It’s important for us to recognize, assess and nurture key business relationships. Why? Because getting what you want with others’ help is way easier than going at things alone! Allow me to help you map out a strategy.
But first, let’s back up and make sure you believe that you are an important person who knows important people.
How do I know that’s the case? Because you were plucked from a large pool as the very best person to perform your job function. If the pool was a small one, it makes you all the more invaluable! The important people you know? Those include the person who hired you, the individual to whom they’re accountable, people who have seen your name on great work, anyone who taught you the skills you have today, bosses you’ve impressed in the past, and friends from school who have earned coveted roles. They’re all surely influential people in your profession to some extent, and they’re in your direct network.
Think of it as a solar system – in the elementary school sense – in which you’re the sun at the centre. Go on, actually draw it! Put several increasingly bigger rings surrounding you to indicate the orbit of planets around the sun. (Fortunately this has nothing to do with the actual order of the planets, because I only remember that Pluto is last…and that’s not even a planet anymore. Go figure.)
Now you’re ready to plot on those orbit lines “planets” that are those closer and farther from the sun, indicating various people in your professional network. Those closer to the centre are your strongest relationships: individuals you could call up any day and it wouldn’t be too awkward. More distant relationships are farther from the sun; contacts that might require a catch-up e-mail with an update on your life or perhaps a reminder of who you are. Surely, there are a whole bunch in between.
Your solar system will always be evolving. For example, when assigned to work more directly with a senior leader in your organization for a few months, she would naturally move from an outer ring to an inner one as you build rapport.
What you do with this visual reminder is up to you. I would suggest that first, you look at it and feel great about the power of relationship at your fingertips. Then, consider your immediate goals. Want a promotion? More insight on career options or working arrangements? Mentorship? Target which people are the “important” people in that particular context and reach out to ask for advice, guidance or support from the people who know you. Pull some of those planets in closer to the sun.
“Good idea!” say some of you. And off you go to pick up the phone. For the rest, I know it’s a panic-inducing suggestion, to whom I offer this advice from the movie We Bought a Zoo:
“You know, sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage, just literally 20 seconds of embarrassing bravery, and I promise you something great will come of it.”
And you’re hardly buying a zoo here. You’re just manipulating your universe! 😉