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6: Networking Peer-to-Peer

Dulworth, Michael Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

We’re going to shift gears a bit now. We’ve been discussing ways to develop your networking skills and build your network. In the next few chapters, we’re going to focus on different types of networks. The peer-to-peer networks discussed in this particular chapter bridge organizational boundaries. Chapter 7 will focus on internal organization networks, and chapter 8 will discuss communities based on a common concern or passion: communities of practice.

While, by definition, peer-to-peer networks lack an important dimension of diversity (everyone has the same occupation), the trade-off is well worth it. As Jim Bolt, wrote in a recent article in Fast Company, “The central idea behind the effectiveness of peer-to-peer networks is this: We all learn better, trust more, and gravitate to the shared experiences of people at our level and in circumstances similar to ours. And, there is incredible value in being able to tap into the collective experience of a group of trusted peers.”4

When computer techies talk about peer-to-peer networks, they are referring to computer networks with no hierarchical structure: every computer is on the same footing. It’s the same 92when it comes to people: in your peer-to-peer network, you are with your equals. One reason that peer-to-peer networks are so effective is that they create a secure, open environment that helps accelerate learning and development. The network becomes a safe harbor for participants to freely discuss issues and challenges of individual and organizational importance with peers in organizations who have very similar positions and responsibilities.

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3: Building Your Network

Dulworth, Michael Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Most people are not very good networkers. I’ve come to this conclusion by talking with and watching the thousands of people I’ve come into contact with over the past twenty-five years. I also know that people can become better net-workers by following a few simple steps. And these guidelines are not what you read about in most books on networking—for example, “the five steps to working a room” or “get out there and join a lot of groups.” My advice and guidance, I hope, is much more practical and straightforward and can be weaved into a person’s daily life without becoming too time-consuming. Becoming a better networker is not rocket science, but it does require some different behaviors and actions than most people exhibit or practice.

In chapter 1, I described strong, powerful networks as having four key qualities: (1) quantity, (2) relationships, (3) diversity, and (4) quality. What do you get when you have a network with all these qualities? The tagline I use for my networking business sums it up: “The right people, the right conversations, the right time.”

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Resource A: Choosing Your Board

Dulworth, Michael Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

It is essential to know yourself. Once you have gone through a process to create self-awareness, you are ready to choose the right people to sit on your board to help you make sound choices. Who do you want on your board and why do you want them? Just as important, what do you expect from them and what do you have to offer them?

We assume you want board members who have wisdom. By this we mean people who understand the importance of heeding your life’s calling and living and working on purpose.

Naming your purpose is the first step in your quest to working and living on purpose. In answering the question, “Who are you?” many questions usually come up. They may include:

These are the kinds of questions your Sounding Board can help you to answer.

Your Sounding Board is made up of trusted individuals who listen well and offer you courageous conversation. They may have only one thing in common—you! But they all meet the following criteria:

They’re interested (versus interesting)
They are genuinely interested in you and want to see you succeed.

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4: What’s Your Personal Brand?

Dulworth, Michael Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Do you know what your personal brand is? Did you even realize that you have a personal brand? Of course, you know companies have brands: Tiffany’s is upscale, with the accent on luxury. Wal-Mart’s is down-to-earth, focused on low prices. Even cities have brands: New York is the Big Apple, while Los Angeles is the entertainment capital of the world. And people have brands too—think Trump, Oprah, and Tiger Woods.

But you don’t have to be a television star to have a brand. You are famous within your own network. People within your network recognize you instantly. And within your network, you have a personal brand. Your brand is, to use an older word, your reputation. It’s how people know you, what they have heard about you, what they think about you.

Your personal brand isn’t how you see yourself; it is how others see you. We can see this most clearly in public figures such as politicians. They work very hard to define themselves, to control the message, their personal brand—but public perceptions win out in the end. The fact is that our brands—our reputations—are rarely the result of the image we try to project but of our actual behavior (which is why people in the public eye often get in so much trouble). Your personal brand isn’t a fake persona or mask you use when you network. It is the real you as others see the real you.

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2: Network Early, Network Often

Dulworth, Michael Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

We’re all born into a network of family and friends, but sometimes we fail to see the value of these connections— or realize what they represent. We often don’t realize that these natural connections with friends, family, and community can actually form the core of our networks. In the previous chapter, I asked you to estimate the size of your network universe. If you’re like most people, you probably underestimated significantly, discounting people you know as “just a friend from school” or “just a cousin.” My hunch is that you don’t realize how connected you are. Once you’re aware, you can then learn how to improve these connections and use them to your great advantage.

In this chapter, I will present my own personal networking journey as an example of how natural networking can be—and how helpful it is in life. Throughout my life, I’ve seen the powerful effects of a strong network. From my mother’s network of friends to my father’s professional networks, I’ve seen firsthand what a positive effect networks can have on someone’s life. I’ve also benefited throughout my adult life from a strong network. My network has landed me jobs, opened the doors to clients, facilitated my growth and development, and enabled me to be 29what I am today, a successful business owner. I hope my story will provide you with a framework for analyzing and understanding your own network.

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