Sustaining Connections

Adam Rifkin, often called the Panda, was named by Fortune magazine as the best networker in the business world.  As Rifkin says:  “My network developed little by little, in fact a little every day through small gestures and acts of kindness, over the course of many years.”  His goal in networking was to help improve the lives of people he was connected to.  As a result of Rifkin’s networks, it’s hard to find an entrepreneurial venture in the Silicon Valley that Rifkin hasn’t some connection to.  What makes Rifkin’s story even more intriguing is he is an introvert.

In a series of interviews with Fortune magazine, Rifkin outlined five principles for connecting with others. 1

Principle 1:  Make introductions every day (but no more than three).

Principle 2:  Build deep relationships so you can make better introductions.

Principle 3:  Focus on individuals with shared values, not just huge accomplishments.

Principle 4:  Focus on rekindling valuable dormant relationships.

Principle 5:  Get pushed updates on your targeted relationships via social media.

There is a widely used phrase:  “It’s not what you know, but who you know.”  Although widely cited, this phrase is wrong in two respects.  What you know is important and those without required knowledge will not last long.  Who you know is a matter of degrees.  If you know someone from a five-minute conversation at a cocktail party, that’s not very helpful.

What Rifkin’s experience tells us is that sustaining connections should become a part of our daily habits.  Think of those you studied with in college or worked with early in your career.  Over time, they will become valuable connections if you make the effort to sustain them.  Staying connected doesn’t work if it occurs in bursts of efforts followed by inactivity.

Sustaining connections must also be done for the right reasons.  You should think of your connections as a gift you can give to others, not as a support for yourself.  If you need to ask a connection for support, that connection may not be that useful.  Your most valuable connections will help you connect with others without you asking.

How do you sustain connections?

  • Use LinkedIn notifications to congratulate your connections on a new job or promotion.
  • Send a personal note to your connections on their birthdays (you will be notified of these on LinkedIn).
  • Send information of interest to your connections.
  • Prepare periodic updates on your activities and share with your connections.
  • Respond to all communications from your connections and add a personal note.
  • Send notes every day to a few connections asking how they are doing.

You should have a goal of connecting each year with each of your connections.  This may seem like a lot of work each day, but so is brushing your teeth and taking a shower.  While the time to sustain connections is modest, can you imagine the value of this time in your own sense of well being?  Why do you think so few people make the effort to sustain connections?  Can you carve out 10 minutes/day to sustaining connections?  Start today and you will be pleased by how rewarding it is to sustain your connections.

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“The life I touch for good or ill will touch another life, and in turn another, until who knows where the trembling stops or in what far place and time my touch will be felt.”

– Frederick Buechner (Poet, writer, theologian)

1 Fortune magazine, Michael Simmons, August 22, 2013

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