How To Be A Power Connector

How To Be A Power Connector

We all fall prey to doing important things mechanically or with zero zest. In the business world, networking might be one of the most tragic casualties of that: You’re at a big convention, trying to relax and enjoy a canapé during a break between speakers … and the last thing in your priority list as a human being is having a conversation with someone you don’t know, breaking the ice with a shy remark about the weather and then casually promoting what you do.

But how important is networking, actually? According to various studies, including one by LinkedIn, the vast majority of people get jobs through referrals, turning a face to face into a life-changing opportunity that they wouldn’t otherwise have. What’s more, a National Bureau of Economic Research survey revealed that businesses that engage in networking sell the most.

Despite its obvious advantages, I’m sure most of us don’t actively love it or see it as a necessary evil separate from our daily lives. And not everyone is born to sell or steal the spotlight. But networking doesn’t have to be a willful act against nature or something to just “get out of the way.” In fact, it can be fun and inspiring, and even act as an ordering principle that leads to healthier relationships and a more meaningful life.

There’s a book I think highlights the importance of networking and social psychology in a beautiful way: How to Be a Power Connector by Judy Robinett. It made an impact on me both personally and professionally, and I was surprised to discover how much it aligned with my beliefs as a CEO. A quote from the book that keeps resonating is: “If you want to achieve any goal, you need other people to help you achieve it; and your chances of success are greater if you can help others achieve their own successes.”

There you have a game changer for many people: It’s not about you, it’s about others. About making their lives a little better and providing an experience. I’ve heard something similar told to musicians dealing with stage fright—ego out of the way! You’re there to elevate the music. I do the following when I have to speak publicly or navigate the floor of a big event: I concentrate on what I can do for the other person. I ask questions and make them feel like I care. Because I do.

When we help others do well, it feeds back to us and has a positive impact even beyond the people involved. I tell this to entrepreneurs starting out: Seeing other people thrive is the kind of energy that best fuels networking. On the flip side, it’s the old-fashioned us-versus-them mentality, or a desperate need to stand out, that won’t let you enjoy the process or might even short-circuit a potentially course-altering interaction.

Networking is so fundamental that doing it well leads to investment opportunities, partnerships, innovation, industry insights, better practices and learning about emerging trends. In the tech space in particular, where talent is borrowed and companies form networks of associations, it serves to extend a business’s capabilities. That’s why one of my primary responsibilities as an entrepreneur in tech is building strategic alliances. However, I try to employ a holistic approach, one that reaches outside office walls.

It centers around the concept that your contacts are your “human net worth”—just as a company’s value increases by building financial, intellectual and human capital, we grow our personal and professional value by fostering and cultivating relationships. Managing one’s network in a meaningful, mindful way is instrumental in leveraging its potential. The book suggests the 5+50+100 rule for that, which applies the following tier system to a person’s relationships:

1. The Top 5: Individuals with whom you have daily contact, primarily family and loved ones.

2. The Key 50: Significant relationships that bring substantial value to your personal and professional life.

3. The Vital 100: People with whom you maintain contact at least once a month.

This allows you to see imbalances or needs, such as contacts that you engage with regularly but are somewhat superfluous, as well as those that might be beneficial to nurture more often. Remember that you don’t have to wait for events to meet up for coffee or jump into a casual 15-minute Zoom. You can always create your own “networking opportunities.”

Your network is like a garden, and the better you take care of it, the healthier it will be. At the center of it all is the idea of community—becoming a better person, a more dedicated parent, a more successful yet socially aware entrepreneur, a greater citizen and how these send a shockwave to the rest of the world. Through relationships!

I make sure my employees frequently take part in industry events as well as social impact initiatives. But I don’t just send them off—I go with them, and we empower each other through the shared experience. The idea is to create moments where human growth correlates with professional development (ideally having fun in the process). Being a “power connector” is about living those moments to the fullest.

Federico, CEO of SpaceDev and a Forbes Technology Council member, curates articles spanning technology, management, corporate culture, growth, and beyond. Explore our blog for additional Forbes content or continue browsing our website to deepen your insights!

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