Networking is all about finding ways to provide value to those that you would like to have as part of your community. It is about giving first, then reaping the combined returns. However, finding ways to add value to everyone in your community can be a challenge.
Heck, that’s an understatement. When things aren’t going well, it can feel impossible. However, those are the times when you need to be the giving the most. I like to say, “When the going gets tough, the tough get giving.” Okay, I’ve never actually said that out loud, but I have thought it several times.
Anyway, during a time when I was stuck and was searching for ways I could afford to give, I came up with a list of ways that I could provide value to those in my network. Here are twenty-five ways to add value to the members of your network. Not every idea will work for everyone in your network, but all of them are simple, let others know they are important to you, and give you an opportunity to positively influence their day.
- Money. You can always share your money. This one is easy to do. Surprisingly, it might also be the least valuable.
- Actively listen to someone. Unfortunately, most people don’t listen very well, myself included. Seriously listening takes time and significant energy. By listening to what someone is saying, asking them questions, and paraphrasing back to them what you have heard, you give them something they rarely experience–being heard and understood.
- Really get to know someone. What is their favorite color? What really frustrates them? What makes them happy? Many of our work-based relationships are very shallow. Really getting to know someone not only makes them feel important, but it gives both of you more opportunities to share and give.
- Compliment someone or speak kindly to them. In today’s business world, compliments are rare. Often, the rule of the workplace is “no news is good news.” A simple compliment can turn someone’s day around. It can be worth more than gold.
- Provide ideas or suggestions. Every product, every service, and every business started as an idea. Suggestions can help others save time, energy, or money. Both can be very valuable. However, I think a warning is in order about ideas or suggestions. Once you offer them, the gift is given. Do not be too concerned about whether they are used or not. The gift is in the giving, not in how it received or how it is used.
- A smile. A smile can change someone’s whole day. I once smiled at someone and she started crying. When I asked what was wrong, she told me that my smile had been the first “nice thing” that had happened to them that day.
- A hug. I am a big hugger. I like giving them and I love getting them. A real hug–one that comes from the heart–is a wonderful thing.
- An introduction to someone else. Be a connecter. You are the hub of your network. If you know two people that could benefit from each other, introduce them and then get out of their way.
- Interesting articles. I keep my eye out for articles that I think would interest others. I also like to receive them. Several posts for this blog were born from articles others have sent me.
- Food. Need I say more?
- A gift. It needn’t be large, just thoughtful. A friend of mine once told me that every gift is a way of saying “I love you” to another person. Small thoughtful gifts given randomly tell the other person that you thought about them.
- A referral or reference. Putting in a good word for someone is a very easy way to add value.
- Do work for them. Is there a way you can take something off their to-do list? Even the offer of help can be greatly appreciated.
- Teach a skill. Giving them a skill they didn’t have before is a huge way to give. Look for things that are easy to teach and offer to share with people in your network.
- Assign them a special project. If you are in a position to delegate work, offering someone an opportunity to work on a high profile or enjoyable project can be very valuable. If the person in your network is a direct report, you must be careful to ensure assignments are “fair”, or you could get into trouble. But, if you have a task that is fun there is often very little wrong with sharing the enjoyment with others.
- Provide a service they couldn’t or wouldn’t do for themselves. Can you do something they can’t? Are you willing to do something that they dread? Either can be very valuable under the right circumstances.
- Lend them a hand. “Many hands make light work,” and, it is often fun. One time I asked a friend of mine if he wanted to go for dinner. He declined stating he needed to address and seal envelopes. I offered to help so that he could get done faster. Not only did we did make short work of the envelopes, but we had a great opportunity to visit while helping him be productive. It was a win-win-win!
- Be honest. This is one of the hardest gifts to give. We often feel that honesty will hurt others. However, if we truly care about someone, an honest appraisal of their actions or situations can be very valuable. Your care-based honesty may be the difference between success or failure.
- Be polite. My wife and I taught our daughter to say “please” and “thank you”. We also taught her to let others go first, and answer questions respectfully. They seem small things, but we regularly get compliments on her outstanding behavior and politeness. It is a very inexpensive way to give someone a gift, and is rare enough these days that it is very noticeable.
- Be patient. Sometimes this can be very hard to do. However, in most cases, being patient and taking time with someone can pay huge dividends to both of you.
- Forgive. Never keep score, and never hold a grudge. Both take too way too much energy. Everyone will make a mistake now and then. Be ready and willing to give others the benefit of the doubt and another opportunity. If someone takes advantage of your forgiveness don’t be mad, just do your best to not associate with them anymore.
- Accept help. Allowing someone to help you is not a sign of weakness. Everyone wants to feel useful and productive. Everyone will also need help from time-to-time. Accepting help from someone gives them the opportunity to feel useful and is a great way to build, or strengthen a relationship.
- Pray for them. If they are struggling with something, offering your prayers can be very uplifting.
- Kind thoughts. What goes on in your head usually works its way to your actions and words. Thinking kind things about someone often translates into warmth and a welcoming feeling for the other person.
- Write notes. Handwriting is becoming very rare. In fact, the last time I was hiring, I only received a single handwritten “Thank You” note. It didn’t take them very long, but having that person take the time out of their day to gather a writing instrument and paper, then write their thanks, and send it to me sure made a favorable impression. It demonstrated to me that they cared about the open position and were willing to work for it.
Are there other ways to give that I’ve missed? I would love to have other suggestions. Or, do you agree or disagree with any of the suggestions? Please comment.Image Credit: http://inhabitat.com/giving-back-for-christmas/