A friend once asked me ‘how did I manage my personal friendships?’ She asked this as I have a large group of friends who I like to stay in touch with. I pondered the question and realised I unconsciously split my friendships into different groups and then circles. I have always played sport so I mentally split friends into gym, sailing, skiing, hockey. Then there is work – Bass, Diageo, Associate, Clients and School of Facilitation. Finally, we have School, University and Family. Once split down like this I find it manageable to think why do I want to stay in contact and how can I do this authentically and easily? Within each group I have close friends, family members, confidents, work colleagues or associates – they are in the inner circle and I talk, text, email, what’s app, like or tweet them weekly. The next circle out represents clients, friends or people I am doing something with soon, whether that is work or play.
As we move towards the outer circle I realised I have friends and clients all over the world. These are people I don’t see regularly yet when we do connect we have a ball, catch up and the friendship returns to where it was when we were in regular contact. I have caught up with these friends when I work abroad. And finally, I have contacts on the outer fringe, those I have met on my adventures, previous clients, delegates or colleagues from a past life. People who it’s good to hear from every now and then and who one day may come back into my space for a reason. This is all very well and good but how can you use this thinking with all your business contacts and even your own friends? Stop and think about how you currently manage your network of family, friends and colleagues. Do you have some unsaid rules that you manage your network by? Draw out your own circles, grid, list so you can see who is where within your business world and think about how you connect with them and the reasons why. You need a valid reason to connect with someone you haven’t spoken to for a while. Know what you would like to achieve from connecting with this person. Linked-in is a great tool for re-establishing relationships. Personalise the invite, ask a question, suggest a coffee or share some information
When travelling abroad connect with people a month in advance and say you will be in town. People will tell you if they are free
Be positive and bold with your communication. State politely why you are emailing and what you are seeking. Don’t beat about the bush
Be prepared to put the effort in. Maintaining friendships and business contacts takes time and energy.
Use your time wisely. If you travel by train, plane, taxi or bus these are perfect opportunities to write a message and stay in touch.
There is no right or wrong to how you manage your network or whether it is large or small. It needs to be right for you personally or your business. This week asked me whether quality of connection is better than quantity of connections – that is another conversation me thinks………