As I watched the press coverage for former President George H. W. Bush’s passing over the weekend and heard how he was remembered by those close to him, I was struck by the number of people he touched with heartfelt notes of encouragement or gratitude. One note to his grandson, Pierce, was written after he stranded the President’s boat on some rocks. It relayed that mistakes don’t take away from who you are as a person. Pierce shared how this note touched him and will be a constant reminder to believe in himself. It will also keep him forever connected to his grandfather.
What a great message to relay as the holiday season is here! Over the next few weeks, we will be constantly bombarded by ads that prompt us to shop for our loved ones. It is a good time for a reminder that gift-giving comes in all forms, not just the commercial ones that we associate with the winter holidays. Whether it comes in the form of thoughtful words on a note or a helping hand, gifts are most memorable when they come from the heart and show that you care. The best gifts I’ve ever received are ones where someone saw a way to make my life better and gave me thoughtful gifts I didn’t know I needed.
We can apply this same principle to creating a powerful network. For the last 5 years, I’ve built my company, Signature Leaders, around the professional and personal network I developed in my “previous life” as an executive. I’m often asked how I created such a network, and I think a major factor in my success has been giving of myself.
In Wharton Professor Adam Grant’s book, Give and Take, he explains that the best networkers are “givers” – people who give their time and connections without expecting anything in return. “Givers” draw people to them. They build larger, more supportive networks.
If we can utilize our expertise and connections to open a new door for someone, we can create positive ripples throughout our networks. When a Signature Alumna tells me about a situation she is facing, I’m immediately thinking about who I can connect her with who would have the experience and expertise to help her through it. I’ve made connections for business transformations, tricky relationships at senior levels, presenting for the first time to your new organization, and even breast cancer. I’ve honed my ability to make connections over time, but it starts with looking for a chance to give someone the gift of a connection they didn’t know they needed.
If you want to strengthen your network this holiday season, become someone who can open doors for others. Set an intention to give without wanting anything in return. Make it personal. Give someone thoughtful gifts they didn’t know they needed. You will be amazed at how the returns on those investments expand the opportunities for your entire network; and for you.