Your Circle of 90: Building Your Strategic and Operational Networks

Adventuress
Your Circle Of 90: A System For Strategic Networking

This week, my cohort of C level and partner level women met for the monthly SheSuite roundtable.

One of the challenges posed: “How do I get more strategic about my networking?” In New York, we could go to an event every single night. But it can get exhausting, and not always produce the results we are looking for. 

In this post, I outline 7 steps I have taken to building and following up with a network. It’s called the “Circle of 90” and is a culmination of learnings from different coaches and experts I’ve trained with or interviewed over the years.

Step 1: Get clarity on your goal and who you are looking for. 

Someone once shared a wonderful allegory related to this: If I tell you to “Please pick up my cousin at the airport,” you may say ‘yes,’ but I’ll be darned if you are successful.

There just isn’t enough detail.

If I tell you “My cousin is coming in on a Delta flight at 2:30pm EDT. Please pick her up,” you have more handles for success, but its still not enough. I haven’t even told you the airport.  If I say, “Please be at JFK tomorrow by 12:30pm as my cousin is on an inbound flight from Detroit, Delta flight number 1978, arriving at Terminal E at 12:00pm, ” you have enough detail to successfully locate her and pick her up. 

Networking is the same way. If you don’t have clarity on the goal around which you are networking, and what you hope to achieve, its hard to get to your goal. Plus you’re just tired.

Step 2. Build an operational network. Build a strategic network. 

Judy Robinett, in her book “How to Be a Power Connector: The 5+50+100 Rule for Turning Your Business Network into Profits,” discusses the concept of operational and strategic networks. One is a a daily play. One is a long term play.

  • Operational Networks

  • are the networks that you engage with on a daily basis. These include colleagues, suppliers, customers, and generally people who are involved in the day-to-day operations of your business or professional life. Robinett suggests that these networks are crucial for the efficient running of current business operations. They help in problem-solving, provide support for immediate tasks, and facilitate smooth business processes.

  • Strategic Networks

  • are more about the future. These networks include people who can help you reach your long-term goals, whether that’s growing your business, entering new markets, or achieving personal career milestones. Strategic networks are comprised of mentors, industry leaders, potential investors, or anyone who can provide you with the insight, resources, and connections necessary to drive major leaps forward in your professional life or business.

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Step 3: Learn to ask

This is hard for women, but with a little practice, it becomes easier.  Start with your existing network, and say ‘this is what I am looking to do, who should I talk to?’

My friend Jane is attending the polo tournament tomorrow in Greenwich as a member of the press. It sounded like great networking.

I asked if I could tag along. 

Step 4: Create a system for deciding who to add to your network.

To help you decide when you meet someone new, networking book author Judy Robinett suggests to ask:

  1. Where did they come from?
  2. Do our values match?
  3. Can I provide them with value now or in the future, and vice versa
 

Step 5: Create a system for tracking your network.

You can do this two ways

Create the “Sphere of 90 ” with three main categories,  30 contacts in each:

  1. Personal Connections: These are individuals who you know on a personal level, such as friends, family, and close colleagues. These connections are often the most trusted and can provide support, advice, and opportunities in various aspects of your life.

  2. Operational Connections: This group consists of people who you interact with in your day-to-day professional activities. They might include coworkers, clients, suppliers, or others who are directly related to your current projects and professional endeavors. Operational connections are crucial for the smooth running of your current business operations.

  3. Strategic Connections: These are forward-looking connections that can help you achieve your future goals. They might include mentors, industry leaders, potential investors, or others who can offer guidance, insight, and access to resources that are aligned with your long-term objectives.

I prefer to keep track of these folks on my LinkedIn by adding their posts to a curated feed. Go to

Network>>Connections>>Search with filters>>Posts>>From Member

See Loom video walking you through it

  • Top 30:  I put the ‘bell notification’ on these profiles in LinkedIn I plan to comment on each day. These are profiles where interesting conversations are already underway. I’m adding value by commenting as well.
  • Operational 30: Friends and associates whom you know you can call upon for help and advice. They will answer your calls straight away. You know you can count on them. I am connected this network via Slack, but I’m a regular gifter to the biggest assets on my team.
  • Strategic 30: I definitely turn on the ‘bell notification’ to comment and like posts from this contingent. There should be a variety of locations, professions, life contexts etc in this group. Otherwise, keep in touch with these people once a month at least, even if it’s a tweet, a text or a phone call.

 

OR Create an excel for following up with your network

I learned this from a Mastermind hosted by Julia Pimsleur. Keep an excel document with the person’s name, the date last followed up, what was sent.

I read pretty regularly. As I find interesting articles, quotes and nuggets, I file them in my ‘second brain’ for easy retrieval and distribution to this network. That second brain is my Notion.so.

  • I use Tweetdeck to program in topics that are of interest to me.
  • For example, I talk about storytelling and AI. I set up columns for both subjects.
  • I subscribe to interesting newsletters.
  • I get digests of interesting articles sent to me via Pocket.com.
  • I listen. Susan just told me she is going to Istanbul in August as well before she goes to Palermo. I am going to one and have already visited the other. I’m networking with her (online) by sharing blog posts on what I’m looking forward to seeing in Turkey.

 

Social media makes it easy to:

  • Follow up by commenting with value on people’s posts. 
  • I turn on the “bell notification” on a person’s LinkedIn to get an alert each time they post.
  • If someone likes my post, I DM them, asking what in particular resonated for them.
  • Many times, I will repost someone’s post with my own thoughts.
 
Send a newsletter. You decide the cadence. I love telling folks weekly what I have been up to, both personally and professionally. And tips on storytelling and AI.
 
Create a ‘loud list.’ I learned this from a 23 year old I worked with at the Rockefeller Foundation while producing documentaries for them. Once a quarter, send a group message to people you worked with and still work with to let them know what’s been going on with you. What laurels have you gotten in the last while. Ask them to hit ‘reply’ and share what’s going on with them. When he moved on from jobs, he shared the new email address where he could be contacted. I thought this ‘loud list’ idea was genius. I call mine “What I did last week, and what I look forward to.”
 
Become a center of influence. I heard Diane Von Furstenberg speak in person a few times. The first thing she does every morning is “Connect two people in her network.” She’s at a place where she can, but the truth is, everyone benefits if you follow this methodology.

Create events. Yao Huang hated networking. She started hosting Wonder Women dinners to invite people she wanted to network with to a predetermined destination. Today, as an investor and board member, she hosts these dinners all over the world.

Invite people to things you are already going to. I love going to the ballet, the chamber orchestra, the opera, galleries, and wine education classes.  I sign up by myself, and always invite people I would love to network with to them. Its a fun, light way to deepen a relationship without the heavy lift of going to a Chamber of Commerce event.

 

Step 6: Create thought leadership.

Learn to tell your story in an elegant way. Connect the dots between your former life and what you are doing now. Create a steady drumbeat of thought leadership, making it easier for your Sphere of 90 to network with you.
 

 

 

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