Circle of Influence

Recently my client, “Rich,” and I had a conversation about networking. Rich is a senior-level engineer trying to decide what’s next in his career.

Like a number of us, Rich is an introvert. He’s not terribly comfortable talking with people he barely knows and asking them for advice. In fact, the idea is abhorrent to him. Intellectually Rich knows that it’s his network that will help him land his next opportunity. Practically, he’s just reluctant to reach out.

It’s About Who Returns Your Call

When I lived in Colorado, I had a colleague who was the complete opposite of Rich (and me). Susan was an ace networker, she had no problem calling people and asking them for just about anything…advice, business leads, or to serve on a philanthropic project. I was often among those she reached out to and I responded every single time.

Susan and I talked about her networking success. I guessed that it was all about who you knew that led to successful networking. After all, we’ve all heard that old saw when it comes to job searches.

Susan laughed. She noted that it’s not about who you know, it’s about who returns your calls. She mentioned that she knew a lot of people, and a lot of people knew her. However, the people she reached out to for her various requests were people she knew would call her back. These were people who knew her, knew her work and respected the value she brought. She called them her “Circle of Influence.”

The Circle of Influence

Rich and I talked about who was in his Circle of Influence. Who were the people who he already knows, that trust his work, and would take his call? They are the people who will “get it.” The people who will respond with the advice and insight he’ll request.

As we talked about his Circle of Influence we noted that it might not be a lot of people. Rich has almost 200 connections on LinkedIn. As he reviewed them, he noted that only about a dozen would fit his Circle of Influence criteria. He called them his “tribe.” These folks would not only return his call and be happy to provide advice; they would make introductions on his behalf to others in their network.

So we broke down the networking anxiety for Rich. In the next two weeks, he will reach out to those connections in his Circle of Influence – his tribe – the people he knows will return his call. He’ll share with them his leadership narrative as well as a description of the type of work he’s seeking, and he’ll ask them who they feel he should be talking to. He’ll also ask them to introduce him to these new people – to make that first call on his behalf. Rich won’t have to make cold calls to people he doesn’t know.

Who’s In Your Circle of Influence?

So over to you…Can you identify the top people in your tribe or your network who comprise your Circle of Influence? Who are those key people who know your work and appreciate the value you bring? Who are the folks who will return your call?


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