I love my garden. I love to plant things that produce a product like vegetables, fruit or herbs. I love to plant seeds and watch them grow to become fully fledged sources of energy and sustenance.
In my meanderings as a frustrated farmer I’ve learned a lot about companion planting, in other words: what grows best with what. It fascinates me that when basil is planted next to tomatoes, each grows larger than when planted individually. And when rosemary, thyme, oregano and sage are planted together the whole herb garden thrives.
Why is that? It’s because the relationship between the plants is symbiotic. The plants mutually benefit from having the other one around.
Could this theory apply to networking? Here are a few ways to do that.
- Who grows with you?
Consider the following: who is beneficial to you? Who are your advocates, or those who love what you do regardless of what that is? Is that relationship symbiotic? Are you as supportive of the person who is supportive to you?
Being supportive could be as simple as remembering to thank those who refer you. It is not always obvious who your referee was or where a new client heard about you, so just ask the question and find out. Surprise the referee with a gift or handwritten card. Show them you appreciate their faith in you.
- Have a buddy in the garden
Networking is key to growth. By building a strong support network you are building your safety net around yourself and others. Networking is very different to sales (a topic for another article). Networking is about building a strong support base so that when you or someone you know needs to ask for something, you have a ready-made relationship to help. Networking is about relationships. It is symbiotic.
If you are a hesitant networker then enlist a buddy to network with you. Book events together (often cheaper for two anyway) and meet at the beginning and the end with the agreement that you network individually throughout the event.
- Who can you encourage?
Who can you help get to where they want to go? Are you open to listening to others and their journey? There are many stories of successful people who cite a mentoring relationship as transformative in their career or business — and many times it is the process of mentoring someone else that opens up new opportunities. By helping others we help ourselves. There is a wonderful theory that we teach best what we need to learn, so it stands true that by helping others we are also learning about ourselves.
- Who can help you grow bigger than you could on your own?
Do you have a mentor? A mentor is someone who encourages you, advises you and shares their own experiences with you. They give you the strategies to weather the storms and repel the pests! I can’t begin to describe the benefits of mentoring, I have seen so many success stories and enlightened moments within our own mentoring program that it is a no-brainer as far as any type of advancement is concerned.
Having a mentor makes perfect sense. The definition of a mentor is someone who assists another person to develop themselves or their career. Mentors usually have more experience and connections in the field relevant to the mentee’s business or career, and can provide a useful and respected sounding board for ideas and problems. Mentoring is often confused with coaching but the two are quite different. Coaching is usually designed with a particular skill that needs developing, whereas mentoring is focused on general development and advancement towards a particular career goal.
A mentor can sometimes see what you can’t. The mentor relationship is an opportunity for reflection, action and progress for both parties and, in most cases, just as valuable for the mentor as the mentee.
Look after your network and remember that you are not on your own. A strong network is the sum of many different parts and, just like a garden, your network requires regular attention. Give it the right environment, warmth and love, and it will flourish and bear fruit. Don’t forget to fertilise!