By Pat Meehan

Building a network over a lifetime is the most accountable thing we can do. It is the epitome of being a proactive person. Day by day, we build on this chain of meaningful personal relationships to which we can exchange the gifts of our ideas and influence. We should value these relationships and put great trust in them as they continue to develop. Stephen Covey teaches that a relationship is like an “emotional bank account.” We must nurture this emotional bank account by making more “deposits than withdrawals.” For example, we might take the time to have a mentoring discussion with a co-worker prior to that person’s internal interview for a promotion. We share our wealth of knowledge with this person unconditionally, and in a total sense of giving. This is truly making a “deposit” into that relationship and a tremendous step in building credibility, or “trustworthiness.”

What, on the other hand, would have happened if that person showed up to have that discussion with you and you forgot to be there? That person would have felt let down and slighted. His/her faith in you would have been greatly diminished. You would have just made a huge “withdrawal” from that relationship. With too many withdrawals, you will find that you have lost your network and your credibility through your “untrustworthy behavior.” If you are truly accountable, your nature will be much more of a giving one than a taking one.

In relationship building, it is very important to share each other’s goals and aspirations, and encourage each other to achieve those goals and dreams. Through having this type of openness, coupled with an attitude of giving, many people will take notice, and your name will become ideas of opportunity in other people’s minds. Therefore, that tap on the shoulder you received from your boss one day to discuss a promotion wasn’t a coincidence after all. It was a direct result, or dividend, of all the “deposits” you had been making in your “emotional bank accounts.” Your accountability to yourself allowed you to have that keen sense of self-awareness that attracted your network partners. This magnetism is the leadership quality that you have developed through accountability, self-awareness, and self-improvement. This leadership characteristic will continue to evolve and become more powerful each day.

Self-awareness is your compass that leads you in your path through life, as your network building capabilities continue to develop. It is a part of the well rounded cycle of being totally accountable. You can’t know where you are going unless you know where you are. Proactive people consciously build their networks on a daily basis. Day by day, month by month, and year by year, they build new relationships and continually improve their current ones. Reactive people, on the other hand, don’t think of networking until they get into trouble or experience a crisis like losing their job. If a plant closing is the reason for a lost job, the reactive person watches the proactive people go along their way in positive directions. The proactive person, who has built a solid and credible network, will be invited in many directions by his/her supervisors and co-workers to move on to other adventures and into other directions.

Opportunity takes opportunity with it. The proactive person can see all of the best opportunities due to long-term self-awareness development. The reactive person will call the proactive person lucky. A wise man once said, “Success is only luck, ask any failure and he will tell you so.”

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