It Really Is Who You Know … And Who They Know

Who You KnowQuick!

If I say “networking,” what comes to mind? If you’re like most people, you’re probably thinking job search or business development. You may also be feeling some of the internal resistance that surfaces at the prospect of meeting new people and building new relationships. But I bet the last thing you’re thinking about is how cultivating a broader network builds value for you and benefits the people you serve.

Why do I say this?

In a post on business lessons from CrossFit, I made the point that, “Your success can only be as great as your community.  So, foster meaningful relationships and mutual support.” I think that’s very solid advice, and believe we all need to have a core community – or communities – with people who support, nurture, and sustain us over time. Yet, I had a recent insight about the power of networks. It’s this: The broader your network, coupled with your ability to navigate it, the more valuable you become. [Tweet this]  

Your Talent Takes You Only So Far

How did I come to this insight? Well, certainly some recent reading pointed me in this direction. Yet, there’s nothing that sparks a flash of insight quite like first hand experience. So, let me tell you a little story.

During a recent conversation with a prospective career strategy client, I was asking about where she wanted to take her career. As soon as she mentioned her primary goal, I had an “ah ha” moment. It occurred to me that one of the ways I could help her was to introduce her to members of my own high technology network. Seemed to me that some of these folks could help her evaluate her skills with respect to relevant opportunities.

Of course, there’s nothing earth shattering here. Actually, making LinkedIn introductions is a pretty common strategy for helping people connect with individuals who can point them to opportunities. What is significant, however, was my insight that, besides my coaching skills, my network made me even more valuable to this person.

How significant is this?  Turns out it’s pretty significant.

In a recent Forbes article, Rafael Aparicio discussed branding your friendship. He said:

 “Ah, the power of friendship: people sharing valuable knowledge and know-how just for the sake of friendship. That friend might just have helped you close a deal, and not only was he pleased to help you, he doesn’t expect much in return other than a beer or two – after all – ‘that’s what friends are for’.”

He goes on to discuss how formalizing friendships under a branded banner can augment one’s own brand. [Tweet this]   Think you might enhance demand for your services if you become known as someone who can tap into a wide knowledge network? You bet you could.

 Building Social Capital

In reality, though we tend to ground ourselves in one familiar network, that network is tied to others.  As Michael Simmons points out, in another Forbes article, being able to broker information between networks is game changing. It’s a way to build and tap into social capital to extract powerful benefits, and is backed up by research:

“The study shows that half of the predicted differences in career success within a line of work (i.e., — promotion, compensation, industry recognition) can be explained by the extent to which a person is a network broker (i.e. connecting different clusters). No other factor was more important in predicting career success!”

In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell refers to brokers as connectors. Acting as a kind of network hub, they are the kinds of people who have a knack for making friends and acquaintances – often from diverse walks of life. Yes, they do have some innate qualities, such as “curiosity, self-confidence, sociability, and energy.” As well, as Michael Simmons points out, they don’t rely on the safety of one group to preserve a level of comfort. They transcend it.

Raise Your Game

I know it’s easy to think, “Not me. I don’t have those qualities, and it would definitely make me uncomfortable.” Well, maintaining your feeling of safety inside a small social circle may work for you. Still, it’s worth considering that, more than ever, success (and happiness) requires becoming comfortable being uncomfortable. [Tweet this]  

Sure, you may bring unique talents and attributes to serving your clients. Still, imagine how valuable you become when you can tap a broad network to bring your clients know-how you don’t have. Like Breaking Bad’s Saul Goodman, you can do more for the people you serve if you have the kind of network that let’s you say:

“Let’s just say I know a guy… who knows a guy… who knows another guy.” [Tweet this]  


What are you doing to build a network that enhances your value to your clients? I’d love to know. Just leave a comment.


  1. says

    Fabulous post, Walter. You are the master of connecting the dots from many sources to bring a crystal clear message to your audience! For years, I’ve known that my network adds value to what I can offer clients, but have never been able to articulate it the way you have. This is one of the advantages of being a “boundary crosser.”

    I love your line, ” Your success can only be as great as your community.” I am experiencing something else: The more that I step out of my comfort zone to show up, the deeper the connection I have with my community. (In this context, my community consists of the people who “get” me.) This strikes me as paradoxical, given your comment above from Michael Simmons on not relying on the “safety of one group to preserve a level of comfort”, but rather “transcending it.”

    How can this be? While the need to belong is primal for human beings, the most powerful belonging is found within yourself–when you bring that sense of belonging to wherever you go. Not easy to do, but definitely worth working on!

    Thanks for triggering new insights, Walter.

    • says

      Wow, Carol! Thanks for your great feedback on this post … and thanks to for referring me to the Michael Simmons article in the first place. Actually, I’d been planning to blog on the Rafael Aparicio piece – but you provided me with a great new dot to connect! I’m really happy the message is so clear!

      Yes! Being a boundary crosser is huge advantage. You have long been a visionary on the special gifts of these rare people. Now, it seems we can all learn from them. In fact, I’d say you’ve advanced the conversation to a new and powerful insight!

      I think you’re absolutely right that we all need to carry our own internal sense of belonging. And I do think there is a correlation between stepping out, and then feeling even more connected with the people who “get” us! In part, I think this may be a mix of self-knowledge (we know our value to others) and confidence (knowing we have he ability to make connections and forge new relationships).

      Even more, I think it means having the perspective and perceptiveness to see the patterns of connection among diverse groups of people. It’s kind of like connecting the dots too, isn’t it?!
      As I see it, this is something not only worth working on, but may be more achievable than many people would think!

      Thanks for your insight, Carol!

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