Why The Right Relationships Matter
February 5, 2014
We all have relationships, it’s a natural part of life. The question is, do we have the right relationships? By “right” relationships I’m talking about the ones that add real value to your life. One of the rules of human existence is having to interact with others to get by. Whether on-line or in-person, the people in your network are the ones who influence your attitudes, beliefs, experiences, and ultimately the opportunities that will shape your future. The right opportunities come from being around the right people at the right time. It’s up to you to determine who those right people are and make the time to get in front of them.
A quick look at your LinkedIn InMap can tell you quite a bit about the state of your network and whether you really do have the right relationships. If, like most of us, your map is dominated by a really large blob akin to a ball of yarn, you likely don’t have enough of those “right” relationships.
This is a phenomenon academics refer to as network homophily. In other words you are connected to too many like-minded people who all know each other. In essence, you’ve created a virtual echo chamber where beliefs and attitudes have likely become stagnant limiting your access to new and unique opportunities
If you don’t believe me, ask yourself the following questions:
- Are most of my contacts connected to each other?
- Are the majority of my connections with people in my industry, profession, and everyday life?
- Do I spend most of my time communicating within my immediate network?
If your answer is ‘yes’ to any of these questions, you may not have enough of those “right” relationships. Consider the following:
Open New Doors: The greatest hurdle to building a high quality meaningful network is our natural tendency to be drawn to those who are similar to us. Just take a look around. Whether it’s your industry, job, or socioeconomic status, you likely spend most of your time hanging around and communicating with people far more similar to you than different. However comforting this may feel, being around like-minded people rarely leads to new ideas or opportunities. When everyone in your network has roughly the same information, the power of that network becomes greatly diminished.
The first step in getting past this innate hurdle is to seek out new doors to open. Finding those right relationships begins with opening your mind to opportunities you may not have previously considered. One way to start opening doors is to change up your routine so as to expose yourself to people who are genuinely different from you, even if it’s within your own company. Over the next week, challenge yourself to sit with someone different at the cafeteria, reach out to some of your “weak ties” (those you are connected to, but reside outside of your main InMap blob), or strike-up a conversation with someone on the train. Some of my most interesting friends and opportunities have come from chatting up strangers while working at Starbucks!
Kick Some Doors Down: Once you’ve opened your mind and your network, it’s time to start focusing on making those meaningful connections with the right people. In other words, go find the people who are doing what you want to do and immerse yourself in their world. Whether you want to transfer departments, change jobs, or land that promotion, you need to get on the radar of those who matter. These are the decision makers who can help catapult you to new heights. Don’t be afraid to seek out and crash the conferences, LinkedIn Groups, or Meetups these folks frequent. Again, start by hitting up those weak ties in your network who are connected to the industry influencers you need to meet. Ask them what circles they run in, the trade publications they follow, and professional associations they belong to. It’s all about becoming a player in their game. When I made my first foray into media, I spent a lot of time figuring out ways to penetrate those InMap echo chamber blobs full of TV producers and it started with LinkedIn Groups!
Relationships do matter, but we all have a limited amount of time, so focus on building new relationships in those areas that matter most. Creating and nurturing the right relationships can go a long way in opening doors and in some cases, pointing you towards those doors you need to kick down.
Michael “Dr. Woody” Woodward, PhD, is an organizational psychologist, media personality, and author of The YOU Plan.