3 Ways World-Class Connectors Build a Community
A strong network is key to success.
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Every career-minded person knows that success doesn't depend on what you know, but who you know. The people you surround yourself with hold a profound impact on your quality of life and career. According to research by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, everything from the likelihood of obesity and divorce to voting habits and happiness can spread from person to person through our networks, much like the common cold. Therefore, surrounding yourself with the right people is key to success in your career and life, but how do you curate the right community?
What separates the world's greatest connectors from that annoying person who hands you their business card before you know their name? Scott Gerber and Ryan Paugh, co-founders of The Community Company and authors of the book Superconnector: Stop Networking and Start Building Business Relationships that Matter, have spent the past decade researching what it takes to form meaningful relationships that contribute to a person's overall success and happiness.
With the latest release of their book, Gerber and Paugh point to three practices that can help anyone reshape their personal and business relationships.
1. Pyramid of influence.
Most people think that they should reach out to the person at the top of the organizational pyramid -- a CEO, founder or C-level executive. Most of the time, that is the wrong person. Also, the chances of connecting with someone at that level are slim if the one reaching out isn't in a similar position. It's even more so if there is no connection to that individual's inner circle. Instead of going for the top of the pyramid, view it as a series of steps or a ladder. If you want to reach the top, you need to connect with some people below there and work your way up.
Early in his career, Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone, wanted to meet Hillary Clinton. Instead of waiting in line for a handshake and a few seconds of unremarkable interaction, he met and built a relationship with her executive assistant. After a multiyear process of connecting with people within Clinton's circle and establishing himself as a helpful ally, he got an invite to the White House and forged a more meaningful relationship with her in the process. The goal wasn't to meet her, but to put himself in the right circles.
Before reaching out, do your research. Find out which department and person you need to contact first. The top person may not be the right contact for what you want to accomplish, and often, you'll need to establish relationships beforehand.
Related: The New Way to Network
2. Power of association.
When you have people around you that trust you enough to connect you with others, your credibility is strengthened. It's what's known as the power of association. Superconnector Jayson Gaignard was once destitute and looking for the next big thing when he decided to invest in his relationships and started MastermindTalks, an invite-only event that brings together entrepreneurs. To get prestigious members of the entrepreneur community to come, he said, "I'm going to buy books for you to be my speakers at the Mastermind."
The tactic worked, because he got Tim Ferriss' attention, buying 4,000 of his books. Even though he was nearly broke at the time, he connected with Ferriss and now has his credibility through the power of association. The idea is that when you bring powerful people together and become part of their circle, you could elevate to the same level. The associations that you have with other people become part of your brand and reputation.
3. Art of selectivity.
According to the art of selectivity, you are the average of the five people you surround yourself with most often. Superconnectors can and should be selective about who is part of their community. Instead of casting a wide net and meeting as many people as you can, it is more important to cultivate one or two meaningful relationships that are going to add value. It could include industry influencers or journalists, but figure out what is important to you and your community. Choosing your connections wisely will attract a highly targeted group of people that align with those interests.
You also want to have diversity. It's great to have those friends who share your interests, but the ones who challenge you or make you see a different perspective are more likely to help you grow and learn.
To have a community as strong as that of a superconnector, you need to have a deep understanding of your brand, reputation and goals. Those that you are associated with will be a reflection of who you are and a driving force for what you want.