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How many of us, as excellent coaches and mentors, sometimes forget to follow our own wisdom?

I had one of those realisations recently. I was looking for a couple of specialists to help grow areas of my coaching business. But early attempts to find them by googling websites and clicking on every Facebook ad were a fast-track to overwhelm.

So I started thinking about who could help me find the right experts. As I did so, a certain muscle memory kicked in. “Finding someone who knows someone” was always my initial impulse when I worked for many years in business consultancy.

Since then, I’d maintained my great networks and mentor relationships from that world, and I’d always encouraged people I’d mentored to do the same.

Yet somehow, other than keeping in touch with training course peers and local therapist groups, I’d neglected to build a strong network for myself within the coaching industry. This seemed like a timely prompt to get my own house in order.

Here’s what I’ve (re)learned during the past few weeks as I’ve refocused my efforts on network-building:

Networking fuels our purpose and values. It isn’t – as many perceive – about superficial schmoozing. Or a transactional means to an end. It’s about connection, inspiration, learning and growth. Our networks can enrich our day-to-day working life, contributing more fun as well as practical support. The life of a ‘solopreneur’ coach can feel isolated; this is a way to build your own elective team around you.

Networks field different team players. (Here’s a good article on the subject.) You can include niche experts, but the most valuable mentors are often the ones with a high-level overview, an insider’s sense of how things really work, and a who’s who contact list. They can help you with orientation and by making introductions. They are a font of sage advice. Of course, this is where professional memberships are a huge asset. I’ve already had great value from my IAPC&M renewal fee this year!

Networking creates its own momentum. Since I’ve turned my attention to this aspect of my business, it’s interesting to see how quickly new doors have opened. “Energy flows where focus goes,” as the adage reminds us. While being focused about our intentions, we can also be open to where these new doorways may lead us. Sometimes the most fruitful connections start in the most unexpected places. Holding space for curiosity, serendipity and trust is good practice in network-building.  

Networks are systems of exchange. People are often touchingly generous with their experience and advice, especially if you reach out with a personal, thoughtful request. But ‘request’ is key here. Don’t feel entitled to someone’s time and support; ensure they feel free to decline. Most importantly, consider and discuss what is a fair exchange. Is it appropriate to pay a professional fee? Do you have expertise to share in return? Or can you ‘pay it forward’ to someone else to close the loop of networking value?

Abhiyana Michelle Singer is a Self-Leadership Coach, accredited with the IAPC&M. She integrates different approaches (Life & Executive Coaching, Zen Coaching, Internal Family Systems psychotherapy, organisational change consultancy), shaped by a 20-year career in international business and a long path towards mindfulness and self-realisation. She now supports clients worldwide to access their inner resources – e.g. clarity, calmness, confidence, creativity – and to navigate more effectively through challenge and change.

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