Networks and relationships will take you beyond where your salary (money), schooling (education) or smartness (intelligence) have taken you. Greatness is built through deliberate relationship formations (networking). The bigger your network, the greater your reach. Networks are made of mutually beneficial relationships where it is not about you benefiting but others benefiting from your existence and established networks. The concept of networking has been mastered by some communities and societies around the world where a dollar is circulated within the same community a minimum of 6 times before it goes out to other networks. The Indian community is one such smart community where they support and spur each other to greatness. Well done Indians.

You may be asking yourself "Where do I start"? That is a good question. If you have your phone, assess how many contacts you have in your address book. Minus those that you added for fun or without the owner's consent; that shows you your reach or network. Go to your email address book. Count people whose emails you have but are not in your phone and add that number to the number you had from your cellphone. Do a similar exercise with Facebook and keep adding the numbers. Do that with all the other social networking and business networking platforms you do have; in all situations just ensure you are not duplicating yourself. It would be wiser to start with the area which you feel has most contacts. This is not merely a game of numbers but also consider the quality of people in your network as you go through this process. I may have 15 influential valuable people in my network. Someone may have 600 contacts which will not take them anywhere.

A few tips about networking and relationships for greatness:

• Never make the relationship all about what you can get out. Also consider what you are bringing to the table. Do not make it so obvious that you are in the relationship to reap or harvest. You will throw off some sensitive people. Some people would like phone numbers of influential people to show off to friends. I urge you to grow up past that and redefine greatness in your mind. People in networks will only respect you when they see your contribution, comments, ideas and suggestions on blogs and sites.

• Networks are built on transparency and trust - you earn trust over time. It is not as instant as a cup of coffee. In your networks you have to keep confidence as you will be privy to certain information which you may suddenly feel itchy to let the world know. Do that at the detriment of your own greatness.

• Do not become too FAMILIAR with those in your network - Over time, people tend to take advantage of those they know, they easily take them for granted as familiarity would have come in. Hold the relationship as carefully as someone walking on raw eggs all the time. Very carefully. The moment we become familiar, we lose the value of the link or relationship we have. I am not saying you should "worship" the great people but handle them with care.

• Relationships will require your money and personal effort - some networks are build having travelled long distances, maintained by constant interaction on phone, Skype etc. I know there are high maintenance relationships where it is only you calling and almost paying through your nose to maintain the relationship. In such a case you have to make a decision to keep or release that relationship.

• Ask intelligent questions in networking conversations - avoid questions which can be answered with a Yes or no. Ask those questions that seek clarity and description such as why? How? etc. These questions get your audience to engage. Avoid rhetoric questions (questions not requiring an answer)

• Be clear on the goals of joining social networks - That way you will participate in networks where you have an active interest and where you can make a positive influence. It is no use joining a Cookery network when you are more fascinated with charity work and how to impact society. It also helps you to be clear to your network in terms of the help you need and the help you can give.

• Maximise the power in a business card - too often potential networking is scuttled because information cannot be exchanged quicker. A business card comes in handy. Saving numbers in your phone may not be as effective as you lose the eye contact.

• Make a lasting indelible impression - Some opportunities only come once hence you need to maximise on them. When you eventually meet you hero, your model or someone you have been dying to meet all your life, you should leave them with a lasting impression. Be articulate, relevant, and sensitive and show some level of intelligence and competence. You can win them when you show some level of maturity in your conduct.

• Make use of every contact you have - It is estimated that an average person knows between 200 and 250. Now if those 200 people also know 200 people it means you have access to a staggering pool of at least 40,000 all of those just one person away.

• Choose meetings which can potentially increase your network - You may not attend all business meetings you are invited to but assess and prioritize those meetings that will get you to meet potentially new contacts, suppliers, customers and professionals.

Author's Bio: 

Rabison Shumba is a writer, businessman and philanthropist. Writer of the book The Greatness Manual which you can preview on Founder and CEO of Infotech Solutions and Greatness Factory Trust. Rabison speaks about success, leadership, motivation and inspiration. His trust works with disadvantaged school children supporting them with school fees and general livelihood. He also helps to network artists (musicians of all genres) to facilitate information sharing and building of future celebrities. Rabison is well traveled having been to Asia, America, United Kingdom and all over Africa. He is married to Jacqueline Edwards and they have two children. They reside in Harare, Zimbabwe, Southern Africa.