Whether or not you are a goal-orientated person, setting networking goals can help you get the most out of your networking activities. After all, you are going to be spending a reasonable amount of time building relationships with your network, so wouldn’t it make sense to optimize it?
Goals can help you achieve short and long term objectives by creating a framework within which you can move towards the achievement of your goal on a sustainable basis. Most people set goals that they never achieve, giving up too early or simply letting the rigors of life get in the way. Goals offer an effective solution by keeping your eye “on the ball”, no matter what else is going on in your life.
You may not associate effective networking with goal setting, but once you open yourself up to setting networking goals, you may be surprised to find that they make quite good bedfellows.
Some Goal Setting Basics
Before we launch into setting goals to enhance your networking strategy, let’s do a quick overview of the goal-setting basics. Whenever we set goals, they need to comply with a usable framework to ensure that they are properly set and effectively executed. In our case, we’ll be using the GREATER² Goal Achievement System.
Any goal that you want to achieve should be set and acted upon within the following framework.
The process for achieving your goal is broken into three phases, each with their own set of criteria or actions. We start with the planning phase.
- Your goal must be gaugable. In other words, you must be able to track your progress towards achieving it or your progression from where you started. To achieve this, your goal must be specific and precise (yes, there is a slight difference), as well as being subject to a deadline.
- It must be exigent, which means that it must be challenging. Don’t make it too easy. For example, if you want to connect with 10 new people every month, why not make it 15 or 20?
- You must have an emotional investment in achieving your goal. It must be important to you.
- You must break up your goal into smaller “step goals” to make it easier to achieve. For example, if you want to connect with 20 new people per month, break that goal up so that you can connect with five new people each week or one per workday.
Next, we move on to the preparation phase.
- Before starting on the path towards achieving your goal, you must take stock of your resources; what do you have in the way of relationships, skills, and things that you will need to achieve your goal? In the context of networking, this may include a paid membership of LinkedIn or a networking CRM (like tribemine.com) or even a mentor.
Finally, we get to the action phase where we set about achieving the goal.
- Use an accountability partnership – if you are able to – where you and your partner will hold one another accountable for achieving your goals. You can look at using a platform like tribemine.com for this, as it has an accountability partnership feature built in.
- Set rewards for achieving your goals and/or penalties for failing to do so.
- Use reminders to bolster your motivation and remind you why you are trying to achieve your goal.
You can find out more about the GREATER² Goal Achievement System, linked above.
Okay, back to networking.
Why Set Networking Goals?
Goals work really well when you are trying to achieve something that has a value or number. Although networking is not a numbers game, you need to regularly engage with new people in order to find new prospective members for your network. This is important for two reasons;
- it allows you to discover potential high-value network members, and
- it allows you to compensate for network churn (the inevitable removal of network connections who bring nothing of value to your network).
And since your networking goals will be aimed at growing your network by a specific minimum number of new connections per month, it is well suited to having a goal achievement framework applied to it. What is more, goal setting allows you to set up a routine to replenish the numbers of your network in an achievable and sustainable way.
Setting goals and objectives can be of particular use when extending your network to advance your career. In fact, a large number of career networking events are held precisely for this reason.
Building Your Network With Goals
Building a valuable network takes time and effort. There are no shortcuts and no quick-fixes. This means that you need a realistic plan, a path you can follow to ensure that you maintain and add to your network over the long term.
Your Goal is to Plan and Review Your Network
You want to build a network that contains a broad range of skills, knowledge, and experience. You can do this by making a list of the qualities you want the members of your network to have and to ensure that anyone you consider for inclusion must possess at least one of these qualities. These qualities could include any of the following;
- They should have skills and/or experience in a particular field. After all, you don’t want a network full of plumbers or consultants. You want a spread of skills.
- They should have a common interest with you.
- They should share other commonalities with you such as living in the same country or city or town.
Your prospective connections don’t have to comply with all of the requirements, but they should comply with at least one.
Set a goal to review your network monthly and make it a part of your routine. Remember not to focus all your attention on acquiring new connections. Use some of your time to look at the existing members of your network to see what they are up to on social media and on their websites in order to find ways to add value to their businesses and lives.
Your Goal is to Get x Number of Prospective Connections per Month
Set a transitional goal (one that is open-ended and has no ultimate deadline) to add a minimum number of prospective connections to your network monthly or annually. This goal can be broken down into step goals, dealt with above.
You can do this by connecting with people online or in-person (by attending events or just chatting to people you interact with daily). However, make sure that these prospective connections would be a good fit for your network before actually adding them to it. The prospects you don’t add to your network can be added to your contact list as resources.
Remember that building a quality network is all about quality not quantity and so you don’t need to add 100 people to your network every month; 10, 20 or even 30 prospective network members will be fine. After all, many will be dropped from your network due to network churn (“lack of fit” and other issues). Focus on getting to know a smaller number of potential connections really well rather than just adding people you know nothing about.
Your Goal is to Be a Great Connection
It’s all good and well making connections, but it’s what happens afterward that either results in a valuable relationship being fostered or being lost. However, applying a goal-setting framework to this outcome in its entirety can prove somewhat difficult.
One way to approach this is to view the enhancement of each high-value professional relationship (one where the other party has demonstrated their willingness to provide help and support to in return for yours) as a separate goal. You would then set gaugable, exigent, and emotion-related targets (from the Greater² Goal Achievement System) for each and create a path from where you are to where you want the relationship to be.
For example, you may want to move a particular relationship from being a contact to an ally (a close connection) by the end of the current year (assuming it’s near the beginning of that year). For the sake of clarity, an ally would be someone who initiates contact with you of their own volition on a fairly regular basis (once every six weeks or so) and so that would be the test for success or failure of the goal.
You could then break the process into a series of step goals with precise targets that you must achieve before a certain deadline. These might include regularly sending a link to an online article or resource that will be of use to your connection, introducing them to your other connections, finding potential opportunities for them and talking to them in-person over the phone or online. It might also include verification that the other party has taken certain steps, such as reaching out to you.
Remember that you must become a valuable resource for your connections. They will not go out of their way to contact or support you unless you make yourself valuable to them.
One caveat here is that you may have to keep your relationship-building goal flexible and adjust it as you proceed as every relationship is different and will develop at its own pace. You don’t want to force it or you will lose it. Rather extend the deadline if you sense that the prospect feels you are coming on too strong.
Setting goals for networking, you can motivate you to focus on the most important aspects of meeting new people and inducting them into your network. Using a goal-setting framework, achieving sustainable growth of your network is not only possible but also easy. Why not try it?
Feature Photo by Allie Smith on Unsplash