The single most important leadership skill almost always turns out to be a leader’s ability to create and maintain trusted relationships, both internally within the company or organization, as well as externally within the business community.
However, is a leader’s ability to build and maintain trust something that is a ‘natural’ and ‘innate’ skill that only some have, or can ‘trust-building’ be learned? Are there ways to accelerate the process from the time you first meet someone, until you have reached the pinnacle of ‘relationship-building’ (which is trust)?
Over sixteen years ago I created a concept called “NetWeaving”. NetWeaving promotes three skill sets, and several action steps, which all contribute to building and maintaining trusted relationships.
The first skill set is all about learning how to become an effective ‘connector’ of others with their needs in mind, rather than your own. You consistently look for opportunities to introduce people whom you believe would really benefit meeting each other. But you only do so after you have confirmed with both persons that they want to meet. This is done out of common courtesy and to make sure the timing of the introduction is appropriate.
Law of Reciprocity
The second skill set focuses on learning how to position yourself as a helpful, creative, and gratuitous resource provider and problem solver. You do so because you so strongly believe in the law of reciprocity that somewhere down the line, the people you help will look for ways to pay you back or to ‘pay it forward’.
The third skill set is closely related to the first two skills. It’s all about constantly being on the lookout for interesting, creative, and successful people across all industries, professions, and vocations. First, you find a way to help them or to add value in some way. And over time, you will be able to make them part of your “Trusted Resource Network”.
Arthur Blank, co-founder of Home Depot, and owner of the Atlanta Falcons, is the testimonial on the front cover of my 2nd book on the topic – “The Heart and Art of NetWeaving”.
His quote about “NetWeaving” was what many of the most successful leaders would say,
“I’ve been doing this my whole life. I just never had a word for it”.
NetWeaving is not just a mushy philosophy, it’s ‘action-oriented’. You make connections happen instead of just saying you will. The same applies for providing resources and information.
You follow up AND you follow through. Following up is ‘time-oriented’ (i.e. following up within 24 to 48 hours) and “following through” relates to the innovation and creativity with which you follow up. It’s the WOW Factor.
Three Levels of Netweaving
I have developed three levels of NetWeaving.
At the first level, you are just practicing and improving upon the three aforementioned skill sets. You can take the “NetWeaving Aptitude Assessment” quiz to see where you currently stand as a “NetWeaver” (No information is retained, so you can take it as often as you like without worrying about being added to another list).
At the second level of NetWeaving, you set up a meeting. You host and facilitate the meeting in ways that maximize the chances that the two people will not only find ways to help each other, but to also be able to discover people they know in common. At the second level, the connections you make, and the resources you provide, are primarily made at your own peer level.
At the third level, you do the same as at the second level. But this time, you step outside your own ‘comfort zone’ and learn how to set up NetWeaving hosting meetings far above your own network and peer level. If you’re a C-Level executive inside a company, or a top sales executive, you might make an introduction to someone whom your CEO, or a CEO with whom you’re working, would love to meet.
Not long ago, I made an introduction to a CEO of a Fortune 25 company to another CEO of a major entertainment company, recognizing why they both would really want to meet each other. Believe me both of them are far above my own traditional network and already some good things have resulted back in my direction.
Pay It Forward
Why has “NetWeaving” became known globally as the business version of “Pay It Forward”? About the same time the movie Pay it Forward came out, that was when my first book on NetWeaving was published, co-authored with Donna Fisher of Houston, Texas.
At the end of the majority of NetWeaving hosting meetings I set up to introduce two people to each other, one or both of the individuals would turn the tables on me and say, “This has been great but Bob, how can we help you?”
Pass It On To Two Others
Instead of suggesting something that would come across more self-serving, I would say, “Why don’t you just PIONTTO?” They would look at me funny and then I’d say, “Why don’t each of you do what I did and “Pass It On To Two Others”. This means, they either take turns hosting a meeting for each other (to someone, the other would benefit from the meeting) or just host a totally separate meeting bringing together two people you know.
By this time, I was out on the speaking circuit talking at local, national, and even international meetings. And without exception, after my talk someone would come up and say, “Haven’t you seen the movie, Pay It Forward? Your PIONTTO idea is very similar.”
Finally, I watched the movie, then read the book on which the movie was based. Afterwards, I called the author of the book, Catherine Ryan Hyde. After she learned what “NetWeaving” was all about, and trust was established, it was with her permission that NetWeaving became the ‘business’ version of Pay It Forward.
After Catherine decided to step down running the foundation she had created, I also became the first elected president of the Pay It Forward Foundation, and still currently serve on the Board.
NetWeaving has two mottos. The first one reads, “Good things happen to those people who MAKE good things happen.”
I became more familiar with how ‘what goes around does come back around’, and in ways that often surprise and amaze you. After spending so much of my time introducing people to each other and seeing ways it came back to benefit me, I came up with a second motto, “When you open the door for someone else, you never know who you will meet as a result.”
How Have You Used NetWeaving?
If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!
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