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Networking is something everyone in business does in some shape or form. For some, it involves attending conferences and events specifically designed to enhance meet-and-greet or wine-and-dine opportunities, and for others it consists of one-on-one conversations and informal connections between colleagues.

There are a plethora of books, seminars, and workshops that teach business people how to become more effective at networking. However, dusting off an old copy of Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” can provide a major jumpstart to improving overall networking skills. Practicing these habits can put you far ahead of the people you may encounter simply handing out a fistful of business cards and making not-so-interesting small talk at the next conference or business meeting. Although Covey’s book provides seven habits for more personal effectiveness, three of them relate directly to creating better networking relationships.

Networking Habit # 1 - Think Win-Win

Developing the habit of thinking win-win can be a challenge in the business arena. Business success requires a return on investment; and this includes investments of money, time, and effort. Business professionals who make the investment to attend a conference, event, or meeting expect that by making the investment, they will reap a return in the not-so-distant future. Oftentimes the return on investment being sought doesn’t include helping someone else achieve a positive return on their investment. However, highly effective networkers believe that their likelihood of getting a positive return is directly correlated to their success in helping others get the same positive return. They also understand that thinking win-win is not a “quid pro quo” exchange, but is gained by continually building up goodwill with business colleagues, which comes by helping others get what they want. While this habit is not a “get-rich-quick” tactic that will provide immediate returns, over time it will create deeper and more trusting relationships that can lead to opportunities to win big in the future.

Networking Habit #2 - Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

Another habit that will lead to networking success is seeking first to understand, then to be understood. This habit entails approaching networking situations with the goal of understanding what a potential business colleague is seeking to accomplish in order to offer meaningful support toward helping them reach their goal. There is an adage that says: people don’t care what you know, until they know that you care. Taking the time to understand someone else’s business goals and objectives shows that you care about what is important to them, and that will make them much more likely to care about what is important to you. Once you have demonstrated that you understand the goals of the person you are networking with, the person will most likely return the gesture by taking the time to understand and support your goals as well.

Networking Habit #3 - Build Synergy

The habit of building synergy involves finding ways to collaborate with others in a way that accelerates success or leads to a greater level of success than could have been achieved without the relationship. Maybe you can connect the target of your networking relationship to another person that will increase their capabilities and capacity in a way that leads to bigger opportunities. The habit of building synergy seeks ways to partner with another person in a manner that leads to greater success. Making this effort can lead to long-term relationships based on mutual respect, trust, and partnerships that can elevate networking experiences to unprecedented levels.

Highly effective networking is a contact sport. This is the reason why most people aren’t very good at it. It involves being open, transparent, and connecting in meaningful ways with others, with the goal of helping both them and yourself succeed. Making an introduction and exchanging business cards only scratches the surface of a true networking relationship. But for those willing to make the effort to engage in more than transactional connections, learning how to become an effective networker is one of the best investments a business professional can make. For more information about how to build your business and leverage networking opportunities, make plans to attend The Institute’s 2016 Executive Networking Conference (ENC2016) in Charlotte, NC on April 14-16; for details, visit and follow @TheInstituteNC on Twitter.