Cultivate Your Connections

Bueller? Bueller? Bueller? Cultivate Your Connections.

Okay, I admit that Ferris Bueller is not the most moral character in movie history. But he is an excellent networker—(and for purposes of this blog- we are presuming all the rumors about him are true). Ferris Bueller is there for his connections.

Here are some of the reported incidents;

  • "This guy in my biology class said if Ferris dies, he is giving his eyes to Stevie Wonder."
  • "(Ferris) is getting me out of summer school… Sh** I hope he doesn't die."

He also helps Cameron stand up to his father and gives everyone a show at the St. Patrick's Day Parade. Ferriss knows and understands what his network needs and helps them get it. In return, his network is there doing a collection for him when he is "ill."

The people in your network are not looking to get out of summer school or play hookey.

So how can you cultivate your relationships?

Social media made it much easier to follow changes in your network's careers. In the old days, we used to wait for postcards or announcements to know that someone has made a change in their career. Today, this information is available instantaneously.

On social media, many of us announce new career moves and even that we are in transition. These announcements provide the opportunity to reach out and wish someone well or, more importantly, offer up your network to help them during a transition. People remember those who reach out to them in the good times, but they recall those who offer best wishes and help when they need it.

A senior executive I know was let go as part of a re-organization, and I sent a simple note explaining what she had meant to me and wishing her the best. A simple gesture, really, but what I did not know for years is that I was only one of three people who did this. Most surprising many of the people she advocated for over the years did not send a note or reach out in any way.

I thought it was the "human" thing to do at the time. Later, I found out the senior executive would support me in the future. I do not know if the same holds for those who did not reach out. Remember to give the same care to those who are junior to you also-- people develop and progress faster than you think.

Social networks also allow you to do a light touch in terms of networks. People announce on LinkedIn information about their speaking engagements, articles, and events or causes that are important to them. It is easy to comment or share some items-- or even send a note. These light touches are essential. Supporting people creates a positive emotional connection, and people remember those who supported them.

Hopefully, in adding someone to your network, you have found out how things matter to them about business or work or a personal passion. If you come across an article or court decisions or some other information, send it to them with a personal note tailoring it to their circumstances and inviting them to follow up with you. While law firm email blasts reach many people( if it doesn't end up in spam folders)- a personal tailored note is much more impactful.

One of the most memorable emails I ever received was from a law firm that wanted my future business. After they lost a business bid and a court decision came out that impacted the case, they lost. They sent me a note explaining the decision and how I could best use the opinion to best position my matter. Let me tell you; they were a firm I seriously considered in the future.

With all of the help that social media can be, nothing beats the in-touch personal touch. So how can you effectively maintain and create those contacts? First, make sure you keep a list of those you want to see or talk to regularly. Make sure that you do that, reach out, and, if possible, have the call.

Don't forget to follow up on any take-aways from the call and then calendar when to reach out again. If you are going to a virtual conference and think someone will be there, you want to spend some time alone with them, send a note, and try to arrange it.

One of our most precious assets is our time, so if you have some many contacts-- so little time. Think about ways you can group your contacts and do a single event.

For example, I love keeping in touch with some of my alumni from my company. For this reason, several times a year, I try to get groups together. It only is one night, and I get to check in with everyone. We also have a ton of laughs together. Suppose you have several clients who would like to exchange industry and network with others in their business. In that case, you can sponsor a breakfast, cocktail party, or dinner focused on an essential topic in that business.

Finally, one of the most important things you can do is respond positively to your network's requests if you can. For this reason, I have met with associates thinking of going in-house, met with people interviewing in the insurance industry, and given advice to friends writing books. I hope that I will help someone succeed and that if I ever need help, they would be there for me.

So get out there and be like Ferris Bueller and take the time to care for your connections. And remember:

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

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Want to learn more how you can cultivate your connection and convert your networking contacts into paying clients?

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Sheila Murphy

Founder of Focus Forward Consulting

For over 20 years, as a former senior legal officer for a Fortune 50 company, I successfully developed, coached and transformed talent in corporations and law firms, as well as...