Networking Lessons From Sir David Tang
In this hyper connected world, we’re all six degrees of separation (or less) from anyone we want to meet. As in I know someone who knows someone else who knows the Dalai Lama. How cool is that!
Before you get overwhelmed by the possibilities of who you could and perhaps should be reaching out to and connecting with, take a moment to appreciate having all of these people around you who could potentially become a part of your growing network, and even future partners.
And if you ever need evidence that having a robust network pays off, just look at the life of Hong Kong businessman, Sir David Tang, who passed away recently. Best known for founding the Shanghai Tang fashion chain, Sir David was also a philanthropist, flamboyant party-giver, and networker extraordinaire.
Sir David was what I call a “Connector” – someone who's well connected, and enjoys making introductions and connecting various people in their broad networks.
If you’ve taken my Next Level Network course, then you’ll know that Connectors are one of the five special categories of people you need within your network.
A Super Connector of People
Sir David was often referred to as Britain's best-connected man. Through his network of connections, he was able to build a business empire, help the UK government break the deadlock over building Hong Kong’s then new airport, and raise funding for charities.
Connectors are hugely valuable, especially if you’re an introvert or feeling particularly time strapped or both. Knowing a Connector can save you loads of time and anxiety while helping you build your relationships.
It’s essential to tap into a broader network and build connections. If nothing else, it will allow you to help others in a more meaningful way. And it will certainly elevate your own success along the way.
But what if you’re not a party animal or charismatic extravert like Sir David Tang?
The good news is there are still things you can learn and apply from his experience to be better at networking and growing your network.
Networking Lessons from Sir David Tang
According to Geordie Greig, editor of The Mail on Sunday, Sir David was known for being “generous to a fault. Even if there was no need to pay for someone else, he would.” But his generosity also extended to giving his time and making introductions.
Whenever you can, include other people. Invite them to join you for a meal, a coffee, or your client meeting. Sponsor and promote others you respect, and help them get new opportunities. Share your advice for how they can be even better.
As Andrew Roberts, the best-selling biographer of Napoleon, said, “as (Sir David) talked to you and you bathed in the luxury of his splendid munificence, you thought you were the only person in the world, and you didn’t mind a jot when he turned his charm on someone else a moment later.”
We all share the basic human need to feel seen, heard and respected. A simple way to extend that to others is to simply pay full attention when you’re with them.
Look them in the eye, put away your devices, and listen without interrupting… as though they were the only person in the world.
Make it interesting and fun
According to Kate Reardon, editor of Tatler, “His parties were the place to be that night, full of interesting people. They may not have been the nicest people, but they were never, never dull. That was the joy of them: they offered you a window onto a new world, you had to up your game and you were right at the thick of things.”
Whatever you choose to do when you connect with others, make it fun and enjoyable. Even if it’s about business.
This means bringing your own positive outlook to the conversation. It can also take the form of inviting other people who have that positive energy if it’s a group event.
Sir David excelled at making friendships and these were genuine friends, not people he got to know in order to name-drop.
When you’re a fake, people sense it and that makes it hard to build a trusted relationship.
So when you build your connections, focus on finding something of true interest between you and the other person. What you have in common could be as simple as a passion for using the right words (I’ve known people to connect over being self-professed “word nerds”), a shared love of sport, or coming from the same home town. Then build on it.
Do it your own way
Even though he was the king of the party scene in London, Sir David was a teetotaler. He also made his guests leave early because he liked to be in bed by 10:30pm.
So if Sir David could clap his hands and tell his guests, “Come on, time to go”, then you too can do things on your own terms. Set your own boundaries.
Provide quality experiences
Just as Sir David was known for serving the best food and wine to his guests, you want to provide a quality experience for the people you connect with.
It could be the physical environment, the intellectual conversation or the people you bring together. Whatever it is, make sure it reflects the level of professionalism and style you want others to associate with you.
How will you build stronger connections?
Building your network is essential for your professional and personal life, and it’s easiest and most enjoyable when it’s baked into your normal weekly routine. For Sir David, it was throwing parties. For you, it may be conversations over a coffee or meeting people in the gym.
Start with the relationships you have already and consider how you could leverage those. And as you go about your daily life, think about how you can involve others and build stronger connections in the things you’re already doing.
Who’s the equivalent of Sir David Tang in your world and how could you engage them into your circle?
The “how” is up to you. But the important thing is to take action and build your connections.
So what's the next action that you will take towards building your connections? Leave a comment below and let me know.
If building your network is your next area of personal or professional growth, then tune in to my upcoming interview as a part of David Burkus’ Super Connector Summit.
I’ll be sharing the virtual stage with a stellar line-up of world-class experts to share proven tactics for growing a better network, deepening relationships and professional connections, and leveraging it all to enhance your life.
The insights on this summit can change your life for the better.
Check out the Super Connector Summit – registration is free
Mr. Porter: How Sir David Tang Became The King Of London’s Party Scene
Photo: Samantha Sin/AFP/Getty Images