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Relationship Management Business Development Relationship Intelligence

Four Habits of Super-Connectors

By Anne Gherini

We all know at least one super-connector—that person who has such a powerful network they can strategically use it to gain access to whomever they choose. We watch in awe, wondering how this rarity is able to gain access to any company and therefore walk through any door. We envy them, often assuming that they’ve been gifted with some innate trait or inherited these opportune connections.

While we tend to think of super-connectors as highly extroverted individuals with strong social media followings, this is not an accurate depiction. Super-connectors don’t possess any particular innate talent or other superpower. Rather, the most effective ones leverage relationship intelligence to create powerful and scalable networks. Our research in studying the world’s most connected leaders has revealed that these super-connectors share a set of four characteristics.

1. They recognize that relationships are asymmetrical

Traditional CRMs, social media networks, and even many productivity tools are fundamentally flawed in that they deceive us into believing that networking is a numbers game. They focus on number of accounts, opportunities, and closed deals, rather than the quality or strength of relationships.

Several decades ago, psychologist Robin Dunbar of Oxford University discovered that the human brain is only capable of maintaining a certain number of relationships - 150 relationships. In a subsequent study, Dunbar revealed that, despite the rise of social media - Facebook, Twitter, and the like, our brain is still unable to handle more than between 150 and 180 relationships. As it turns out, only about 28% of our Facebook friends can be considered “genuine."

Super-connectors are the people able to surpass Dunbar’s number. In the past, they’ve often needed to employ armies or individuals and resources to maintain their large networks. At Affinity, we believe that, if harnessed correctly, technology can increase the upper bound on Dunbar’s number by taking the heavy lifting out of genuine relationship development. Affinity can democratize the ability to become a super-connector by leveraging technology and relationship intelligence to establish genuine human interaction. Technology empowers us to be more human.

Super-connectors recognize and appreciate that personal and business relationships are asymmetrical and that it’s impossible to build genuine relationships with everyone. They identify the most valuable individuals in their network and are laser-focused on forging stronger relationships with them. They prioritize nurturing the important relationships that need the most attention. They don’t let emails or other forms of communication slip. In turn, they optimize their sphere of influence, the network of people in their network with whom their opinion holds weight and value.

2. They have a holistic understanding of their team's network

The most effective super-connectors not only have a holistic understanding of their own individual network, but they also have a holistic understanding of their team's network. They know who is connected to whom and which individuals are providing the most value to the network. They’re able to effectively aggregate isolated internal knowledge and exploit it to unlock new opportunities and open new doors.

Super-connectors bring people into their networks - not necessarily because they see an opportunity to do business with them, but because they see an occasion to open up new networks of opportunity for their team.

3. They understand the long game

Great relationships are not forged overnight. It can take years for trust and genuine relationships to be established. Super-connectors recognize that the relationships that they establish today may not reap rewards for years.

In his book "Give and Take", Adam Grant illustrates that there are three fundamental types of people: givers, takers, and matchers. Grant discovered that the most effective leaders are givers. They adopt a long-term mentality and focus on how they can help others. By putting others' interests first, they instill high levels of trust and respect. Ultimately, the members of their networks are more motivated to engage in a free flow of knowledge and information, thereby opening up new channels and paths to lucrative opportunities.

4. They exhibit high levels of EQ

The most effective super-connectors exhibit high levels of emotional intelligence (EQ), defined as one’s ability to manage his/her own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. Research by TalentSmart found that EQ is the strongest predictor of one’s workplace performance, explaining more than half (58%) of success. High levels of EQ empower super-connectors to forge stronger relationships with their network. Armed with high levels of EQ, super-connectors are able to accurately assess the emotional states of their peers and determine how to most effectively develop rapport, acquire high levels of trust, and, ultimately, assert influence. They’re able to discern the subtle emotional responses and gauge how well their interactions are received.

Historically, in order to sustain a competitive advantage, super-connectors needed to recruit scores of individuals to help them collect and collate their information and data. It wasn't uncommon for the world's most effective super-connectors to employ hundreds of individuals to help them manage and grow their networks. This type of large-scale army is not feasible for the average person. Affinity arms you with the skills to transform yourself into a super-connector, efficiently and cost-effectively.

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Relationship Management Business Development Relationship Intelligence