‘Connect, create meaning, make a difference, matter, be missed’
– Seth Godin
There is something quite magical about meeting or knowing a ‘connector’. Those unique people who always seem to know how to help, or if they can’t, know someone who can and who quickly and freely put you in touch with them. More often than not they are the ones that make you feel at ease almost immediately, seem to understand situations even before you describe them and ooze warmth, energy and genuine interest in everything!
Somehow they seem to be able to make things happen quickly. Whilst they don’t profess to know everything, often they know how to make almost anything happen. They are able to tap into well-known networks to help expedite information flow, gain access to resources and help with the expansion of ideas and opportunities. As collaborators they bring not just ideas to the table and new ways of working but also other people. Connectors build bridges between ideas and actions by knowing who to ask to help get things done.
Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point and who coined the term ‘Connectors’ describes them as ‘those handful of people with a truly extraordinary knack of making friends and acquaintances. They are able to span many different worlds, subcultures and niches’. Traits common to connectors are energy, insatiable curiosity and a willingness to take chances – as well as an absolute insistence that connecting is not the same as what many refer to as networking. Where as networking is often viewed as a means to an end, connecting is driven by a genuine interest in people and purposeful engagement to better support and assist others.
As our world becomes more interconnected and our businesses move to flatter more matrixed structures our ability to not just connect but facilitate connection is critical to our success. We are expected to take more active, collaborative roles in all that we do. Adam Grant, Wharton Business leader and author of Give and Take explores how our success has become increasingly dependent on the interactions we have with others rather than on the individual drivers of success such as commitment, hard work and passion. Rather it is our ability to actively and purposefully engage with new people or reconnect with what he terms ‘dormant ties’ that will most likely be the source of new ideas, ways of thinking and new networks that will contribute to our success. In essence the ROI on becoming a connector is much higher.
I would encourage you to consider the following 5 tips to help you become a connector:
Quality Connections Not Quantity:
Focus your energy and efforts on building a limited number of quality relationships rather than just a million social followers. To be able to purposefully connect with others in a way that offers real value, you need to engage: get to know them, what they do, how they like to operate and what their thoughts and ideas are.
Manage Your Time:
Given that we all have only a limited amount of time we need to ensure that we are investing it in the right way. Spend time with your top relationships and stakeholders – maintaining and deepening them. Take off the transactional networker hat and put on your ‘connector’ hat.
Ask lots of questions. Great connectors know the value of quality questions. They recognise the power of asking the right ones to unlock new ideas, build rapport, offer new perspectives and introduce new networks.
As a connector you are often well positioned to give first, which removes what is so often a genuine fear with networking: appearing disingenuous or being considered a ‘taker’. As a connector, who has invested both time and efforts in building quality relationships, your ability to share knowledge, ideas and connections with genuine purpose and value is greatly enhanced. Subsequently so too is their own personal influence.
Connectors are willing to step out of their comfort zone and reach out to people they don’t know. All too often we miss opportunities because we go to the same type of events, sit with the same people at meetings and have the same old conversations. Or worse still we bury ourselves in our phones and laptops so as to avoid the uncomfortable feeling of having to step out and start a conversation with someone we don’t know. Stepping out brings ideas, opportunities and new networks.
We all know that people are the conduit to success – or failure. How we build and leverage our connections, ultimately determines our ability to influence successfully. Influence our careers, influence our teams and influence our results. What can you do today to build your power as a connector?
Margot Andersen is a global careers and talent mobility expert. As the owner and founder of talent insight Australia and Insync Network Group, she is passionate about seeing individuals confidently owning their careers; and organisations building and leveraging the capability of their people as they move in and around the business and globe.