Getting the Right Network Circle for You

In the second part of her series with us, Alisa Grafton expands more on the importance of networking for lawyers.

This month, she discusses how developing the right network circle involves learning more about yourself first to ensure you have the people that better complement your skills and attributes.

No man is an island, and no lawyer can cultivate a successful career by being known only to a limited number of his or her colleagues and primary clients.

James Altucher, an American hedge fund manager, entrepreneur, author and podcaster, who had interviewed dozens of the world’s prominent leaders, has spoken of one quality that his interviewees had in common: “Nobody succeeds with just a great idea. Everyone succeeded because they built networks within networks of connections, friends, colleagues … all striving toward their own personal goal, all trusting each other, and working together to help each other succeed. This is what happens only over time.”

To start out as a networker, it is essential to learn more about yourself.

Building a network of trusted and liked individuals around you may not seem like an obvious and essential goal for a lawyer. One’s network seems to grow naturally over the years, although there is rarely a cohesion and an intention present in such haphazardly acquired collection of contacts. Indeed, as time passes, those who you see most regular become your network, and by definition such network is limited. It is limited in reach and limited in value, and does not lend itself well to being a space for developing your personal brand.

However, if developing a personal brand as a lawyer, as a professional and as a specialist is on one’s agenda, creating an actionable audience is an essential step to becoming the go-to and top-of-mind preference for clients and colleagues alike.

To start out as a networker, it is essential to learn more about yourself. Erica Dhawan, an expert on collaboration and the author of Get Big Things Done: The Power of Connectional Intelligence, suggest that in addition to knowing whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, it is also helpful to realise how you prefer connecting with people. Are you a “Thinker” (very curious, ideas person who however may not excel at execution), an “Enabler” (thrive on introducing people to one another and sharing ideas with them), or a “Connection executor” (the one who makes things happen by taking other people’s ideas and putting them into reality)?  When establishing your network, it is crucial to look for people who compliment your skill set in order to achieve balance in your circle of connections. As inspiring as it is to have 10 “Thinkers” in your professional circle, it reduces the likelihood of an idea or a project actually taking off!

Some of the most successful professionals that I know are not necessarily the ones who keenly promote themselves, but the ones whose mindset is to connect others.

On the path of self-discovery to build yourself up as a star networker, one of the most crucial steps is to build on one’s emotional intelligence skills. This is as much to do with recognising our own feelings and managing emotions, as it is with developing empathy for another’s point of view. In networking, this is the skill that would allow you to see beyond the standard answers to typical questions, and would encourage building deeper and stronger relationships based on meaningful connection.

That meaningful connection is indeed based on the ability to know yourself and on paying attention to your audience, but also – and not in a small measure – on one’s readiness to remain curious and be generous. Here we mean generosity of ideas, of sharing your expert knowledge and the ability to stay open to connecting people whenever you feel they benefit from such connection.

Some of the most successful professionals that I know are not necessarily the ones who keenly promote themselves, but the ones whose mindset is to connect others. By building the new connections within your existing network, you set yourself up as the one who knows others worth knowing – and this is a powerful position to be in, and to be known for.  This is a stamp of approval for one’s personal brand.

Harness the power and the spread of your network, and it will become a fertile soil for growing your brand as a lawyer.

Scott Gerber and Ryan Paugh, the authors of SUPERCONNECTOR: STOP NETWORKING AND START BUILDING BUSINESS RELATIONSHIPS THAT MATTER say quite simply, “People notice the company you keep. For better or for worse, whom we surround ourselves with is a reflection of who we are”.

This is an important warning against the tendency to build haphazard networking. It is also an inspiration for being selective on being professionally associated with the people who share your professional purpose. As the saying goes, your network is your net worth.  Harness the power and the spread of your network, and it will become a fertile soil for growing your brand as a lawyer.

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