Networking versus not working

Last week, I attended an informal breakfast here in Auckland with a range of folk who work in training, coaching, change leadership and social enterprise.

After introductions by my good friend Mark, we got to know a little about each other over a simple breakfast. Following this, we had a fun hour on how to increase participant engagement while delivering great applied learning results and a improved return on investment. After the session wrapped up, some left for work while others chatted more before heading to their first appointment of the day.

This may sound like any another business breakfast but it felt different. As I drove away, I thought about what exactly made it different and I realised that as a group we:

  • Were more interested in exchanging ideas than business cards;
  • Shared our passions, not our pitches;
  • Pursued conversations, not conversions;
  • Built relationships, not revenue;
  • Focused on the other, not the self.

If this sounds like a wasted networking opportunity, I’d have to disagree. We are often encouraged to assess professional activities and events solely by their potential for generating new business. In doing so, we risk missing finding common ground through slowing down, listening to others, and shared experiences. These are the building blocks which pave the way for collaboration, innovation and creativity – all of which can lead to better outcomes.

So, next time you head to a business social event, try switching your mindset from ‘transmit’ to ‘receive’, from ‘networking’ to not working your pitch. Instead, focus on being present and attentive to others, listening for ideas and not simply for a cue to speak – who knows what might happen and where it could take you?

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