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Often the best clients and employees/contractors come from referrals.  And business owners get the best ideas and advice from other business owners.  But networking is often a time consuming and frustrating process.  What organizations do you try out? Where do you spend your time?

A few weeks ago, I attended a fascinating presentation by Sally Colella.  Sally has been working with leaders, teams and organizations for years, helping them be more effective.  In her work, Sally learned of quantitative research on personal networks over the past 15 years, led by Rob Cross of the University of Virginia McIntire School of Commerce.  Rob had analyzed the networks of more than 300 organizations through a survey tool and analytical software and by asking key questions to reveal the informal networks that exist in organizations.

Sally presented a simple tool for analyzing your current networks and purposely determining where and with whom you should spend your time. 

Steps to create your Purpose-Built Network:

  1. Goal setting. What is the one goal where you would like to make progress in the next six months?  The goal can be anything from expanding your client base, learning a new skill, changing your website or a personal goal related to home, fitness, or wherever you are seeking to make a change. Think about something that really matters to you. 
     
  2. Analyze your current network.  For each of the following areas, note those people who support you, where you get energy.  Also, note those people who tend to block you, where your energy is diminished or distracted:
     
    1. Innovate – Spark new ideas and seeing problems from new angles
    2. Execute – Helps you get things done.
    3. Support – Attracts political support and resources.
    4. Learn and Adapt – Develop new skills to reach your goal.
    5. Thrive – Physical and mental health; Sense of purpose.

Purpose-built Network

  1. Plan.  Note in your calendar meetings with those people in the first column.  Expand by either adding new people or renewing/deepening existing relationships.  Opt out of meetings with those in the second group.  Cut down on time you are spending with specific people or groups, or social media sites. 
     
  2. Evaluate.  At the end of six weeks, look at your progress toward your stated goal and the people that helped you get there.  Reflect and restart at step one with a new goal.

The beauty of this grid is that it encompasses both your personal and professional life.  By being purposeful in your networking, you can attain better balance and focus on your priorities.