There is this unassuming little word you often find in the biographies of famous people. The word is met. William R. Hewlett met David Packard. Dean Martin met Jerry Lewis. Sid met Nancy. Siegfried met Roy.

Meeting people is one of the fundamental steps to building relationships, in business as in life. But it is not the only step.

There is a big difference between meeting someone and building a lasting relationship with them. There is a long way from "met" to "net" (as in networking), and because people misjudge this distance, the term "networking" has gotten a bum rap.

I consistently ask professionals to share with me what they think of when they hear the word networking. Far too often, they say it conjures up images of manipulative, self-serving, insincere and predatory individuals who are on the prowl for someone they can pounce on, try to sell something to, or solicit an unearned favor from...