Adding Value to Your Relationships Requires a Little Give and Get

By Charlene Li, founder of Altimeter Group, author of Open Leadership, co-author of Groundswell

CTU Business Degree - Networking by Charlene LiEveryone says you “have to do it” to succeed, but many people avoid it because it’s hard and getting results from it can be even harder. What am I talking about?


For some, networking is a dirty word and it’s that negative perspective that keeps many from building their professional network. But if you want to succeed, then I must concur with the advice you’ve been given before, “You have to do it.”

The key to networking is to remember that it boils down to relationships, but more specifically, adding value to relationships. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Do your research. Whether you’re preparing to attend a networking event or planning to reach out to a person you’ve never met before, it is essential to do your homework first. For instance, if you’re attending an event, find out who will be there so you can prepare conversation points in advance. Or, if you’re reaching out to someone without a personal introduction, be sure to learn details about him or her that demonstrates you’ve done your homework, and then come to the conversation with a very specific purpose.
  2. Use the 3 Gives/3 Gets approach. Whenever you approach a networking opportunity, think about the three things you can give and the three things you want to get. Most people know what they want to get, but if you’re stumped on what to give here are some ideas:
    • A piece of advice or a helpful, relevant experience
    • An introduction to someone
    • An article, reference or resource
    • A listening ear
    • Time
    Of course, this is where doing your research really helps.  You need to know the pain point or needs of your audience before you can truly know what to give.
  3. Close the loop. One of the simplest, most overlooked ways to build stronger relationships is to remind others of their influence and how they’ve helped you. I do this often, thanking past professors, professional peers and others who have given me sage advice throughout my career. Reconnecting with those individuals periodically to thank them for their time and advice has fostered amazing relationships that I know we both treasure.

Ultimately, adding value to relationships is about putting the needs and interests of others ahead of your own. This can be challenging, especially since most people are trained to think of networking as a selfish endeavor. Yet, when you shift your focus to the value you can give, people naturally want to return the favor.

Bestselling author - Charlene LiCharlene Li is founder of Altimeter Group and the author of the New York Times bestseller, Open Leadership. She is also the coauthor of the critically acclaimed, bestselling book Groundswell, which was named one of the best business books in 2008. Charlene is a graduate of Harvard Business School and received a magna cum laude degree from Harvard College. Read her blog or follow her on Twitter.

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