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Paula Broadwell and Jill Kelley, the two women who networked (I use that term lightly) with two of the most respected military leaders of our time, former General David Patreus and General John Allen, took “networking up” – making high level connections – to repugnant lengths.

Paula Broadwell & Jill Kelley: The “Bad” Connectors

Paula Broadwell used her charisma – looks, brains, physical fitness- to wangle the plum assignment of writing General Patreus’s biography, despite her lack of experience in authorship. There’s no point in commenting on the affair that ensued. The media is filled with enough on that topic.

Broadwell used her connection to cultivate a personal and professional relationship with a high level, highly visible leader to build her own career, prominence and gain access to  information and other top level people. (I’m sure she also cared for Patreus, but having a hot-shot who was hot for her only heightened the attraction).

But what’s wrong with that, you say? Isn’t that what networking is all about?

Not when you thoughtlessly destroy a lot of people’s lives in the process.

And then there’s Jill Kelley, the Tampa socialite who blew the whistle on Paula because Paula had been sending her jealous, threatening, not to mention careless, emails. But Jill had a big case of celebrity-connecting herself.  She ingratiated herself with military brass such as Gen. John Allen, as well as Gen. Patreus,  bandying these big names around as often as possible as she wheeled and deal and tried to use these connections to parlay a grand image and grander opportunities.

These women abused the trust their connections put in them.

Now, Gen. Patreus certainly isn’t blameless. He knows his part and has been willing to take the hits.

But these women abused the value of honorable connecting, and have given networking a very bad connotation.

Not All Networking Is Sleazy: 5 Good Ways To Connect – With Honor

There is nothing more wonderful than connecting with great people and making great things happen together. Tweet this!

That’s the beauty and honor of networking and connecting at it’s best.

People ask me all the time how to improve their connections with higher level people. Here are my 5 ways to “good” connect – successfully connect with high-level people honorably:

I will always endorse the approach of networking up vs. networking down. You will learn more by hanging around and engaging with smart, successful people; you will be exposed to better opportunities around more successful people; you will grow and improve more around smarter, accomplished people. Here’s how to do it right:

1. Connect With The Mindset of Integrity. Paula Broadwell knew very well that her association with Gen. Patreus wasn’t ethical. When you connect with the right people mindful of doing the right things for the right reasons, those connections flourish, as do the results.

2. Connect With The Mindset of Generosity. Think of how you can be of value and assistance to the other person before you focus on gaining value for yourself.

3. Connect With The Mindset of Possibility. Hanging around people who are open to new ideas vs. closed-mindedness will bring so much more vitality and opportunity into your life and everyone around you.

4. Connect With Thoughtfulness. We are so busy trying to check things off of our to do list that we can easily forget the impact our words and actions can have on others. Think before you speak. Think before you act. Think before you hit the send button. Think carefully about how your actions, words, or even thoughts may impact your connections and the others around them.

5. Connect With Patience. Yes, I love to make things happen fast as much as anyone. It does take time to really get to know someone. Taking a little time to build that rapport and really get to know someone actually can foster a closer, stronger bond and allows you to learn more fully about your connection’s values and whether he or she walks his talk.

My parting words on this topic:

Network Up.

Network With Integrity.

They aren’t mutually exclusive.

What do you think about how Paula Broadwell and Jill Kelley (and Gen. Patreus and Gen. Allen for that matter) handled these connections?

I hope you keep it clean, folks 🙂

And if you have enjoyed this post, I’d really appreciate you sharing it with your colleagues and connections.