Leverage and Networking

Fellow Ryze member Walter Paul Bebirian and I were having an interesting discussion about the concept of “leverage” and how it applies to networking.

“Leverage” is a term we all have a pretty good concept of physically, but perhaps a more vague concept in business. Perhaps the most common use of it in business/finance is, as Walter pointed out in our conversation, in financial investments where we can use margin to have control over more shares than we could otherwise work with.

Simply put, “leverage” is the ability to accomplish more by use of a tool than we could through our own direct effort. I have an idea of three ways that this can apply to networking:

  1. When you have strong enough relationships that people take action on your behalf proactively, rather than just responding reactively, that’s leverage. Your relationship with them leverages their entire network. But it takes a certain strength of relationship for them to act PRO-actively — that’s when it’s leverage. Just having a lot of contacts who only respond to requests doesn’t count. That’s why I tend to favor “quality” (of relationship, not of people) over quantity. As one networking expert put it, “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.” If your relationships aren’t above that “action threshhold”, they’re not really serving you.
  2. Any time you interact in a public forum rather than one-on-one, that’s leverage. The same conversation exposes you to and connects you with dozens of other people, all for the same amount of effort. When my readers write in at About.com, I reply with a blog post, not a private e-mail. That’s leverage.
  3. You can also leverage your writing by repurposing it for other venues. What you write in a discussion forum, use as as a discussion starter in another one, then post it to your blog, include it in your newsletter, and expand it into an article. Walter made the excellent suggestion to take our private conversation and post it. It takes me two minutes, and I leverage the effort I’ve already put into creating the content.

So there are three ideas for applying the concept of leverage to networking. What’s your idea of how to apply the concept of leverage to networking?