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Networking Tip: Score BIG By Not Keeping Score At All

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This is a guest post for The Huddle series by Frank Agin:

Keeping score. It is a natural part of most any athletic competition. In fact, we would be hard pressed to find a sporting event anywhere in the world that does not have some sort of tally system to keep track of who is ahead and … well, who is not.

Even four-year-old kids in instructional sports programs – where parents proudly proclaim “we don’t keep score” – can and will tell you their unofficial, yet highly accurate tally of any contest.

We measure football in terms of points, baseball by runs and with hockey we speak of goals. In basketball, we award victory to the teams with the most, while in golf, we declare the winner to be the one with the least, and with soccer, the triumphant team is likely to be the one with any score at all.

The fact of the matter is that keeping score is not just part of sports, it is vital to them. Without the score, we might as well just be fooling around with a ball in the backyard. It is the score itself that tells us whether we should adhere to the planned strategy, stall for victory, or press for a comeback.

The whole notion of keeping score has made its way into our daily lives as well. In the business world there is the Dow Jones Industrial Average, housing starts and Consumer Price Index. Each of these is akin to keeping score.

Closer to home than these measures of macroeconomics, there is still the notion of keeping score. Some of us contend with sales records, others focus on production quotas, or even the number of days without an injury. Again, these are more scoring systems.

Keeping score is a natural part of sports and it has become part of much of our personal and professional lives. Despite this, we should never allow any notion of keeping score to become part of our daily networking activities. That is we should not tally, track or score how much we have done for anyone in comparison to anyone else with whom we interact.

“She owes me a phone call.” …
“I’ve done more for him than he has done for me.” …
“I hardly get anything from that relationship.”

These all allude to the notion that the person making the statement is keeping track of something, which we should never do. These sorts of thoughts should never enter our minds and these sorts of words certainly should never leave our mouths.

First of all, the primary underlying theme of networking is to give without expectation. That cannot happen when we try to keep score. Attempting to tally and track who has done what for us relative to what we have done for them, simply flies in the face of the notion of “giving and expecting nothing in return.”

Even beyond this basic concept of recommended networking practices, keeping score of who does what as we interact with those around us is simply impractical. We each have hundreds of contacts and no two of those acquaintances are the same. The human brain is simply not equipped to compartmentalize and compute all the data.

Even if we could, how do we go about keeping score? How do we even begin to quantify the value of one referral, introduction or kernel of information to another? The value of some things have an immediate apparent benefit. On the other hand, for some things the value may not manifest itself for years to come.
Furthermore, what we give in the realm of networking does not deplete us. After all, referrals, introductions and information do not take money from our pocket. For the most part, these things have no value to us. So what does it matter what we might get in return?

Even if we could quantify the tally of “who has done what,” why would we? As the exchange in any good networking relationship ebbs and flows, the score could never possibly be “all tied up.”

As a result, part of the time, we would be ahead in the count – getting more than we have given. This would likely leave us feeling a sense of guilt. The other part of the time, you would be behind – not getting as much as we have given. Then we would likely waste energy with feelings of animosity.

In networking, by attempting to keep score we hinder the end result of what we are trying to accomplish. Keeping score takes time and it take attention, both of which could be devoted to our efforts to develop relationships with others. Keeping score in network does not enhance our net results, rather it impairs them.
Yes, it is acceptable to keep score in football, basketball and track … and any other sport we can think of. It is what elevates the activity from a mere pastime to an actual contest.

And yes, it is also acceptable to keep score within our personal lives through tracking accomplishments, focusing on quotas and striving for goals. These tallies keep us driving ahead and looking for more.
In our associations with others, however, there is no value in tallying who has done what. When we network, we need to simply focus on doing as much as we can for others and simply trust that whatever we do will find its way back to us – because it almost always does.

The lesson is simple: In networking, if you want to score the most, you need to endeavor to not keep score at all.


