How to build a smart network (Part 1 of 2)

A recent article in Forbes that has been making the rounds in a variety of publications is titled “The Six People You Need in Your Corner” by Jessica Hagy.

It is an interesting article in that it highlights the importance of forming “a web of connections” that can collectively help you to achieve your career goals.

With my new book “How to Bullet Proof Your Brand” (which will be released later this year), I spend a good deal of time focusing on the importance of networking in both the virtual and physical realms.  But what I have also done is taken the concept of networking or building a web of connections one step further.  Specifically, I not only talk about the why and the how, but also the “who.”

One of the greatest benefits of social networks is the ability to connect with a vast number of people from around the world in a relatively short period of time.  Unfortunately far too many people have become a collector of names rather than a builder of relationships.  They focus solely on the numbers, believing that a sizable network is the ultimate goal.

You should instead focus on building a strategic network.  After all what benefit is a sizable network if the people with whom you are connected have little in common with you or an interest in the benefits of your expertise.  Interestingly enough, past studies have indicated that generally speaking, people interact with only a very small percentage of their entire network on a regular basis.

Given the above, this means that if you are going to invest time in establishing a network of contacts in a LinkedIn or Facebook, then you better make certain that there is a shared or mutual benefit with those individuals with whom you chose to connect.  The same goes for your network in the face-to-face world.

So who do you need in your network?

There are of course many “lists” such as the one referenced in the Hagy article which indicates that your network requires an Instigator, Cheerleader, Doubter, Taskmaster, Connector, and Example person.

Of course, and like so many, I have always liked Gladwell’s Tipping Point list of special people which includes a Salesperson, Connector and Maven.

But to me, it has not been about the titles or designations as much as it has been about roles and accessibility in terms of being able to practically build a network that includes individuals with these important attributes.  Or to put it another way, who are the cornerstone people of your network’s foundation?

In this context, it is imperative to create a solid foundation of expertise starting with establishing a connection with a Coach and a Mentor.  And there is a distinct difference between the two in which each ironically aligns with the attributes from both the Hagy and Gladwell lists.

A Mentor is first and foremost an Example person in that they have the experience and expertise to help you to avoid mistakes in critical career areas.  In short, they have been there, done that people!

A Coach is someone who’s main purpose is to support you and insure that you are accountable to what you dream of creating.  You know what you need to do but your coach will serve as your support anchor and challenge you to keep moving forward.  In this way they possess the attributes highlighted by Hagy.

Once they show you the way, their role then switches to one of Instigator, Taskmaster and to a certain degree scrutinizing Cheerleader.  As you begin to make progress they then assume the Doubter’s role in that they will challenge you to maintain a certain level of performance.

Can a Coach also be a Connector?  Perhaps but once again, their primary role is to get you game ready.

Your Mentor on the other hand is someone whose attributes reflect those referenced in Gladwell’s Tipping Point.

A Mentor is someone who is a Maven, Salesperson and Connector.  A Mentor understands the relational elements of building a smart network.  Their expertise as a Maven enables you to identify and then properly align your unique expertise with market demand.  They then assume the role of Salesperson by providing you with the tools to properly promote your brand while simultaneously working behind the scenes to “Connect” you with the right people at the right time.

While Hagy and Gladwell’s respective lists suggest that each of the needed attributes is the domain of separate individuals, I believe that effective Coaches and Mentors possess multiple capabilities.

The next question is how do you identify and engage those individuals who will make a great Coach and a great Mentor?

In Part 2 of this series I will share with you the process by which you can identify and develop a rapport with these success influencers.

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About piblogger

Author and Host of the PI Window on The World Show on Blog Talk Radio.

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