By Dorie Clark, a strategy consultant and professional speaker who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business
Anyone who’s read Malcolm Gladwell’s seminal book, The Tipping Point, has wondered about connectors – how can you get more of them into your life, or even become one, yourself?
In her new book, How to Be a Power Connector, angel investor Judy Robinett shows the path. “A power connector is someone who can make things happen quickly for themselves and others,” she says. “They are often the go-to person. Their network is rich and robust with critical resources – money, information, connections, opportunities – that, when accessed, can help others achieve their personal and professional dreams.”
The first step in becoming a power connector is focusing on a limited number of key relationships. “Gazillions of Facebook friends, LinkedIn connections, and Twitter followers aren’t the ones who will have your back and your future,” she says. “People are drowning in information and contacts that offer little value. Quality not quantity.”
She suggests that you should spend a disproportionate amount of time on your top 50 relationships. “You only have limited time and need to be careful with the social capital you’ve created,” she says. “By limiting yourself to your key 50 you’ll have the time to maintain and deepen these relationships. Many networking functions are a waste of time. Make sure you’re in the right room. If you’re the smartest person in the room, find a new room.”
Next, make it a point to give to others first. “You must date before you hop into bed with an ask,” says Robinett. “Your goal is to get a second meeting, build a relationship. People hate the word ‘networking’ because it conveys a transaction which often leaves people feeling used and abused.” Instead, really listen to the other person and look for opportunities to help them. She particularly suggests finding others already in your network that you can connect them to, who will mutually benefit from the association. “Try doing this once a week and watch the magic begin,” she says.
You’ll also want to ask the right questions. Robinett always tries to ask what she calls her “two golden questions” that yield new insights: What other ideas do you have for me? And who else should I talk with? Those questions help you break out of your own circle in networking and often obtain introductions to new, interesting people.
Finally, she advises embracing synchronicity. “Position yourself so more luck happens,” she says. “Little actions like talking to strangers significantly increases this. While brushing my teeth in the Ronald Reagan airport in D.C., I commented to a woman next to me how beautiful her raincoat was. We quickly learned we had both traveled to town to give speeches and when she told me her topic, I asked if I might reach out to her.” That exchange has led to a powerful professional connection.
Overall, says Robinett, “Nothing happens without people.” Networking and becoming a power connector is “somewhat like playing 3-D chess. Given we have A and B but not C and D, how do we get to E? You have to be scrappy and resourceful.”
What steps are you taking to become a power connector?
Dorie Clark is a strategy consultant and professional speaker who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.