What is your impression of networking? On- or off-line, to many meeting professionals, it’s an insincere trade of favors or, at best, an elegant way of using people to get what you want. I actually asked this question of a group of engineers and one attendee near the front of the room asked, “You mean, networking with other people?”

Conversely, what’s your impression of relationships? When talking about relationships, most use characteristics such as trust, depth, and vested interest. So, if relationships have been around since the Ice Ages and we all know what they are, why is it that we’re becoming increasingly disconnected? In many ways, we’re losing our ability to touch people!

Robert Putnam, in his book Bowling Alone, clearly describes how our health, our democracy, and yes, even our happiness, depend on a certain amount of social capital. Yet for many, when it’s easier to send someone a voicemail who works three offices down the hall instead of walking over for a conversation, or to send them a tweet DM (direct message) instead of picking up the phone and calling them, is there really any question about the dramatic erosion of our sense of community? Every day, we pass people in our company hallways wearing our company badges (so we know they work there), but we have no idea who they are!

You have an opportunity to build relationships every minute of every day. Yet, most people go through each day with their head buried in checklists. Building and nurturing relationships must become the dye in the fabric, not the patch. Networking functions are patches; drive-by-greetings are patches; insincere getting and giving business cards are patches. Let me save you the time – the Yellow Pages serve the same purpose. Relationships should be the dye in the fabric. They should permeate through who you are and what you do with those most important to you!

Social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter can help enable or facilitate introductions, interactions and social exchange of ideas – but they should never replace the fundamental value of trusted, value-based inter-personal relationships. Users of these sites should also never forget that there are three fundamental types of networks: Givers (God bless Mother Theresa), who give altruistically; Takers (we’ve all known some), who only call or email when they want something; and Investors, who see their personal, functional and strategic relationships as their most valuable asset, and consistently aim at more effectively identify, build, nurture, and leverage in a win-win manner those investments for a quantifiable return on their relationships.

On- or off-line, which one are you? If I were to ask three of your colleagues, customers, executives, or even friends, would they describe you as a giver, taker, or a relationship investor? How do you know?

Your personal and professional success depends on the diversity and quality of your relationships with others, yet most of us don’t spend enough time building, nurturing, and quantifying the key relationships we need to achieve success. That’s where Relationship Economics® comes into play. Relationship Economics isn’t about networking; it’s about learning how to invest in people for an extraordinary return. It’s about understanding Relationship Currency®, accumulating Reputation Capital® and building Professional Net Worth®. It’s about learning the art and science of relationships to get things done in a systematic, disciplined manner.

So, let me ask you again: what’s the strategic value of your business relationships and what will you do in 2010 to enhance your most valuable asset – your portfolio of value-based relationships?

© 2010 The Nour Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

David Nour is a social networking strategist and one of the foremost thought leaders on the quantifiable value of business relationships. A native of Iran, David came to the U.S. with a suitcase, $100 cash, limited family ties, and no fluency in English! Fast forward 25 years and he has built an impressive career of entrepreneurial success, both within large corporations and early stage ventures. David is the author of Relationship Economics (Wiley, 2008) and ConnectAbility (McGraw-Hill, 2010), a senior management advisor, and a featured speaker for corporate, association, and academic forums, where he shares his knowledge and experience as a leading change agent and visionary for Relationship Economics® — the art and science of relationships. To learn more, please visit: www.relationshipeconomics.NET or call toll free 1-888-339-1333.

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