Think of the person who could help you most to get a new job, a freelance contract or a promotion.
Let’s call this person a connector, someone who makes acquaintanceship deliver results.
“They have a level of credibility and trust in and from their network,” write Tillis Lederman in her book The Connector’s Advantage.
“When they ask for something or make an introduction, it carries weight and people respond.”
Now imagine that person asking you at a business event “what do you need and how can I help you?”.
While you’re working on your answer, let’s just remind ourselves as to why making such connections is worthwhile.
What’s the story?
“If you go back to the agricultural age, the greatest asset was land, in the industrial age, the machine, in the information age, data and technology,” says Tillis Lederman.
“But now we are in the network age and our greatest assets are our relationships.”
Tillis Lederman’s evidence is forensic as would be expected of an alumni of Columbia Business School who worked as an accountant for Arthur Andersen & Co, formerly one of the Big Five accounting firms, and as a consultant for Deloitte.
According to a survey by author Lou Adler, 85% of all jobs are filled via networking.
“You can’t get a new job unless you hear about the opportunity.”
A study by Leanin.Org and McKinsey showed that men are 30% more likely than women to be promoted because they network better with senior management.
Tillis Lederman also cites Harvey Deutschendorf, an emotional intelligence expert.
“People would rather do business with a person they like and trust rather than someone they don’t, even if that person is offering a better product at a lower price.”
A spectrum of connectors
A survey by Tillis Lederman, who left her consultancy to be an adjunct professor at New York University and course leader at the American Management Association, showed that four-fifths of the population self-identify as a connector.
There’s an awful lot of people out there who are going to help you.
The second thing is to realise that your experience might not amount to much now but there’s a whole spectrum of skills out there.
At one end are the global super connectors whose networks stretch across geography, industries, demographics and job titles.
Next along come the niche connectors whose network is limited to a specific geographic area, industry or job.
Further along are the responsive connectors who willingly answer requests but are unlikely to offer up much without being asked.
And, at the opposite end of the spectrum are the emerging connectors who don’t yet embody all the elements and the mindsets.
“There are very few who are non-connectors. If you were not to believe in connection, you would be a hermit.”
But even they can move from non-connector to emerging, argues Tillis Lederman.
“The results showed that in the spectrum of connectors to non-connectors, anyone could act on it. Nurture can override nature and anyone can be a Connector.”
What you should do
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How should you think and act before answering?
Be absolutely clear as to what your vision is – not what you want today but where you want to be in three or five years’ time.
“You have to know where you are going to get there,” says Tillis Lederman.
Craft your request into a “non-ask” – tell the contact what you are doing then ask if the person has any ideas how you might get there. People love to be asked their opinion.
Fashion your request into the “opt-out ask” – making it easy enough so if the person has to say no there is no uncomfortableness.
We’d all like to think we fit that bill. Tillis Lederman, who has already published several books including The 11 Laws of Likability, reminds the reader of the importance of authenticity, self-image, curiosity, giving, energy and listening.
But being nice is not enough. You also need to be open and accepting.
“When you’re connecting, you’re not thinking about what you are going to gain or how you can leverage a relationship to your own advantage.”
Following Tillis Lederman’s masterclass – she is, after all, a trainer in leadership and team building as well as being an author – have you worked out what your answers will be when one of a connector next offers you help?