A Dog’s Lessons in Networking

Some of you reading this might remember that I was the keynote speaker for Pittsburgh’s International Networking Day 2008. What most of you don’t know is that the day before this big speaking engagement, my dog, Kalar, passed away in my home. She was 15 years old.

Her health had begun to fail and each day became more unnerving and challenging.  I realized the inevitable yet deep within my heart it was still very hard to accept. The morning of her passing I knew the day had come.  Arrangements were made for a vet to come to the house. However, at 3pm, Kalar decided to pass on her own terms … not surprising if you ever met her.

Dogs teach us many lessons in life (cats do too … however this article favors my canine companions). They teach us patience during their puppyhood, tolerance during their adolescence, leadership during their adulthood, and appreciation during their senior years. Each of these lessons play a vital role in the success we experience as effective networkers. Let’s take a look at each of the lessons in networking.

Lessons In Networking

Patience …

Networking is not an activity that typically produces immediate results. It takes time to develop relationships to a level of trust and credibility. It takes an investment of time to reap the rewards that are possible through networking. Some supervisors don’t allow their staff to make this investment because they perceive this time as not well spent since they can’t see the immediate results. Big mistake, if you ask me.

Some people give up on networking too soon, because they lack the patience to develop solid relationships. I’m sure you know someone like this right now. It’s somehow become everyone else’s fault for their lack of success. I believe that it’s critical to have patience with the process of networking. If I had not had patience with my puppy 15 years ago (and trust me, I needed a lot) imagine what I would have lost. Now imagine what you could lose for your business if you don’t practice patience with networking.

Tolerance …

Tolerance is the recognition of and respect for the opinions, beliefs, or actions of others. Tolerance is accepting people for who they are … especially if they’re different than you. The networking arena is full of people who are different than you; full of people who might have different beliefs than you; and full of people who are surrounded by people that you don’t know.

It’s natural for you to surround yourself with people most like yourself. It’s a very comfortable place to be.  However, adding diversity to your network could open up amazing opportunities. Stretching outside your comfort zone to meet people different than you could expose your business to people you might not have otherwise met, simply because they are not within your everyday circle of contacts. Diversity is a major key to your networking success and it requires tolerance to allow the opportunities to unfold.  It was tolerance that allowed me to fully respect the natural tendencies of the breed I had selected to be a part of my family.

Leadership …

In every relationship, I believe there tends to be a leader and a follower to some degree. In the human/dog relationship, all you have to do is watch an episode of The Dog Whisperer to see the results when the dog claims the leadership role.

Networking relationships are no different.  I coach my clients to recognize that they need to be the leaders of their referral relationships in order to guide the results they wish to experience.  Leaders model the behavior they wish to see in others. Leaders guide behavior in a positive manner. Leaders take ownership and accept responsibility. Leaders know how to delegate and hold themselves and others accountable.

Accepting the responsibility for your own success at networking begins the process. Taking charge of your results will surely enhance the results you experience. A good leader knows how to create a balanced relationship. A balanced relationship experiences genuine give and take. A balanced relationship creates a friendship, stability, and happiness. It’s easy to recognize a balanced relationship … either human to human or human to canine.

Appreciation …

I’ve heard it said that we appreciate things more after they’re gone. Surely, I appreciated Kalar while she was alive … however, after she was gone, I truly began to appreciate all the little things much more … especially the amount of joy she brought into my life.

How often do you stop and truly appreciate the people in your network that work on your behalf to help you and your business?  How do you show that appreciation? I believe that one of our basic human needs it to feel appreciated by the others in our life. When you take the time to appreciate those that help you, you’re making an investment in that relationship. The more investments you make, the stronger the relationship becomes. The stronger the relationship, the more motivated they become to help you and vice versa. It’s the beautiful dance of the law of reciprocity.

There’s one thing that makes a dog truly special …unconditional love. A canine companion loves you unconditionally … without hidden agendas. We owe it to our network to be the kind of person our dog thinks we are. We owe our network sincere gratitude and appreciation on a consistent basis.

In the end, Kalar taught me a great final lesson in focus. Delivering last year’s presentation the day after her passing took all the focus I could muster. My heart was heavy with grief yet I needed to perform at my best for a large audience. Focus was the only thing that got me through it. Focused, strategic networking is what brings you what you want. It brings you the right kind of referrals. It takes you to the right places and introduces you to the right people. The networking lesson is quite simple really … if you focus on success … you get success. If you focus on the struggle … you will continue to struggle.

Michelle R. Donovan, is an owner at Productivity Uncorked LLC (www.ProductivityUncorked.com)  where they coach and consult financial advisors.  She is the co-author of the Wall Street Journal Best Seller, “The 29% Solution: 52 Weekly Networking Success Strategies” now published in seven languages and the co-author of A Woman’s Way: Empowering Female Financial Advisors to Authentically Lead and Flourish in a Man’s World, an Amazon Best Selling Book. She can be reached at 724-816-1760 or by email at Michelle@ProductivityUncorked.com.