It’s not who you know, it’s who they know!

I wanted to write a blog on a subject I’m incredibly passionate about, the power of connection. Human beings are wired for it and now we have evidence that it’s crucial for business success.


Networking has been a buzz word for a while and there is lots of talk currently that it should be replaced by connecting. This implies purposeful conversation versus meaningless small talk. I love this quote from Carolyn Tate’s blog post on this subject which can be read in full here:

“Connecting is about getting to know, like and trust someone by asking meaningful questions and actually listening to the answers. It’s about sharing your story thereby giving the other person the courage to share theirs. It’s about following up your conversation with some valuable information or a trusted connection to others.  In short, it’s about making friends.”

A useful way to view our professional network is through LinkedIn Labs In Maps. I’ve presented mine below, which is categorised by colours. The dense blue connections on the left shows my London sports marketing network and the orange on the right my Sydney leadership and coaching network. Other categories include university friends and triathletes from my club. Of great interest from a network perspective are the brokers between my network areas and those on the periphery who are most likely to disrupt my thinking or introduce me to someone outside of my network. I would encourage you to map your network and have a look! To make real connections with key members of your network I recommend you reach out and arrange a face to face meeting or skype with a mutual purpose to build rapport.


Now, let’s look at connection in a leadership sense….

At the recent Change Management Institute (CMI) Conference I attended Dr Hilary Armstrong our Director of Education at the IECL explored the notion of Connected Leadership which I have had the pleasure and fortune of working with her closely on. The key here is that leadership in the modern world is not about the individual hero leader, it is about mobilising the network of relationships (connections) within and without. The traditional formal hierarchy org charts that nearly all companies have do not reflect the informal network and the way the work really gets done in organisations (fun graphic below!). I know in my work one of my greatest working efficiencies is with a colleague John who I would not be connected to on a formal org chart, have a think about the 5 key people you work with and whether you are connected on an org chat?

Informal Network

Some key insights from Hilary’s presentation:

  • How work gets done in organisations is through informal networks of reciprocal (two-way) relationships
  • These networks of relationships can be mapped and the data made transparent
  • Connection is key for innovation, efficiency and effectiveness 
  • The four M’s of Connected Leadership are Mobilising, Mindfulness, Membership and Moderating

I’ve created a storify of the twitter action during Hilary’s presentation:

The method of measuring connections and collaboration patterns is achieved through evidence based Social Network Analysis (SNA) software. The IECL have partnered with connection and SNA software experts Optimice in the leadership and coaching space to bring this to life for organisations. Cai Kjear, a partner at Optimice is featured in this great HR Monthly Article You Need a Map for those who are interested in reading more (highly recommended!).

Below is an example of an SNA map to show collaboration patterns across different business units (different coloured nodes) in a part of a well known organisation. The live map is dynamic and can be filtered many ways including to show intact team connections and for the idea and energy networks in organisations,  fascinating stuff! In this example, after Optimice mapped the data the IECL worked closely with the network through insight and action workshops and collaboration forums to find motivators to create membership and mobilise the network during a period of transformation. The results have been highly impressive including a 15% increase in employee engagement this year. 


I’m excited to start Optimice’s Organisational Network Analysis online course this week and am eager to explore this area of passion further which I truly believe has the potential to change organisations for the future!

Useful references for further reading:

The Network Secrets of Great Change Agents
(HBR – July 2013)

Don’t Let Your Best-Connected People Become Bottlenecks
(HBR blog post –  July 2013)

Find Your Digital Disruption Change Agents (Disrupt Sydney blog post September 2013)

I Need a Map
(HR Monthly October 2013)

“Follow the Leader – Leadership Development for the Future”
(IECL White Paper)

1 Comments on “It’s not who you know, it’s who they know!”

  1. Pingback: The Power of Connection | Dani Matthews

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