A Structured Approach to Building a Relationship Network
Step 1: Establish the purpose of building a network of relationships
“I am a new member of this organization and I want to establish contacts across the company to help me understand the culture and the politics.”
“I want to build relationships inside of my organization that will position me as a strong candidate for VP of Sales when my boss moves on in two years time.”
“I want to build an external network of relationships that will help me to become better known in my profession and so that I am aware of potential career opportunites both inside and outside of my company.”
Step 2: Identify key people who can support you in achieving your goals
In relation to your purpose:
- Make a list of your current connections and relationships who might be able to provide guidance and support to achieve your goal? Think about and write down how you can continue to nurture these relationships (see chapter 6 for ideas).
- Make a list of people known to you, but with whom you don’t have an existing relationship who might be able to help you achieve your goal (inside and outside of your organization).
- List any people you know who are connectors or centers of influence who might be able to introduce you to others?
- Identify any pivotal contacts (thought leaders, rising stars, movers and shakers, decision-makers).
Step 3: Be thoughtful about each potential key contact
Think about the specific purpose/intent with each person. Don’t assume that you can take the same approach with each key contact. Really think about why you are contacting this person, what you would like to talk about and how they might be able to help you.
Think about how can you really get to know this person and find ways to be an asset to them. Don’t worry too much if you can’t come up with ways you can support them, this is likely to materialize when you meet with them and get to know them better.
Step 4: Think about how you can be an asset to others
- What do you have to offer others generally?
- What can you do for each person specifically?
- How can you make this a relationship of equals (and not be needy)?
- What do people need to know about your goals and you?
- What do you need to know about them in order to be of value to them?
Step 5: Think about how to present yourself?
- What is the best way to initially make contact? E.g. Through an intermediary; telephone or e-mail them directly; or approach them in person?
- Ensure that you look the part. How formal/informal do you need to dress for each individual?
- What is your leadership brand/what do you want to be known for? How do you talk about this? How do you behave in alignment with your values?
- Can you succinctly talk about your experience, goals, and aspirations?
- How do you listen and explore to build stronger relationships with others?
If you have given sufficient thought to all of the above, you are now ready to make your relationship building/networking meetings of value to both you and your key contacts. Good luck!