Have you ever visited the redwood forest? These giant trees are magnificent! You can even drive a car through one of them. They punch holes in the sky 200 to 300 feet high. And yet, their root systems are very shallow.
How do they maintain their stability? Well, they don't stand alone. Their root systems interlock and intertwine into a vast patchwork. When storms and winds come along, they stand strong, supporting and sustaining one another.
We need to spread our roots like these giant redwoods. Successful business people usually credit much of their success to the support received from other people. Developing and maintaining a strong network must be a constant priority.
Evaluate your current network. Take steps to strengthen it. Follow these steps to build and grow a solid network:
* Put in the time. A network requires time to build and grow in a stable, organic way. Allowing your network to grow will give you an idea who you can trust, for what reason and to what extent.
* Make the network diverse. Diversity usually promotes strength in a system. Cultivate different meaningful relationships so different parts of your network can help you with different kinds of issues.
* Stay in touch. Regularly connect with the people in your network. Let them know that you are there for them just as much as they are there for you. Nourish them with thoughtful notes, emails, phone calls and visits when you don't need their help.
* Follow the Golden Rule. You will get as much out of your network as you put into it. Networking is a two-way street. Offer as much as, or even more than you expect in return.
The diverse people in your network should be your emotional scaffolding -- your spark plugs, your personal gurus, your drill sergeants, your information liaisons, your friends.
Six types of people you'll want in your network are:
* Close friends who love and support you in spite of your fallacies,
* Energizers who motivate you when the going gets tough.
* Experts who provide information and expertise in your field.
* Challengers who force you to stretch yourself to new heights.
* Mentors who already are where you want to go professionally.
* Access providers who help you cut through red tape and gain access to the resources you need.
Two key issues you'll need to address to maximize your network are:
* Does the same person's name appear for each area? This means you're counting on one person to meet many of your network needs. This is not fair to you or that person. Expand and diversify your network.
* Are there gaps where you can't identify anyone to fill one of the six roles for you? This indicates a vulnerability area for you. Take steps to find people who can fill the void.
Developing your Forest of Redwoods is not a one-shot deal. You'll find people moving in and out of your network as needs change. Do regular maintenance checks to keep relationships active, relevant and healthy.
Plant the seeds and start building your network. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and want to see you succeed. A strong support network can literally skyrocket you through hard times and catapult you up the ladder of success.
Brad Larsen is a life coach and corporate consultant from Northern Utah. He can be reached at email@example.com.