Don’t Build A Network, Grow a Community

Building a professional network can satisfy the need for a network, but growing a community can continue to reward you professionally, as well as personally.

There are many complicated techniques for creating a network of professionals around you. It isn’t until you put these techniques aside that you can truly create a community or people. However, being prepared can facilitate faster growth and create higher integrity in a new relationship.

Conversations about shared interests can build strong relationships.

Conversations about shared interests can build strong relationships.

I recently read an article, by Isabel Hogue, about building stronger bonding and rapport with your peers. The technique she uses has four topics to cover when developing a new relationship. The acronym and name of the technique is FORM – Family, Occupation, Recreation, Motivation. This simple technique is a great conversation tool to keep in mind while meeting someone new.

Even with the best technique, an insincere person will have a difficult time maintaining a network. Here are some additional characteristics that are necessary for turning a network into a community.

Be A Person

Be an individual people can relate to. Share your story, interests, and goals and be ready to listen to others. Learn the names of your peers and colleagues, who they are as individuals – as family members and as friends. Being genuine is attractive to others and gives a higher collective perception to the community it creates around you.

Connect With People

If you are connecting with business professionals, the given mutual interest point will be business itself. It takes a deeper interest to create a bond. You can develop natural attitudes from first impressions, but take the conversation beyond this point. Individuals can have egos and ideas within their professions, but have growing interests in completely unrelated topics that allow you to bypass the most entrenched ideologies to find the real person on the other side.

Be willing to consult to build your relationships with other professionals. This adds value of others’ impressions of you and makes you stand out. Establishing yourself as the authority in your community for your expertise satisfies the need of your expertise within your community.

Connect People

As you meet people, you will see opportunities to connect other individuals with each other. Good professionals will make it clear what problem they solve. Listen for the problems from other individuals as an opportunity to create a connection.

Connect individuals who may not have a mutual interest on the surface. This can be an excellent way to bring new ideas and interests into the picture.

Be A Person In Your Community

Don’t stand outside of your network or try to direct it. You are a player in the game of networking, and your goal should be to build a community around you through relationships. Immerse yourself in the community you have created by sharing information, starting conversations, and introducing new people to the community.

A Networked Community

When you are at the heart of the community, the community will keep you at the top of mind.

Having a technique for creating a discussion paired with simply being a genuine person is a winning combination for networking and building community. When entering a conversation with a new person, remember the acronym FORM and to simply be yourself. Listen to your peers to find common interests, but don’t be shy to share your own. Introduce acquaintances to old friends and meet with a few people at a time.

Last of all, communities aren’t built over night. It takes time to build bonds and rapport. Stay active with your conversations and introductions with your peers. Focus on your relationship building and the community will grow naturally.

In what ways are you naturally creating a community around you?
Photography credit to Keri Risse Photography.
  • http://www.joshuabfarrell.com/ JB Farrell

    I love it… sincerity is so important. Techniques are great but if they lack that care and concern they will end up just being superficial.

  • Robyn Smith

    Great article, Chris! I like the concept of not only the sincerity factor, but also that of giving, not just taking. The BNI motto, “Givers Gain” is well applied according to your advice. Connecting others to each other is my favorite example. As you help others build their community, yours builds peripherally. As a friend of mine used to say, “You never know where your next customer is coming from”. Thanks for the encouraging words!