Making Key Connections for Your Organization
The art of being a “connector” — a term widely credited to Malcolm Gladwell in his best-seller, The Tipping Point — involves an individual’s ability to orchestrate meaningful connections linking people, ideas and entities. More recently, Keith Ferrazzi, author of Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time, wrote: “Connecting is the power of our relationships and how we can all succeed best in business and in life by contributing to the success of others.”

The practice of honing one’s skills as a connector can have strong benefits for board members who strive to advance an organization’s mission. Here are some techniques to consider:

Make Relationship Planning a Personal Priority

As Judy Robinett, author of How to be a Power Connector, points out, “People who create successful strategic relationships demonstrate essential character traits: They are authentic, trustworthy, respectful, engaged, intelligent, sociable and, finally, they are connected — they are part of their own network of excellent strategic relationships.” The key is letting your approach to relationship-building be driven by your best qualities and focused on approaches you enjoy most. For example, if you embrace the social nature of conferences and events, but loathe sitting at your desk and sending emails, then make it a goal to attend more industry and social gatherings. In addition, make phone calls instead of just sending emails to keep up with key contacts.

Design Your Own Power Grid

Make a list of close friends, colleagues and industry contacts. Dig out those business cards from meetings and events you’ve attended, both in your community as well as industry and trade functions. This will offer a foundation on which you can build. Then, experts say it’s important to consider those acquaintances that fall outside the scope of your field. Ferrazzi calls this the strength of weak ties. “While many of our closest friends and colleagues go to the same events and travel in the same circles, your weak ties generally occupy a very different world than you do,” he says. “They know different people and have access to an inventory of knowledge, information and contacts that may otherwise be unavailable to you.”

Put a Goal-Driven Plan in Place

Implement an action plan that you can review and fine-tune from time to time. Your plan could consist of sections: your association’s goals for one, two, three years from now; names of groups and individuals who could potentially be influential in reaching those goals; and strategies for reaching out to and interacting with your network on a regular basis. This plan will serve as a roadmap for building relationships with your own ever-expanding set of contacts.

Create Connections

The broader your realm of friends, acquaintances and business associates and the better intelligence you have about their needs and goals, the more likely you are to begin to make meaningful, helpful connections between them. The sheer act of doing so puts you in the very likely position of having others do the same for you in the future. Finally, because you are operating against an action plan based on your association’s goals, it will start to become second nature to recognize and act on potential opportunities that may not have been so obvious in the past.

In 1967, social psychologist Dr. Stanley Milgram performed an experiment that led to the notion of “six degrees of separation,” demonstrating that perhaps we are even closer to connecting with other key individuals than we may realize. To be sure, the role of board member offers a unique platform for forging the kinds of connections that will serve you and your organization well, both now and into the future.

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Board Forward is published 10 times a year by SmithBucklin, the association management and services company more organizations turn to than any other. SmithBucklin has served volunteer board members for 70 years.


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