beautiful thing when people in a networking group become close friends. The key is to make sure it doesn’t detract from the group’s goal of building each other’s business through networking and referrals.
It is important for ALL networking groups to ensure that there is a strong sense of purpose with a solid structure, and that each member is committed to carrying out the systems for networking which are already in place. This will ensure that members agree to be accountable with their business networking friends.
How does your networking group maintain its focus and commitment to systematic networking practices? I’d love to hear your thoughts – leave a comment below.