Your Investment In “Heavenly Capital”
Networking, as a conscious and planned activity, has developed a somewhat tarnished reputation in recent times, no thanks to its perceived connection with some dubious marketing practices such as pyramid selling. Yet networking in itself is value-neutral-we are all involved in networking of one sort or another every day of our lives, and it is entirely dependent on our own value system and motives that determine whether it is beneficial or destructive. Positive networking is all about sharing mutual benefits, rather than using other people.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, a “network” is “a group of people who exchange information, contacts and experience for professional or social purposes.” For the Kingdom business professional, there can be few higher purposes. By building a network of trusted and positive relationships, we multiply our own business and personal effectiveness, and help to bring the light and joy of Christ into the marketplace.
Jesus Himself built powerful networks as He traveled around the Holy Land. When He called Simon and Andrew at the Sea of Galilee, He told them to leave their physical nets, and in effect become “net workers” for Him-“Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:18-19). There is a crucial point to be noticed here-Jesus said, “Follow Me” first before He told them they would be “fishers of men.” Networking is a powerful technique that can be used as a destructive tool to selfishly manipulate other people. But Jesus said, “Follow Me”-in other words, take on the values and motives of Jesus, and networking can become a powerful weapon in your arsenal as a believer.
Godly networking is all about serving other people, not using other people. Jesus came to serve, not be served, and as He said, if anyone wants to be great, he should first become the servant of all (Mark 10:43-45).
Dr. John Edmond Haggai, founder of the worldwide Haggai Institute for Advanced Leadership, and described as “one of the most traveled and well-connected men in the world,” has recently written a book on how to develop effective business relationships. The title page says, “Discover the Power of Friendship,” and Dr. Haggai, a friend of presidents and international power brokers, goes on to say: “You are never going to hit your potential without people.”
In fact, Dr. Haggai lifts networking to another level and has coined a new term for it-“social investment.” He says we often invest freely on training and techniques, but not on relationships because we cannot see the prospects of a short-term payoff. He then goes on to put the emphasis on the long-term payoffs, and the importance of building genuine friendships rather than typical business contacts.
He says: “In effect, social investment moves up a step from networking … Social investment falls far short of a quick fix … we’d more accurately describe it as a discipline, almost a lifestyle decision. It requires a level of proactive concern for others, and sustained, repeated contact-in person, as well as by phone, fax, email, teleconferencing and correspondence.”
According to Dr. Haggai, typical business networking contacts tend to be:
* Of low social significance
* Low maintenance
“These principles of limited commitment and minimum effort make networking effective. But they also define its limits,” he says.
“I think there are three reasons why … social investment works, in any culture:
* People like to do business with friends
* Personal acquaintance confers advantage
* People help those they know well
“Networking is where social investment starts. It remains fundamental to doing business in the global market, and we should make an effort to get it right.”
Dr. Haggai estimates that the time he spends making his “social investments” around the world amounts to around 20 hours a week, maintaining his “portfolio of existing friendships.”
Here are some of his tips to help people develop their social investment:
Keep investments active-set a flexible pattern for contacts, and make them personal (e.g. give them a call rather than email);
Interact with a purpose-make sure there is a reason for the contact, and that the reason has value for the other person;
Don’t manipulate-there has to be giving as well as receiving, and make it a rule to give the balance of advantage to the recipient;
Be a link-broker-put other people in your network together for their mutual advantage;
Think broad and long-go outside your own social type and age, and think long-term;
* Don’t bore people-if you have a sense of humour, use it;
If you’re not a ‘natural,’ push yourself-social investment is a discipline, not a genetic disposition, and you can train yourself not to be shy.
Much of what Dr. Haggai says is summed up very concisely in the Bible, within the great book of business wisdom we should all read daily, Proverbs. In Proverbs 18:24, we read, “A man who has friends, must himself be friendly.” In other words, friendship is a two-way process, and if we want others to be friendly to us, we have to also be friendly to them-to make “social investments.”
Jesus encapsulates the principle often called the “Golden Rule”-treat other people the way you would like them to treat you (Matthew 7:12). Jesus Himself was described as a “friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Luke 7:34), and actually advised us to go and make friends for ourselves among wealthy and worldly people (Luke 16:9).
