Try This Exercise in Giving to Grow and Strengthen Your Network
Over 90 days in 2015, I set out to contact one person daily, and ask how I could be a resource in some way, with no strings attached. Why? Because I love to connect people and resources. I believe deeply in the power of giving, without expectation of getting something in return.
Here's how my personal challenge worked and how you can consider making it work for you:
Define a timeframe.
I made a 30-day personal commitment to contact one person daily and make them this offer. Some days it was a close contact. Most days the offer was extended to someone about whom I care, but with whom I am in less frequent contact. Here and there, I'd meet someone new and extend the offer.
Explain the challenge.
I explained to them that I'd created this personal challenge and would ask, “How can I be of assistance to you in some way, with no strings attached?” I would elaborate that it could perhaps help to further one of their goals, or help with one of their current challenges (whether or not they thought I would be capable). I was amazed at how each "ask" would challenge me to think about my network differently in order to help them and, in turn, also encouraged me to reconnect with other contacts who could potentially help the "asker."
Help them through the challenge of asking.
I was continually shocked at how difficult it is for most people to answer the question. They usually didn't have a clue what they wanted. I would offer a rain check in those cases, only after walking them through some questions about what was going on in their lives, trying to understand any current hurdles or pain points that could turn into a need I could help fulfill.
Be clear and pay-it-forward.
Most people, no matter how close our relationship, were initially leery of this unusual offer. They assumed I would want something in return. I emphasized that I did not. When pressed, my ask was for them to pay the offer forward to someone else.
I realized that in asking and offering, I had to follow through. Even when I couldn't "grant a wish" I was in consistent contact with the asker to keep them updated. In every case, this brought me closer to the person. They appreciated the intention and effort and, in many cases, the result.
I was surprised at how little time it really took to help people. A call, email or social media ask was often all it took!
I did the challenge for second time, for an additional 60 days to a closed community of young entrepreneurs, most of whom I'd never met and who live in different cities. This was a really valuable opportunity to get to know people strictly from a lens of what's going on in their world and learn how I could help in some way.
I love this experiment for so many reasons. It reminded me to connect with people with whom I’ve not in too long. It showcased the depths of my network in ways I’d never before tested it. It was a powerful reminder of the joy of giving, and it helped me to connect-the-dots between distant members of my personal network. Countless new and deepened relationships have evolved from this, including new friendships, invitations to join boards, round-about new clients and lots of "wishes" granted.
I plan to continue this personal challenge and hope you’ll join me!