Posted by: G. Lane Cavalier | October 3, 2007

Networking: Networking from the sandbox on – is networking a “talent” or a “skill”?

One of the biggest compliments I have ever been given came from a mentor and former boss.

I was speaking on Leadership at a meeting for CIOs about a year ago, and he had the job of doing my introduction. At the end of my introduction he mentioned “networking” and commented that I probably still had the name and contact info for the first kid I played in the sandbox with as a toddler.

Over time, I have thought about this and though he was wrong in the fact that I don’t have the name and contact of that person, I have always been a “gatherer of friends.”

So I have asked myself the question, is Networking a “talent”, something that in inborn (nature), or is it a “skill”, something that is learned (nurture).

After the year or so of debating it off and on, I think that it is a combination of both. I’ve started to believe that when I think about good networkers I can put them into the skill or talent category, when I think about GREAT Networkers, I find that it is a combination of both. IE: Dave Opton at Execunet or Jason Alba at JibberJobber to name a few.

As an exercise, I started to break out the traits for each category. Here is what I have so far. Please feel free to add by comment.

Talent (inborn/nature)

  • Physical Appearance and mannerisms
  • Tone/Quality/Inflection of voice
  • Extroversion
  • Memory
  • Timing
  • Empathy
  • Frankness
  • Charisma

Skills (learned/nurture)

  • Organization
  • Approach
  • Methods
  • Ethics
  • Honesty
  • Vision

Though I want to qualify it and say that all networkers lean on both Talent and Skill, I think the people I consider good networkers tend to be better at one of the groupings than the other. Like great athletes, it takes a lot of both to make someone truly special at it.

I actually put myself in the Talent group as my networking has come more by personality than by skill, hence I think it’s why I tend to surround myself with people who get the Skill part of it like the Big Turkey himself who is self proclaimed “just an injineer.”

I also want to take a minute to put out a note to two of the best “talent” networkers I’ve ever met: My former boss Steve Stephens and my good friend Ken Dawe, each of them fall out of bed networking and never seem to put any effort into it.



  1. Well, it’s hard for shy FOWGs to be one of the “beautiful people” like you. Celebrities, such as yourself, have the world by a string. And, everything comes easy. As opposed to us fat old turkeys that have to peck and scratch for every penny, every nibblet of corn, and all while running in fear of the HR axe as too old, too fat, too expensive, too honest, or just too. And, if I’m so skilled, how come I have to work so hard. Wish I had the luxury of “speaking”. đŸ™‚ As always, I appreciate any stroking. As I leave, I sing you a few bars of my new hit single, “gobble, gobble, mamas don’t let you children grow up to be injineers”. đŸ™‚

  2. FJ, your holiness of all gobblers,

    your beautiful to me!!!

    I wish I had your organization skills, and PS – I ain’t perty, see the picture on about me page.

  3. Lane, that is very flattering to be listed here, especially next to Dave Opton. I really like this post and need to mentally chew on it. I’ve always “liked people,” but networking was pretty uncomfortable for me until I read “Never Eat Alone.” It changed my entire perspective on networking. Two words stick out from the book:

    Intimate Relationships

    That’s what it’s about – getting to know others on a non-superficial level. And really caring about them.

    You are obviously doing a great job in that area. Keep it up Lane, you are affecting more people than you can imagine.

  4. Lane,

    That you would cite me as a model of sorts is flattering to say the least. It is also a bit scary since I am not at all sure what I have done or what the traits are that you have seen in our relationship that made you feel I merit a mention on your list, but whatever it is, there is plenty of incentive in your post to help me to try to keep on doing whatever it is that I did or do.

    Whether it comes under the heading of “Intimate Relationships” as Jason says or some other phrase, I really don’t know. What I do know or rather I should say what I believe is that those who are perceived as good networkers has much to do with the attitude and/or personal value system that they bring to an interaction as anything else.

    Said somewhat differently, all of us know instantly if we are being used, and so far I haven’t ever found anyone who likes the way that feels.

    With that said, I would certainly echo what Jason has said here as well. Taking the time share your “learnings” with others as your are doing can only help people deal with a subject that is, to say the least, pretty intimidating to a lot of folks.

    My thanks again for your very kind words.


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