A strong network is not necessarily a big one. What matters is the quality of who you know, how you use them, and how they use you. The best networkers, who consistently perform well and thrive at work, focus on and balance six critical kinds of connections. Connections that will support and challenge them regarding the things they want at work (and in life).
Quality not quantity
These types of relationships will help you with gaining influence, broadening your expertise, learning new skills and finding purpose and balance. On average, the best networkers have 12-18 strong core connections in their network. This challenges conventional wisdom as we tend to think the bigger the network the better.
Your network is made up of people you are connected to in a positive way, who will help you and vice-versa. It is people like former colleagues, present colleagues, friends and family. Few people have actually made an analysis of their personal network and how well it fits with their professional goals. But the process is straightforward.
Make a list of your core connections (12-18). Place them in a circle split into six critical areas of connections, who: 1) gives access to new information or expertise; 2) has informal and formal power; 3) gives development feedback; 4) gives personal support; 5) adds a sense of purpose; and 6) promotes a work-life balance.
Then ask yourself: how does my network match the three most important business results I hope to achieve in the coming year? See if the connections cover your needs. If not, make some adjustments.
At Djøf, we frequently conduct and facilitate this type of personal network analysis. We have learned that the network overview gives a unique insight: you see patterns and holes in your network you were not aware of. Most people also discover important gaps between their present connections and the connections needed to achieve their most important business results.
After the analysis you know how strong your network is and probably also what to do to make it even stronger. Try it – you may be in for a surprise.
Christian is a leadership and network consultant at Djøf, the Danish Association of Lawyers and Economists. He is a blogger and moderates workshops and network groups for managers and executives. He is interested in ‘network management’ and how connectivity and knowledge-sharing can enhance job satisfaction, performance and innovation in businesses and public administration.