With an upper limit of 150 people in your network, selecting the right 150 people is key. That’s why power connectors are cordial to everyone while seeking to create a network that will make the biggest difference to their business. Three characteristics set a power connector’s network apart. First, it is wide. It reaches beyond a particular industry or community to include individuals from eight key ecosystems—webs of professional and personal connections, linked by common interests, shared knowledge, and access to opportunities unavailable to outsiders. In addition to the personal ecosystems of friends and family, interests and hobbies, and your career or profession, other key ecosystems include your industry, community, politics, finance, and media. How wide is your current circle of connections, and how many ecosystems does it contain? Networking succeeds best when you’re looking for help in all the right places.
Second, a power connector’s network is deep, with multiple contacts in each ecosystem at different levels of experience and expertise. Say you wished to persuade a local company to use you as a supplier. If you knew five or more of the company’s C-level executives from your community connections, do you think it would be easier to arrange a meeting with the company president? The real secret to a truly deep network, however, is to connect with key players in an ecosystem. The key players know each other, meet with each other, and do deals with each other. The places where those key players meet are the “rooms” you want to reach, and one of the best ways to do so is in places that have nothing to do with business. For example, early in my career I worked for the Idaho Office of Aging, but I volunteered for the finance committee of the local United Way. There I met several top executives from the biggest companies in the area—people I would never have had access to otherwise. Charities, community functions, industry conferences, and social settings are great places to get into the same rooms with key players.
Third, a power connector’s network is robust—the people in it are happy to help you and to help others with whom you put them in touch. How quickly do the people in your network respond when you put out a request? If you ask them to reach out to someone (qualifying that person first, of course—you always make sure a referral is appropriate), will they do so simply because you asked? A robust network is created when you add consistent, appropriate value to its members. Value comes in many forms—information, key contacts, favors, and introductions—and is determined by the needs of the situation and the individual. Providing consistent value creates the strong, long-term connections you want in your network.