During a particularly long flight on United Airlines back in March, I took a moment to flip through the in-flight magazine and found an article that challenged the conventional wisdom behind traditional methods for networking…
Overall, I think the article’s author, Srikumar S. Rao, did an excellent job at outlining an irregular method for building relationships: don’t try.
I advocate a different method. The best way to form a network is not to try," writes Rao. "Don’t try to form a network or create one or build one. Instead, allow a network to spring up around you. And such a network will inevitably form around you if you conscientiously follow certain steps.
Take a moment to read the entire article and you’ll get a much stronger sense of what Rao is advocating. In general, he’s defining the value of networking by redefining the initial stages as to how relationships are approached and subsequently cultivated. Perhaps the best bullet-point piece of advice Rao offers is this:
"Your intent is key. Offer help because you believe in what they are doing, not to add them to your Rolodex."
Of particular note is how Rao’s method can be effectively implemented by orchestra managers from the executive level right down through entry level staffers. Best of all, each individual can use this method to build stronger personal connections as well as connections of the organization.
Without consciously realizing it, Rao’s networking method is something I’ve always practiced and I can attest to the fact that it has resulted in creating an unusually diverse, yet ardent, network of connections. Moreover, these connections continually evolve into opportunities to bring people together with mutually beneficial results who would otherwise never have met.
Perhaps the best part of building relationships in this way is the level of trust between individuals. Once you and your colleagues develop a strong bond of trust – both of you know the other isn’t a hollow shill or self serving pariah – you can begin building connections which become mutually beneficial for individuals and the organizations they serve.
There has never been a better time for the orchestra business to hear this message. Over the past few years, it seems there is a sense of panicked urgency to "professionalize" the business as silver-bullet solutions and high priced convention seminars appear to dominate the professional development landscape. The result is that too many efforts to develop an audience, attract board members, and build labor relations seem to be rooted more in mass-market speak than sincerity.
Besides, it certainly wouldn’t hurt this business to take a step back from the "what can you do for us?" sense of entitlement that has become all too common.