People ask me quite often how I can keep up relationships with so many people as my in-person and virtual network grows.
The short answer is: I can’t.
It would be pretty impossible to keep track of 22,000 people on Twitter, or what is now hundreds of students and clients.
I do, however, get great joy from knowing a lot of people. Here are my tips for maximizing the joy in your connections:
10 Ways to Strengthen Connections with Your Network:
- Know your wing span.
I often quote Malcolm Gladwell and The Tipping Point when it comes to his theory of Mavens, Connectors and Salesmen. Connectors, if you remember, LOVE to connect people, and often have very large networks. I am a big Connector, so every time I meet someone new, I think “Cool! Someone else who can be a resource to my community!” If you are not a Connector, you may need to define the maximum size network that feels comfortable for you. The concept of 1,000 true fans is now mainstream — for you, it could be 100.
- Change your expectations.
If you expect that you will remember to write personal birthday cards to every single person in your network, you will be massively stressed out. The nature of social networks is that they are loose, open and instantaneous. Instead of thinking “I must keep tabs on every single thing each person is doing,” you can think “I will make sure to really pay attention to the people who come across me today.” You do not have to have deep, long conversations with everyone every week in order to consider them a friend and advocate.
- Choose your inner circle.|
I have a very small circle of people whom I call very often, or in the case of my best friend Desiree, every day. I make it a priority to stay very connected with their lives, and rely on them to help me with challenges in my own. I call my parents every week. Being thoughtful about who is in this very small circle means I have more energy to reach out and connect with a lot more people from a more grounded perspective.
- Love the one you’re with.
When you have the opportunity to meet someone at a live event, give them your full attention. Plant your feet. Look them in the eyes. Listen to what they are saying. Recently, at the World Domination Summit in Portland, I was in a room with more than 500 people who were all interesting. I wanted to talk with all of them. But since that was not possible, I made sure to really connect with each person I talked to, even if it was for two minutes in the hallway.
- Sprinkle in random check-ins.
I love to jump on a quick skype chat and surprise someone, or pop by a new blog or start up a conversation on Twitter with someone I don’t know well. These are often brief conversations, but they form a strong connection for a few minutes, and often bridge into feeling comfortable with that person when you meet him or her in real life. I also love scanning through my phone contact list and doing random “Hello I miss you” calls when I have a few extra minutes.
- Set expectations for communication.
I send a note to everyone who joins my newsletter asking for their biggest question when starting a business. I use this to gather data about blog posts to write or classes to create. In that note, I say “I may not be able to answer each question individually, but I do host a free call the first Wednesday of the month which you are welcome to join.” Many sign up for the calls, and not only get their questions answered, but hear useful information from others. On my blog, I do not set the expectation that I will respond to every comment, because that would not work with the limited hours I have available to work. I do set the expectation that I will read, and enjoy every one. Expectations give everyone room to breathe.
- Put priority on current clients.
I got a gift of a serious email from a client who felt like I was not checking in enough with what she was up to. Do you know what? She was right. Listening to what she needed from me reminded me that it is a privilege to work 1:1 with people, and I should make adjustments in my work flow to make sure I follow the work of my clients more closely than that of my broader network. I am very appreciative of her feedback, it affected the way I structure the relationship with my clients.
- Use technology.
You can create groups on Twitter (of clients, of friends, of favorite thinkers) so you can have a small and focused window into key segments of your network. If you scan the stream of these special groups, you can respond, Retweet and encourage in an organized manner. You can also set reminders in your calendar at different times of the month to email current clients, or to stop by the blogs of your favorite folks. Knowing that you have a block of time to check up on key networks will stop you from feeling pressured to do so every day.
- Connect people with each other.
Desiree reminded me recently that my main purpose on earth is to create community. I don’t want to create a situation where everyone is lined up trying to talk with me, I want them to talk with each other. So think about the best dinner party host you know — what do they do? They invite great people to the party. They serve great food. They make the environment open and inviting. They introduce people to each other. Then they slip into the kitchen to make more hors d’oeuvres so that everyone can start talking. In our Lift Off community, Charlie, Angela and I are watching the three alumni groups form extra tight bonds, and coach each other on a daily basis, to amazing results. This is the best possible outcome we could hope for.
- Get Meta.
I love meditations and prayers where I visualize sending love to all of the people and creatures on Earth. Feeling the pulse of collective humanity reminds me that we are always connected by virtue of sharing the same planet. We do not have to talk with each person on Earth to know that — we can feel it.
I hope this helps you to feel less overwhelmed and more joyful about your connections. Remember — trust your instinct. If it feels like too many connections, cut back!