by Carissa Abazia
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying: “It’s not what you know, but who you know.” I am a firm believer in this philosophy, as it has only served me well along my journey as a entrepreneur and business woman.
All humans have basic needs. Relationships, like food and water, are another “need.” Whether we agree with Maslow’s famous Hierarchy of Needs or not, virtually all of our opportunities for career advancement and impact are defined by the strength of our network.
In business, behind every company there are people, and people function in society via relationships. Therefore, a business is only as good as the relationships within the organization. So, if you want to succeed, do we simply build and maintain good relationships to get where we want to go? I think so.
Our network is akin to our muscular system. It must be exercised, nourished and nurtured. By maximizing the strength of our network, we can transform our level of impact, realize new personal and professional advancement opportunities, and achieve the highest career levels imaginable.
As someone who enjoys networking, here are three steps that I’ve found very effective in maximizing the strength of my networking.
Your Internal Network is the Most Important One
Again, you are only as good as your team. It is vital to provide a nurturing and positive work environment for employees, whether they are in an office or working remotely. The people in your internal network can define your happiness at work and help or hinder how efficiently you produce results for your clients. Like the five love languages, find out the language that each teammate responds to best whether that’s gift giving, words of affirmation, or quality time.
Additionally, conduct daily or weekly check-ins, provide learning opportunities, involve them in decision making and make sure they are appreciated when they do a good job. This is basic, but it is surprising how many companies do not consider this a priority and have high turnover rates because of it. It is a low-cost, high-impact investment that can produce unimaginable returns for your business.
(Shout-out to everyone at Summit Funding and most importantly to Kris and Otto for all of their support!)
Connecting the Dots
John Smith, meet Jane Doe. Jane Doe, meet John Smith.
When we look at our network, look for opportunities to draw associations and connections between different industries, different interests, and different areas of expertise. Being an effective networker means connecting the dots and recognizing how detrimental insularity can be to building a stronger network. Of course it’s easier to interact only with your direct connections who you know well, but connecting ‘outside of the box’ is where the true magic happens. Research by Babson College’s Robert Cross has revealed that people who bridge subgroups are significantly more likely to be in the top 20% of their organizations, as measured by performance reviews. They also tend to be promoted more readily, boast greater mobility in their career, and are more effective at adapting to changing environments.
Analytics. ROI. Unique Viewers. We measure many things but rarely do we measure the strength of our network. Most of us don’t know, or appreciate, how much value we derive from each member of our network.
It’s impossible to maintain strong connections to every person in our network. Notable psychologist Robin Dunbar of Oxford University emphasized decades ago that the human brain is only able to maintain about 150 relationships – known as “Dunbar’s List.” By understanding how valuable each member of our network is, we can determine where we should invest our efforts in strengthening relationships.
So how can we can measure the strength of our network? Are all connections equally valuable?
The 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, is attributed to the Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto. Applying it to the business world, the 80/20 rule suggests that 80% of company sales come from 20% of customers. If you were to ask me, I would say that between 5% and 10% of the people in my network account for between 20% to 35% of growth — the collaborations that generate sales and key connections, or other forms of value.
Take a second to think about that. By focusing only on no more than 5% of your network connection—those that offer the most value—you can capitalize on up to 35% of value and sales. The key is to know which of your connections offer the most value. Map out your network, take notes, and start to track the variables important to you. As the old saying goes: “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”
Lastly, and most importantly, be cautious of those whom will ask and take, but never give back – I call these people ‘network vampires.’
We spend hours flexing our physical muscles each day. We spend hours listening to podcasts, reading the news, and enrolling in learning opportunities to flex our cognitive muscles. But we don’t devote the same level of care to one of our most critical muscle groups—our network. The leaders of tomorrow will devote the time and attention required to maximize the strength of their network. When it comes to career success, I’ve learned that few things are more important or impactful.
I will end with a relevant quote by Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Thanks for reading!