For example, we need people who can offer information or expertise; or those who are influential and can provide political insights; or folks who will give us candid feedback to help us grow.
In How Many Networks Do You Have, I recommended developing three distinct ones – your work network, your wisdom network and your “out of the box” network. Now, I’m suggesting you examine your relationships within each of these networks.
Conducting a Relationship Audit
Evaluating the importance of people may seem cold and impersonal. Yet, I would say most of us do it intuitively. The hard truth is we can’t be everywhere at once. We can’t be all things to all people. Our time and energy are scarce resources so we need to allocate them wisely. Here’s how you do that.
Step 1: Categorize your network
Look at the people in your current work network and place them into one of three buckets:
This is a strategy for relationships that are critical for getting your job done. These could be the folks you rely on (your staff-co-workers–your boss) whose support you must have; or it could be problematic relationships that are so vital you need to give them special attention; or relationships with people on whom can be influential in getting you to the next level.
This is a strategy for relationships that are fine and don’t need special attention or effort at this time. This doesn’t mean they’re unimportant, just that they’re clicking along and you don’t have to invest additional resources in them now.
This is a strategy for relationships that aren’t critical or important. You may spend less time, less energy or fewer resources. Warning: Be careful. It’s usually better to adopt the hold strategy then to burn bridges. Burning bridges can be appropriate, howeve,r in cases where there may be legal, ethical or dangerous consequences.
Step 2: Identify critical gaps
Once you have identified your critical relationships, then check if there are strategic relationships that don’t exist, but ought to, or ones that you need to pay more attention to so that they don’t die on the vine.
- Does your list appear a little sparse for specific kind of relationships? (Internal – up down, sideways) or (external – recruiters, customers, suppliers, professional colleagues?
- Do you have relationships with other functions, department, teams or groups important to you? For example, can they provide key information, money or political support and how can you be of help to them?
Step 3: Power up your network
After identifying critical gaps, develop a plan to build and strengthen relationships with key people who can contribute to your success. The plan should include specific people and what you know about them (their interests, their needs, groups they belong to); how you will network with them (schedule a meeting, lunch invite, upcoming conference); what results you want to achieve (build trust, find out specific information, catch up). Remember, it’s not just focusing on what you can get from them; rather what you can give to each of these strategic relationships.