Frank Agin writes a monthly sports themed networking series for entitled “The Huddle“.  Frank is the founder and president of AmSpirit Business Connections and consults with individuals and businesses on how to become more successful through networking. He is the author of Foundational Networking: Building Know, Like and Trust to Create a Lifetime of Extraordinary Success.

Did you like this article?  Check out the other articles from “The Huddle”:

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19 Responses to Networking Tip: Score BIG By Not Keeping Score At All

  1. Ria January 20, 2009 at 12:02 pm #

    Great post, Frank. I just read a great book by Daniel Quinn that says human energy (and support of each other) is inexhaustible; a completely renewable resource. Keeping score is based on the false premise that support can be hoarded. I like to challenge this scarcity approach. I live by “the more you share, the more you receive” principle. It's much SIMPLER than keeping score. 🙂

  2. frankagin January 20, 2009 at 12:24 pm #

    Thanks … I need to look into Daniel Quinn's work.

  3. Michelle January 20, 2009 at 1:49 pm #

    I have to disagree with this article. Relationships don't tend to work if they are lopsided in amount of effort given, unless you are able to set your expectations appropriately, which is very hard to do.

  4. left handed golf February 24, 2009 at 2:48 am #

    great article.visited your site for first time today,but i must say your write is of top notch and i will surely frequent your site.

  5. boston area movers May 23, 2009 at 11:41 pm #

    That's true, keeping score just distracts us if we use it in our daily life, like if someone made 25 chairs you want to make 26, then that just puts a strain on you, but if you do it just for fun you could possibly make 30 and not feel tired or when you move to a new home with your family, you can't say you packed 20 boxes more than your spouse, you must do what you both can.

  6. Craigslist Proxy May 30, 2009 at 12:19 am #

    Was a good read. I'll be back for more.

  7. Craigslist Proxy June 6, 2009 at 9:43 pm #

    Interesting post. I have made a twitter post about this. Hope others find it as interesting as I did.

  8. Boats June 9, 2009 at 10:30 pm #

    Great read thanks!

  9. drop in grills June 15, 2009 at 5:11 am #

    Excellent post, we have to set one goal and we need to achieve that one then only we feel satisfactory otherwise no use for that.

  10. flamingleaf8 June 18, 2009 at 7:28 pm #

    Interesting post,and personally quite difficult to achieve.Both in personal, and business, to give and expect nothing in return, is i think a saintly doing. But it would never hurt, to try .

  11. Ryand77skyers June 26, 2009 at 9:16 pm #

    Now….back to the conference. Needless to say you should stay tuned here and with the rest of the Blog Squad for latest on all happenings at SolidWorks World 2008. It seems like every year my schedule gets more hectic and this year is no exception. Tomorrow will consist of hrsaccount meetings all day for me. (Some of which I can’t talk about just yet.) I’m also looking forward to dinner tomorrow night with all the members of the Blog Squad in attendance at the conference this year. (I’m already feeling sorry for anyone sitting close to us…..we can be a pretty loud bunch.)

  12. real estate mountain lake July 9, 2009 at 2:25 am #

    As for my concern relationship will never end until you hate them. So if we love relationship then there is no end for that. Pretty impressive article i like your article.


  13. dental_implants_Southampton July 10, 2009 at 4:25 am #

    Setting one goal is important thing. But sometime everyone's goal changing as time goes by. In this case we always need to upgrade it occasionally.

  14. taislim July 11, 2009 at 7:46 pm #

    Its a good read but I'm neutral to this. Its sometimes good to set a goal and work hard to reach for it. That's what most manufacturing companies do, set a quota. THrough this an employee will have a specific number to meet and thus, has to work hard in order to reach it. If one doesn't have a certain goal, then one tends to relax and dilly dally except if a person is truly dedicated and honest.

  15. Fresno Property Management September 11, 2009 at 8:12 pm #

    I like your approach to networking. You are definitely the kind of person that everyone wants to network with.

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