The ‘80s spawned some pretty great songs, and embedded within those songs were some of the most important life lessons that anyone could ever learn -- as in the Simple Minds song referenced in my headline. Still, you may not have noticed just how important these lessons were until much later. After all, hindsight is 20/20.
In business, you will often hear it’s not just what you know, but who you know. This is true, although the most cynical among us will say it’s very superficial and shallow to say it out loud. Unpacking the sentence, you find it’s truly not shallow at all. Your network is almost as valuable as your knowledge. Your network can serve to inspire, to connect and to educate. Your network is a living, breathing organism that only benefits when you nurture it and foster its growth.
Many people look at a network as the volume of connections you have on LinkedIn. Others look at their network as the social community they engage with. Your network can be both of these things, and more.
Your network grows based on a mutually beneficial social contract. What you put into it is directly proportional to what you get out of it. This past year I lost a close friend, John Durham, who was the best example of how to grow a personal and professional network. His network curation was a full-time job, and it benefited him right until the end.
I've spent a lot of time thinking about him recently -- and all the comments people made when he passed. Universally, people commented about how he made you feel special when he was talking to you. They also universally commented about how often he would reach out and “check in.”
When John reached out, it was genuine. He would shoot a text message or email to say "hey.” He would share an article he read that he thought you might like. He always followed up after a meeting, and he never asked you for anything. He was always there to do you a favor, make an introduction, or simply answer a question. He was selfless in the pursuit of his network, and it showed.
When we celebrated his life, I specifically noted that he never forgot about me and my family. We spoke to him daily because he was family to us. Others mentioned that they caught up weekly or at least every few weeks. A text chain would erupt, and thoughts and ideas would be shared. John never forgot about anyone.
Your network can be very large, but a good network is one you are consistently engaging with. Over the pandemic I found it fun and invigorating to re-engage with people I'd lost touch with. I didn’t look at their new job titles to determine who to chat with, I simply thought of names and tried to reach out and say hello. I started getting good at it, but then my efforts fell off again.
My 2022 has a number of goals, but one of them is to re-engage and kickstart my network again. I want to engage with the people I know, and I want to offer more to the network than I have in the past. I learned this from my friend John, and it's something I want do in his memory.
So why this article and why the reference to Simple Minds?
I encourage each of you to invest the time in your networks. Don’t forget about people. Don’t let people forget about you. The more you reach out and engage with people in a genuine manner, the more organic and active your network can become. You may not have an immediate need, but just reaching out to people and checking in helps them to feel seen and appreciated.
The old cliché that all ships rise with the tide is a cliché for a reason. It's true. If you put good effort into your network, it can be rewarding on numerous levels, both personally and professionally.
John was a great example of how a network can be the energy that keeps you going for many years to come.
Cory, I'm sorry for your loss. I didn't know John but in reading more about him here and elsewhere, it's so evident how much of an impactful person he was. Your message struck a chord with me. I'm not very good at checking in on those in my network, and not making the effort to keep in touch may be something I regret one day. My to-do list for the next couple of weeks just grew some; checking in on those I've lost touch with and giving Simple Minds some playlist love. Thanks for this inspiring read!