Don’t Let Your Networking Muscles Atrophy

Fear trumps hope.

No, that’s not a campaign slogan from the, thankfully now finished, presidential campaign in the United States.

It’s a reality slogan from the world of building our professional networks.

Momentum is everything when it comes to networking. Once you’ve got the “Big Mo,” you can roll on indefinitely.

Lose your momentum, however, and you’re screwed. Slowing down will hurt you badly. Stopping will kill you.

Networking requires energy. I like to say that building a referral network has the highest marketing return on investment. I’m right about that.

But networking is not free. Networking costs a small fortune in energy. You spend it as you talk to yourself, embolden yourself, and prop yourself up as you get ready to make a call or head to lunch.

Networking feels risky. Networking pushes our vulnerability buttons. Networking reminds us that we’re only partly as good as we’d like to believe.

We get scared sometimes when we meet new people. Sometimes we get intimidated. Sometimes we’d like to excuse ourselves to the restroom and sneak out the back door.

If, as you read my words, you feel some sweat forming on the back of your neck or in the palms of your hands, then you know of what I speak. Networking is—especially when we’re not at the top of our self-esteem game—challenging.

But it’s so incredibly valuable to be out and about building and maintaining relationships. It’s worth the anxiety. It’s worth the stress. It’s worth overcoming the fear.

For a very long time, networking was the way that all successful practices were built. It’ll continue to work in the future. In fact, it’ll be even more important as the law business changes and contracts.

But fear does trump hope in many instances. We get scared, and we stop doing that which we know we must do. We know our practices will grow as a result of our networking efforts, but the fear sometimes overtakes us.

Momentum keeps the fear at bay.

Momentum must be maintained.

Momentum is essential to staying in the networking game. Momentum comes from successful, positive, empowering interactions. We win, and the winning encourages us to keep playing.

Networking requires a push to get started. Then, if you stay on it, the small wins happen every day, and they keep you moving forward.

Small wins feel good. It feels good when:

  • she returns your call,
  • he’s excited to have lunch with you,
  • she’s pleased that you called,
  • he’s jazzed about meeting new lawyers too,
  • you have fun at lunch,
  • you learn something new at coffee,
  • she’s exactly the kind of person you always like,
  • he’s as interested in your thing as you are, and
  • your lunch date has a case to refer to you right now.

The small wins take us from one lunch to the next. The small wins give us the energy required to make the next cold call. The small wins provide the power, energy, and excitement to keep us going, moving, and pushing forward.

But it’s easy to slip. It’s easy to rationalize taking a break.

It’s easy to tell ourselves that we’re so busy with client work that we should put our networking on the back burner.

And then we begin to rust. We decay. We let the fear sink in between the joints in our body. We get stuck. We stop.

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Getting going again is hard. It requires confronting the fear all over again. Instead of throwing another log onto the fire, we’ve got to find matches, gather kindling, pile the wood properly, and blow onto the sparks.

The key—the solution—is to keep the fire burning. The key is to keep going with the small wins. The key is to never stop.

You’ve got to keep your networking muscles in top form. They only stay in shape if they get used. Networking muscles must be used each day. Feel free to take weekends off, if necessary, to rest. But otherwise, you’ve got to keep the networking going even when other priorities feel more important.

Sneak the networking in even when you’re too busy.

Do this to keep the muscles strong even when your schedule is crazy.

  • Invite the lawyer walking by during the recess in your trial to lunch.
  • E-mail a lawyer about setting up coffee during each day of your vacation.
  • Keep a list of your contacts in your car and call one each morning on your way to the office.
  • Hit the “like” button on every social media post by anyone in your network.
  • Text your last lunch partner with an interesting article link from the paper.

The most important way to keep your networking muscles strong is to keep networking. Setting up new lunches, meeting up with existing contacts, and staying in touch in between is the best way to keep the fire burning. But there will be times when you’re on overload and being away from the chaos simply isn’t possible. Sometimes you really are too busy to network.

Keep the networking muscles strong in those brief periods. Maintain your networking fitness. Don’t let the fire burn out. Your efforts to keep the networking rolling will be rewarded when you return your full attention to optimizing the network for results. Don’t let those muscles get weak. Don’t let the fear take control. Maintain momentum, keep enjoying the small wins, and keep the network strong.

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