She’s a 73 year old chain-smoking cat lady with frizzy blonde hair. You’ve never heard of her. And she runs the world from her big empty house in the North Side of Chicago.
Her name is Lois Weisberg. You may remember her from Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point (and Weisberg has since passed away), in which he describes her as connected “15 to 20 worlds” ranging from lawyers, railroad buffs, actors, politicians, musicians and financiers.
Weisberg networked, “without being a networker” and engineered political, cultural and social movements from her modest Chicago home.
What I love about Weisberg’s story is that it shatters so many myths about the best networkers, also known as superconnectors.
You don’t need to be rich, charming, extroverted or part of the old boys’ network.
You can be kind, generous, helpful and sincere without engaging in the transactional tit-for-tat thinking.
And what emerges is both quite simple and spectacularly powerful.
A tribe of like-minded and kind-hearted people each trying to impact their little (and sometimes large) slice of the world. Heck, it shouldn’t even be called networking. It should be called friends looking out for one another.
When you support others, luck magically finds you. Recruiting becomes easier. Deals and private investments get shown to you first. Clients just seem to land on your doorstep, uninvited. (And you may just get assigned the Oprah for Millennials moniker ?.)
If becoming a superconnector is more about nurture than nature, how does one go about supercharging their most important relationships?
1. Superconnectors have a system
One of the key insights behind the founding of LinkedIn is the strength of weak ties. In 1973, the sociologist Mark Granovetter found that when a random sample of professionals found a new job, 82% of them found it through a contact that they only saw occasionally or rarely.
It turns out that their neighbors, BFFs and colleagues were too similar and thus only had access to the same opportunities. Superconnectors engineer serendipity by tending to their weak ties.
2. The follow-up methodically
Super agent to the stars Ari Emmanuel (who inspired the similarly named character in HBO’S Entourage) is known for making 300 short phone calls a day to his clients and prospects to check in. The call is short and sweet usually with the same three questions:
“Can I help? All good? You need anything?”
In James Clear’s Atomic Habits, he details the “Paperclip Strategy” that helped a young stockbroker become the top-performing salesperson in 18 months. Yes, it’s exactly what you think it is:
“Every morning I would start with 120 paper clips in one jar and I would keep dialing the phone until I had moved them all to the second jar.”
Superconnectors show up. They do the work.
3. They lead with generosity
In Give and Take (affiliate), Adam Grant, a management Professor at UPenn argues that being a “giver” pays off in the long-term across many industries: “The greatest untapped source of motivation, he argues, is a sense of service to others; focusing on the contribution of our work to other people’s lives has the potential to make us more productive than thinking about helping ourselves.”
And in the same vein as Clippy above, Grant found that in sales “successful givers produced 50% more annual revenue, on average, than colleagues who focused less on helping others.”
4. They connect-the-dots
In his book Setting the Table (affiliate), restauranteur and Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer describes his ABCD strategy – Always Be Collecting Dots. He adds, “the more frequently you can make meaningful connections that can make other people feel good [will] give you an edge in business.”
But first, you’ve to collect the dots:
“If I don’t know that someone works, say, for a magazine whose managing editor I happen to know, I’ve lost a chance to make a meaningful connection that could enhance our relationship with the guest and the guest’s relationship with us. The information is there. You just have to choose to look.”
Finally, there’s one last step that ties to Grant’s giver mindset and Emmanuel’s methodical follow-up. “Take ten minutes a day to make three gestures that exceed expectations and take a special interest in our guests,” recommends Meyer. “That translates into 1,000 such gestures every year and for any business owner, that can add up to a lot of repeat business.”
So now the fun begins… How can we apply these concepts to our everyday lives:
Step 1: Have a repository for the information
Now, please keep the Pareto Principle (i.e. the 80/20 rule) in mind as you do this. The goal is not to create a bazillion fields and tags, simply because you can. I tried to pick some high-leverage fields like birthdays (which guarantee 1x year outreach) and limited the “Interests” column to five.
Step 2: Create “light structure” around your communications
David Rockefeller reportedly had a custom-designed Rolodex that stood 5-feet high containing the contact information for 100,000 people. Here’s Nelson Mandela’s card.
Thankfully, we can ditch the note cards, but there’s power in constraints. Below, you’ll create a tiny template to log the relevant conversations.
Step 3: Use some “AI” to make the information more dynamic
And by AI, I mean algebra ?
The template uses some date manipulation, primarily to resurface communications that have gone stale. Like Weisberg, this lets you be methodical in reaching out to the folks that move the needle.
Step 4: Resurface and sit back
I recently read the term Resurfacing as a Service. Though written as a joke, it borrows from one of the key principles of GTD: The Review. This is one of the key ways you ensure that the “Important, but Not Urgent” don’t fall through the cracks or get snoozed on.
My core philosophy centers around making these decisions and reminders effortless. These actions should find you and not vice-versa. So here, we put them together into your People HQ Dashboard.
Watch the entire demo on YouTube: