Capturing the value of authentic, mutually beneficial relationships.
Relationships matter to your career no matter the organization or your level of seniority because, ultimately, every job boils down to interacting with people. People control resources, opportunities, information, and the like. And the people you spend time with shape the person you are today and the person you aspire to be tomorrow. Think of it as IWe. An individual’s power is raised exponentially with the help of a team (a network).
There are people you know in a personal context. There are people you know in a professional context. Generally, you keep the two lives separate for reasons of both etiquette and potential conflicts of loyalties. However, sometimes you’re personal friends with a professional colleague; in these instances, the context in which you engage the person shapes the right approach.
We wrote about two types of professional relationships:
Allies. Allies are people you consult regularly for advice. You trust their judgment. Second, you proactively collaborate on opportunities together. You keep your antenna especially attuned to an ally’s interests, and when it makes sense to pursue something jointly, you do so. Third, you talk up an ally to other friends. You promote his or her brand. When an ally comes into conflict, you defend him, and stand up for his reputation. And he does the same for you when times get tough.
Weaker ties and acquaintances. While not as vital as allies, acquaintances usually introduce diversity to your network. They tend to hail from different social circles or industries and so they can be useful to find opportunities or intelligence outside your inner circle.
While there’s a limit to the number of people you can ever know at one time, you are part of a broader network of friends of friends and friends of friends and friends—second and third degree connections—for which there is virtually no limit. Your network is bigger than you think. If you’re connected to a couple hundred people on LinkedIn, you’re actually at the center of an extended network more than two million people strong. If you’re not asking for or giving introductions to these second or third degree connections, you are not fully leveraging your network.
Finally, remember that these relationships are like any living thing: if they’re not getting stronger, they’re getting weaker. Strengthen relationships by sending articles, making introductions, collaborating on projects, and staying in touch.
Understand the value of authentic, mutually beneficial relationships to one’s career.
Recognize the difference between relationships in a personal context and professional context.
Learn the two types of professional relationships: allies and weaker ties.
Recognize the importance of second- and third-degree connections.
Understand how to strengthen relationships with give-and-take.
Add topic questions to discuss during class and take notes in the Notes column.
Add a topic
Think about some of your happiest memories. Were you alone? Or were you surrounded by friends or family? Think about some of your most adventurous, stimulating experiences. Were you alone, or with others?
Do you have a good friend that is also a professional ally? How does that relationship differ from your weaker ties and acquaintances?
What are the differences between relationships in a personal context versus professional context? How do you interact with people on LinkedIn versus Facebook?
Do you know anyone who’s a classic networker?
Why would a person bother to introduce a total stranger (even if that stranger is a friend of a friend of a friend) to another total stranger?
How do you actually reach second- or third-degree connections?
Who are some of the people in the world who are making the biggest change in the world right now? Who do they have around them?
Have you ever been helped by someone who didn’t know what you needed help with?
What are the two best ways to strengthen a relationship?
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The Marshmallow Challenge. Divide the class into teams. In eighteen minutes, teams must build the tallest free-standing structure out of 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of tape, one yard of string, and one marshmallow. The marshmallow must be on top.
Unhelpful Help. Pair up students and have them attempt to give each other advice on a specified topic without asking any questions.
Personal Network Map. Students will map out their personal networks from memory.
LinkedIn Profile. Students will create a professional profile on LinkedIn. Add a full bio that articulates their competitive advantage; add skills; join relevant groups.
Influencer Audit. Students will review their calendars for the past six months and identify the five people they spend the most time with. Have them reflect on whether they are happy with the influence those five people have on them.
Be a Connector. Divide the class into pairs and have them introduce each other to a new person — preferably a person who would be hard for their partner to access otherwise. The students should think about a challenge they are dealing with and ask for an introduction to someone who could help, jumpstarting the process by offering a small gift (such as a relevant article) to the person whom they want to meet.
Proactive Relationships. Ask your students to imagine getting laid off today. Who are the 20 people they would email with an update and solicit their advice on what to do next? Have them reach out to those individuals now to stay-in-touch while they don’t need anything specifically.
Strengthen a Weak Tie. Students will pick one person in their network who is a weaker tie but with whom they might like to have a stronger alliance. They should commit to trying to help him or her proactively by giving small gifts. These can be anything from sending them an interesting article to helping them prepare for a presentation to forwarding a job posting.
Interesting People Fund. Have students create an “interesting people fund” to which they automatically funnel a certain percentage of their income. They will use it to pay for coffees, lunches, and the occasional plane ticket to meet new people and shore up existing relationships.