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Connecting vs. networking? You mean there is a difference? Definitely. Going to networking meetings, quickly meeting a bunch of people, and being a packrat for business cards is passé. In connecting, quality beats quantity. Depth is the difference.

“Connectors” are those who value meeting new people, getting to know them, building meaningful relationships, and offering to be helpful. This is the ascendant realm of great leaders. Meaningful matters.

“A very simple concept that goes back 50 million years; it’s about leading and connecting people and ideas. And it’s something that people have wanted forever.” – Seth Godin, American author, entrepreneur, and marketer

Meet the connector

They are members of a community who have a large number of professional and personal contacts. Connectors are a hub – at the center of a socio-business exchange. They willingly make introductions of people in the same circle, and people of differing circles. They want to help others.

Connectors know people from diverse circles – professional, social, cultural, and economic clusters of like-minded interests and abilities. They have an “inner radar” that can match the right people for the right reason.

They have a passion and skill to bring the right people together for the better interests of all. If they had a motto it would be, “Bringing people together for something good.” Their skill is building friendships and making meaningful introductions.

Starter kit

Leaders who are strong connectors value the “why” of building a number of significant business relationships. Important ideas and information is exchanged. Greater, powerful resources become available. And there is a larger opportunity to help others.

An important book by author Lynne McTaggart, The Bond, provides plenty of proof that we humans are inherently wired to help each other. During our careers, most of us have experienced growth by being connected with others who helped us. We might have given an important new career step. Just one example.

And now we recognize the value in helping others – by connecting them with others.

5 ways of the effective connector

Here are the key tenets of successful leaders who are connectors:

  1. Be a friend – when meeting new people listen a lot, and talk some. Share your career and personal stories. Get to know each other. Then trade contact information.
  2. Be approachable – when others ask for your help, give them your attention, actively listen to understand them, be available. And be open-minded.
  3. Be a questioner – good questions to get to know them, expresses interest in them, and finds their greatest skills and resources. And determines their needs.
  4. Be a mentor – actively offer to be a guide, make useful suggestions, provide valuable resources to your connections. They will tend to do the same for you.
  5. Be a connector-connector – seek out other connectors because the power of connectors being linked to other connectors is exponential. Vast resources.

In his 2002 book, The Tipping Point, author Malcom Gladwell notes: “their ability to span many different worlds is a function of something intrinsic to their personality, some combination of curiosity, self-confidence, sociability, and energy.”

The bottom lines

Be a connector. Avoid being a networker business-card-collector. Build quality connections rather than quantities of connections. As a good connector, be friendly, approachable, questioning, a mentor, and connect with other connectors. Synergy.

About Tom Zender

Tom Zender is a Phoenix-based professional CEO mentor. He held leadership roles at General Electric, Honeywell, and small-midsize companies. Zender has served on NASDAQ and TSE listed corporate boards. He is the author of four books about business leadership. Tom mentors faculty and students at Arizona State University’s SkySong new business incubator. Contact him at 949-910-5075, [email protected], or www.tomzender.com