Building a community of people who are smarter or more connected than you is one of the most powerful things you can do to fast-track your own influence. But how do you find the right people? How do you approach them? How do you keep it professional and yet real enough to make a difference?
According to Janine Garner – Founder of CEO of the LBDGroup one of the fastest growing women’s business networks in the country – the key is surrounding yourself with the right network of people. A group that will propel your thinking, kick your butt, wipe your tears and willingly connect you to others as you grow.
We caught up shortly after the release of her book, It’s Who You Know: How a Network of 12 Key People Can Fast-track Your Success. This is a topic where I certainly have lots of room for improvement. So here are the top pieces of advice that I personally took from our conversation, to help you get laser focused on building the right inner circle:
TAILOR YOUR APPROACH
There’s an expectation that in order to be successful in business, you need to be an extrovert. But despite the assumption that being seen and heard is the only way to make an impact, the truth is that both extroverts and introverts can build high value networks – and the key to unlocking this is to be respectful of everyone’s style, including your own.
One of the first sales roles I ever had required that I attend a certain number of networking events per week collecting business cards. A style of network building that never really worked for me. Being an introvert doesn’t mean you can’t make connections, however it does mean approaching new contacts in way that works for your style. I found my flow instead by focusing on where I had shared contacts to make an introduction.
FIND YOUR CORE FOUR
A few years into my business journey I was lucky enough to get an ex-venture capitalist onto my A-team. He was someone with little time and less patience, who would look at the playing fields we faced and say: “There’s a landmine over there, avoid it, otherwise stop whining and move on.” He was, by Janine’s definition, a ‘butt-kicker’ – one of the four key types of people you need in your network.
Loosely based around the personality archetype work of psychologist Carl Jung, promoters(who inspire you to dream big), teachers (who expand your knowledge base), pit crew(who nurture you) and butt-kickers (who push you and hold you accountable) make up the crucial quartet for success. Once you’ve identified individuals in each of these categories, they are the people you need to get out there and stalk.
STALK WITH INTENT
When it comes to making contact with a potential connection, there’s nothing wrong with feeling like a stalker. Persistence is essential if you’re going to stand out – the trick is to stalk with clear respect and intent. Studies show that people are more inclined to help you when they feel uniquely skilled to do so, so make it clear why you are contacting them as opposed to anyone else.
Janine suggests that before getting in touch with someone you want on your team, think about why you are reaching out and go in with a specific request. For example: “I admire how you’ve built your business and would love to know your top three tips for tapping into international markets”. The more specific the initial reach out, the more likely someone will make the time to respond.
Pursuing a potential connection makes us vulnerable on two levels – firstly, in the asking, and secondly, in the divulging of yourself and discussing the roadblocks you’re up against. However, contrary to what you might think, getting real fast is often what it takes to build a real connection – what Janine calls an “unspoken form of leadership”.
This doesn’t mean you jump straight into a list of all your faults and failures – instead it means demonstrating an awareness of your strengths, but equally your weaknesses – warts and all. A busy person will rarely take the time to contribute to our journey, if we’re not willing to get real. Equally someone you admire may also not be the right person for your network, if they’re not prepared to open up and give you the same.
Approaching people, especially those we admire, can be daunting. But believe me there is a definite ceiling to what we can do on our own. When I look back, the main turning points in my own business life have all arrived when someone with a larger influence or network than mine jumped in and offered their support. Those big leaps, the breakthroughs, the rare opportunities – almost always come when someone else steps up for you, offers a hand – and has your back.
Julie Masters is a globally recognised expert in influence, authority and thought leadership. She is the CEO and Founder of Influence Nation and Founder of ODE Management – responsible for launching and managing the careers of some of the worlds most respected thought leaders. Julie is also the host of the soon to be launched weekly podcast Inside Influence. An exploration of what it takes to find and own your voice – and then use it to drive a conversation, an idea, an industry or a Nation. To subscribe check out iTunes, Spotify or juliemasters.com.