I structure the relationships that make up my network with the following five categories: Core, Connectors, Community, Fans (or friendly), and Fringe. Here’s a quick rundown of what these groups are and how to nurture your relationships with each one…
Let’s start with the most important category for our well being given the fragmented state of our social lives, Core Relationships. As mentioned in a previous episode this season, Keith Ferrazzi, best selling author of Never Eat Alone, and Who’s Got Your Back, who references a study where 1,000 people were asked only one question: Who has your back? Surprisingly, 55% of people felt like no one had their back. Even more surprising was that 60% of those people were married.
It doesn’t matter how many friends you can count, it matters how many friends you can count on. We all need to feel like we have a small handful of people who have your back if things really hit the fan. This could be a mix of family and really close friends, or simply a family that you’ve chosen for yourself. Core relationships are individuals that would never let you go hungry… Who would never let you sleep on the street. People who you would go to war for, and who would do the same for you in return.
The tricky thing about core relationships is that they are probably the least focused on, and yet the most important. With our busy lives, it’s easy to take them for granted. You always want to be nurturing these key relationships, because you never fully understand the value of them until you truly need it. And one of the best ways to do this (like any priority in your life) is to put it in your calendar. Schedule the time. I’ve just started to do this myself, as I’ve been guilty of letting these relationships slip by the wayside in the past. So every quarter I schedule time with my core group whether it be something as simple as a lunch, or as big as planning out a full day together.
The next relationship group are the The Connectors. By now you’ve heard me preach over and over again that access is the ultimate asset. And one of the greatest ways to get a disproportionate level of access is through connectors.
Sometimes the best way to find out who the connectors are in your life, is to connect dots looking backwards. It’s not uncommon to trace back the bulk of your best relationships to events or key individuals.
A dollar can be made up of 100 pennies, and it can also be made up by 4 quarters. It’s much easier to nurture 4 relationships than it is 100. Again, the best way to nurture relationships is to have fewer relationships to nurture. Going deep with Connectors is the 80/20 principle of relationship nurturing. The 20% effort that brings in 80% of results.
After the core and connector groups, there is your Community. For me, this group is around 100, however there’s flexibility in this as mentioned before depending on much much time you’re willing to invest in nurturing your relationships, but your Community is ultimately your Tribe. Your good friends.
+ = – I strive to invest a third of my time with +’s, people who are one or two steps ahead of me – because as mentioned earlier, leveraging our deep need for belonging is one of the best ways to push yourself to grow. I strive to invest a third of my time with peers – because we all have a deep desire to feel understood, and I strive to invest the final third of my time with -’s, folks whom I can mentor, and ultimately share what I learned the hard way – because it’s incredibly rewarding to be able to guide or advise someone, and it also makes you grateful for how far you’ve come.
My investment in my community is constant. I’m always trying to do my best to stay up to date with their projects and support them anyway I can. I try to touch base with friends in person at least once annually, and with many other micro interactions throughout the year.
The 4th category of relationships is your Fans. This is a group of loosely associated connections with whom you are friendly and familiar but somewhat distant from in relation to your core and your community. With this group, I always focus on planting a relationship seed. Seeding these connections leaves them open to nurture at any time.
Now, I want to challenge the idea that the goal is to build a big fan base, because that’s simply not the case. When it comes to fans, it’s quality over quantity. A great example would be Kickstarter campaigns which are essentially the hub of interactions between creators and their true fans. Now on the surface it may seem like a bad example because when you think of Kickstarter you think of some of the home run campaigns like exploding kittens with 219,382 backers, or the pebble watch with 68,929 backers, or the coolest cooler with 62,642 backers.
When people ask “Why do you host so many dinners”, it’s quite simply because it’s the highest leverage thing I do to invest in my network. It plants seeds at scale. It builds a fan base. Not fans in the traditional sense of putting you on a pedestal, but fans in the sense that all in all they want to help you succeed. Fans who sing your praises when you’re not in the room.
I always preach that it’s not always about who you know, it’s about who knows you. So always be investing in activities that help you build your personal brand, reach, and ultimately your fringe network. I’ve made mention of Steve Job’s quote that you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you need to simply trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. Even with my small following, I’m amazed at the amount of times that I’ve posted an ask to social media, and have had someone come through for me with a resource, connection, or introduction.
Access is the ultimate asset, so be sure to always build your fringe network.
If you’re just beginning to invest in relationships, you’ll want to start by focusing on your core group of people. Don’t try to tackle all five of the groups I’m outlining in this framework at once. Core relationships are the foundation to everything else. So if you’re early on in the relationship building process, focus on your core relationships first.
That ladies and gentlemen, is in my opinion the gold standard of relationship structure. Think in terms of your core, your connectors, your community, your fans, and your fringe network. When it comes to nurturing, it goes without saying that your top priority should be to keep in close and constant contact with that core, leverage the power of one to many by engaging with connectors on a regular basis, be sure to commit to your community by reaching out to them at least once a quarter and scheduling out face to face time with them at least once a year, keep on top of those micro connections with fans as often as you’re able but at least once every 24 months, and don’t forget (and never underestimate) the power of that fringe network.