Today I talked with one of the participants of my Net-Map masterclass about the first Net-Map she is planning to do. She works for a charitable foundation and is looking at how to best manage and improve her donor relations. While we were talking about how to use Net-Mapping strategically, we soon came to an important insight. It is not: “The more you network, the better.” Because there are potentially endless networking partners, each and every connection you maintain takes time and effort and commitment. In a world where all three are not unlimited, it is crucial to network strategically, to sit back and think about who your crucial present partners are, who the most beneficial future partners could be and who might be holding you back or distracting you in a way that it makes sense to limit your interaction.
I have found that putting up influence towers after you finished a complex network map can be a moment full of relief and clarification: Out of your say 60 network partners, only 1 or 2 get the highest tower, maybe 5-10 are in the highest third… Now you can think about what you need to do to have your best possible relationship to these 5-10 actors. And have a look at the bigger picture, asking yourself: Is there anyone who should be more influential and involved in the future? What do I need to d0 about them?
Very often, if your project is well on track, and you are not working in an extremely hostile or dis-empowered situation, there is little you need to do about your current 3 most influential actors: They tend to be on board already, you have put a lot of effort into cultivating these relationships, they are your allies. It’s easy and directly rewarding to continue focusing on nourishing your relationships to your old friends. But look at your map for those high influence actors with whom you don’t have close and positive relationships yet: If you can include just one of them into your closer network, make this one a champion for your idea, you will be able to tap into a whole new network (this actor’s network) and add this actor’s influence to your cause. I’m not arguing that you should abandon your old friends. But if you are looking strategically at network development, try putting more energy into building relationships that are not perfect yet and focus on those actors that (in your perception) can be most influential to your success.