The Kingdom of Heaven, according to Jesus, is like a “net,” that gathers “some of every kind” (Matthew 13:47). As Kingdom business professionals, Jesus expects us to cast out our net widely, and make friends with “every kind” it drags in.
A friend of mine in New Zealand, Lindsay Armishaw, has actually made a business out of training people to network effectively, or as he puts it, “networking smart.” He makes the point that technical skills are often sufficient in the early stages of our career, but as we move up the ladder, success depends more and more on relationship skills.
Lindsay sees a “new business order” emerging, creating the urgent need to be “better, faster and smarter at building relationships.” Interestingly, Lindsay refers to “Social Capital” in his papers, that being what we accumulate when we make “social investments.”
“Social capital is a vital resource. Like human capital (what you know), or financial capital, it is a productive resource, enabling you to create value, get things done, and achieve your goals. If you think of human capital as what you know (the sum of your knowledge, experience and expertise), then social capital is who you know-the size, quality, and diversity of your network of relationships.
“People who network smart recognize the vast power of relationships in business, social and personal life. They empower themselves, their associates, and their organizations by working hard to develop positive relationships in all areas.
“Everyone is a nexus of relationships; everyone is the centre of a vast circle of contacts and connections. This circle encompasses old and new friends, family and relatives, business colleagues and associates, professional contacts, acquaintances, neighborhood and community ties, on and on and on.”
According to Lindsay, people are surprised to learn that the average person knows some 3,500 people!
“Most people underestimate the size of their personal network, and find it hard to remember the people they know. Good net workers keep track of those they know, and use techniques to jog their memories when they need to remember people. Your personal network is a great resource.”
Given the above, how can you develop this “social capital” and make it a truly valuable resource?
One enormous avenue is simply the giving and receiving of business cards. No one should attend any social or professional event without a good supply of cards, and of course, don’t be awkward to ask for the other person’s card.
Once you return from the event, don’t just throw the cards into a drawer and forget them. I personally use and recommend a “PDA” (personal digital assistant) with an address book. I take the time to enter every contact into the address book, with details on where and when I met the person (you’d be surprised how quickly you forget).
Probably the majority you will never use again, but where you see a definite opportunity for a mutual advantage, make a point of following up and suggesting lunch or a cup of coffee. As Dr. Haggai says, just an email is not enough-it has to be personal.
Be proactive in expanding your circle of contacts-I have found it useful over the years to join professional and social associations and clubs, ranging from service clubs such as Rotary and Lions, through sporting and community clubs, charities, to professional institutes and associations.
As much as anything, successful networking is a state of mind-it is always being aware of the potential of any new contact, and being able to assess whether it is worth investing the time, effort (and money) to build a true, meaningful long term relationship.
Lindsay Armishaw says that effective networking is 1% inspiration, and 99% participation-in other words, it is very easy to agree with people like Dr. Haggai and Lindsay Armishaw, that there is great benefit in building “social capital” through “social investments” but then forget all about it the next time you’re at a professional dinner or association meeting.
The fact is that it always takes effort and application-whether you are naturally sociable, or shy-but it is always worth the effort. It is good advice to think of a conversational opening before going to a social event, be it the World Cup, the local economy, or anything else you can think of, so that it is not hard to strike up a conversation. Most people are delighted to have someone approach them and start a conversation. Once it starts, the conversation will naturally develop a life of its own. Just a tip: Don’t forget God gave us two ears and only one mouth; a strong suggestion that we should listen more than we talk!
Make the effort and you will be surprised how easy and how much fun it really is. Developing friendships is always a worthwhile exercise, whether it leads to future business benefits or not. For Christians, it is also a most powerful way of carrying out the Great Commission, through “friendship evangelism.”
It has to be done sensitively of course. You don’t meet someone and five minutes later, tell him to repent of his sins and be saved. But as you develop a relationship with someone, and they see that “special difference” in your life-that spark of light that shines from you-they will naturally want to know more and get what you have!
By networking-by investing in “social capital”-you can “let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). And you will not only have human and social capital, but heavenly capital, stored up where “neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:20).
By John Gagliardi