Newsletter #442 – The Best Kind of Networking

According to an old adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Maybe that’s overly simplistic but there is value in having a network of people who can offer information or expertise, give support and encouragement, or connect us to influential individuals or groups able to provide mentoring and resources. It isn’t true that larger networks are better, according to data presented in a Harvard Business Review article (July-August 2011) titled “A Smarter Way to Network.” More important than the size of one’s network is the composition of the group and the benefits that each person provides. A network can include your friends but each person in your network should serve a unique purpose in providing expertise or connections. How, then do we build a better network? Building on the HBR research:

  • Analyze. List the people in your current network. Who among them are energizers – people who encourage you and see new possibilities? Who are the de-energizers, those who are critical, inflexible, inclined to drain you.
  • Classify your relationships into the benefits that each person provides for you. Most common benefits are the receipt of information, political support and influence, personal development, support and energy, a sense of worth, and help with work/life balance.
  • De-layer. Back away from relationships that sap your energy or that bring little of unique value. In which of the six categories do you have too many people? Trim your current list.
  • Diversity. Once you have trimmed your network, bring in the right people to round out your six categories. Get people of diversified backgrounds, expertise, experiences and cultures. Write down your goals for the next year. Then list people who could help you succeed. Keep the new network at about 12-18 people.
  • Capitalize. “Make sure you’re using your contacts as effectively as you can.” Find ways that you can give back to your network contacts.

Is this network building manipulative, insensitive or self-serving? Not if you build relationships characterized by mutual respect, sharing and trust. This can be beneficial to everyone, better than a loose collection of friends that may not contribute much. What do you think? Try this formula. Please comment.


  1. This reminds me of something I learned in Boy Scouts ages ago.

    This we called (Use your resources.)which they were talking about the people you were with and those you had in your circle.

    I have been doing this for many years now very good advice in this article, good reminder.


  2. I had not given this any kind of serious thought. I just figured the more the better. Thanks for the post. I am going to print this one out as a worksheet to get me started on growing a network that makes sense.


    1. Here is a quotation from the article: “”network size doesn’t usually matter. In fact, we’ve found that individuals who simpmly know a lot of people are less likely to achieve standout performance because they’re spread too thin….”

      I have been giving a lot of thought to this and applying it to myself.

      Mike, I have thought a lot about this article and have been applying it to myself. In addition to the six groups mentioned in HBR, I think I need people in my network who expand my awareness. I need to connect with:

      · A spiritual leader
      · A Christian leader (that may be different from the above)
      · A psychologist leader (somebody respected in my field)
      · A writer leader
      · A publisher/publishing leader
      · A cultural leader (people who consistently open my eyes to the culture, especially the “next-generation” cultures)
      · A global leader
      · A communication leader (as in speaking and presenting – I can only learn so much from reading about Steve Jobs).

      I have almost nobody to fill these slots. I have a ton of nice people who are acquaintances and good friends but they are not really candidates for my network group.

      Now, what will I do to fill these slots. When we identify people how do we connect with them?

      What do you think?


  3. I am wondering how you might extend these principles to online social networking like LinkedIn or Twitter. I often add people to my LinkedIn network that I have only interacted with online through a LI group or LI Q&A. Sometimes I have direct interaction with them again and sometimes I don’t. Twitter is even more removed in that people can just follow you without much connection unless you choose to limit that through your account settings.


    1. Robb, this is a great question. I wish I had a great answer. Right now I have a guy who is knowledgeable about “social media marketing and is teaching me the basics.” It seems that social networks like LilnkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter are fine for chatting with friends. I am told that these are good places to let others know what you are doing and to read about what they are doing. But in the end they don’t help much with building and utilizing the more powerful networks that HBR describes.


  4. The article has practical wisdom, but it is important not to forget that our networks are also a stewardship of relationships which means we must also be thinking of how we can serve each person or contact . . .


    1. I completely agree. The article I summarized in this newsletter makes that point as well. Networking must not be a one-way street; it exists for mutual benefit.

      Phil, it was a nice surprise seeing you in the restaurant over the weekend.


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