12 ways to build a supportive network

‘If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. ‘  Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Creating legacy and working with others

You cannot complete a legacy project on your own. Whether you need practical help, emotional help, or even just inspiration, you need a supportive network around you to help you get through the dark times and enjoy the good ones.

Do you need inspiration on how to build a supportive network? Here’s a list of 12 tips that work for me:

1. Build win-win situations. Whenever you meet someone with potential, think of ways in which you may be able to collaborate with that person so you each have something to gain. Talented people are a lot more likely to help you if they can further their own aims while doing so.

2. Be human. People are much more likely to help if you treat them as people, not just a means to getting your legacy project completed. Take a keen interest in the people you’d like to include in your supportive network, and you may find that some of them will volunteer to help without you having to ask them.  

3. Build mutual trust. Trust is the most important aspect of supportive networks, so you should only include people you can trust and who trust you back. Otherwise, you will miss opportunities of making the most of people’s talents and your legacy projects will suffer as a result.

4. Make people passionate about your cause. It is much easier to motivate people to work hard on your legacy project if you can make them passionate about it. So when deciding on your legacy project, ask yourself if it is something other people could also believe in.

5. Be a role model to others and they will follow. Don’t delay starting your legacy project due to lack of help. Get things going yourself, and set an example to others. If what you are trying to achieve is inspiring, you’ll soon find followers.

6. Chit-chat is important to establish rapport. Don’t forget the value of establishing a rapport with people before asking for their help. Chit-chat may seem like a waste of time when you’re in a rush and just want to get something done, but when it comes to getting someone’s help it’s invaluable. And don’t forget point no. 2: be human.

7. Become a gatekeeper. In building your supportive network, remember that one of the roles you’ll have to embrace is to protect people within the network from parasites and leeches. Otherwise, you’ll find that people are leaving your network due to being ‘assaulted’ by others for various favours.

8. Learn to be assertive and friendly. This is a very difficult combination to master, so don’t worry if it takes you a while before getting the balance right. Basically, what you’re aiming for is for people to like working with you while respecting your boundaries and the needs of the project.

9. Never forget the people who helped you once you succeed. Your supportive network will be vital if your legacy project becomes a success. Remember the people who have helped you, and ask them to keep you grounded; they’re the ones who stuck by you when things were rough, so you can trust them far more than the people who only took an interest in you once you made it.

10. Don’t use people. No matter how important your project is to you, there is no excuse for using people. Treat anyone who helps you with the respect they deserve.  

11. Make the first move to give. Don’t just ask people for help; offer to help them first. We are all biased into helping those who help us, so as long as you don’t target parasites and leeches don’t worry about people abusing your generosity. We all like helping those whom we perceive as nice and friendly, so the more you give the more people will want to help you get your legacy project through to completion.

12. Leverage the power of many. Don’t ask for a lot from only a handful of people. If you’ve got a large supportive network, asking people to do only one task will add up to an enormous amount of progress very fast – which is why it is important to be good at building a strong wide network in the first place. Asking lots of people to do only one or two things that are easy for them to do means that you can keep more control over the direction over your legacy project, plus it means you’re not running the risk of getting people exhausted while helping you out.

How are you building your supportive network? Any more ideas would be very welcome.

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Alexa Ispas

I am a social entrepreneur, blogger, and talent scout, interested in helping people who want to create legacy. I have recently completed my PhD thesis in social psychology at the University of Edinburgh, and am originally from Romania. I am writing a daily blog on creating legacy, which you can find at www.alexaispas.com