Nurturing Your Network

Published: August 20, 2020

It takes one “small world” discovery to remind us of the power of connection. Our circles of friends and professional networks overlap in unexpected ways. Relationships established decades ago resurface as new circumstances elevate new partnerships. Perhaps this phenomenon arises out of random chance. Or maybe…

My colleague’s husband sells the product my wife’s childhood friend designed. My friend’s neighbor leads the rock band where my music teacher plays guitar.  Coincidence? If I treat it as such, I am less likely to invest intentional effort into nurturing my network. All I have to do is wait and be surprised when people in my life intersect. 

What if, instead, I view these connections as people who were bound to come into similar circles, one way or another, eventually. Then, I would treat every interaction as a long-term investment. The risk-reward analysis is easy. If I pour into each connection with the belief that it will be enriched, I don’t have to be concerned whether the return on my investment happens sooner or later. I don’t have to distinguish whether the impact of my actions feeds me directly or indirectly. 

Nurturing your network is a tangible way of securing eternity. When you create a positive ripple in the water, you don’t always get to see when, where and how it lands on shore. You never know whether your words and actions will just spread outward or whether they’ll somehow bounce back to you in unexpected ways. It doesn’t matter.

Maybe you are the hub that spokes out to innumerable people, some of whom you can’t see. Maybe you are the roots of a tree that secures a trunk branching to places outside of your range of vision. Perhaps the teammates sharing your hub or emanating from your roots don’t know they share you in common.

Seeing small world occurrences as random forms of coincidence takes us off the hook for treating every human interaction as precious and valuable. Our choices about the way we manage our human connections have a direct impact on current and future teammates. They also change the trajectory of strangers who, probably someday, influence current and future teammates. Everything counts.

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst University where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.