How to conscously craft your network

by Joanna Martin (One of Many)

There’s no way I’d be able to do what I do without my support network: from James’ nanny, to Greg, to my sister Kath, to all of you in the ‘One of Many’ community. There’s just no way I’d be able to lead and live in my soft power without you. And while a lot of people talk about the importance of having a good network in place, I think that this is especially true for women. If you’re going to lead from a place of soft power, you’ve got to have people who’ve got your back.

Not your typical network

Right, so when I say network, what do you think of? Maybe a bunch of people who you’ve given your business card to or shaken hands with at networking events? Maybe people who support you generally, or one or two people who support you in niche areas of your life?

While there’s nothing wrong in particular with any of these ideas, I believe that to make a big, audacious difference in the world, you need to build a network that doesn’t just stand on its own but is actually part of your leadership platform.

Now your leadership platform can only stand on the pillars that are your key areas of life — you know, your health, your relationships, your work, your financial resources, all of that. And for us women, we also have what I call an emergency pillar, which is your network. So, when any of your pillars goes a bit wobbly, your emergency pillar can jump in to help out and keep your platform stable.

Consciously crafted

As you can imagine, having this type of network doesn’t happen by accident. You’ve got to spend the time and effort in advance to very consciously create this network so that it’s there when you need it — you can’t expect it to spring up fully formed when you’re already in crisis.

How do you do that? Well, first you’ve got to give. Think about what you can give to those people you want to be in your network first; you’ll be amazed at how many doors open that way.

Also, you need to get really clear on what you’re great at and what you’re not so great at. For instance, I’m like a lighthouse in relationships.

When I’m with you, 100% of my being is focused on being with you. But when I’m not with you, I’m not great at remembering to send daily texts or emails to keep up.

As long as I’m up front about that in relationships, things work out great, so do the same thing for yourself. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

And finally, you’ve got to be open to receiving help when it’s offered. For instance, if your neighbour has said that they’re happy to babysit whenever, take them up on it before it’s an emergency.

By accepting help before you’re in a position where you’ll be in trouble without it, you build up a track record that makes it so much easier to get help when you do actually legitimately need it.

OK, but how do I know what my network should include?

Everyone’s network is going to look a little different. Your court is your own — as you’re in your Queen archetype with your support network, you have to find your own courtiers; mine won’t work for you the way they work for me, and vice versa. But how do you know what you actually need to make up your emergency pillar?

Try this exercise to find out:

Get an A4 sheet of paper, and across the top, write out all of the really important areas of your life, from health to work to spirituality to whatever else it is for you. Then, down the left side of the paper, write the following categories:

  • Practical help (People who will do it for you).
  • Mentors (People who have been there and done it and can advise you).
  • Coaches (People who won’t tell you what to do but will help you access your inner resources).
  • Accountability (People who will hold you accountable).
  • Sponsors (People who open doors for you).
  • Investors (People who invest time and energy into you or your stuff).
  • Emotional support (People who’re great on days when you’re down).

Right, now go through and flesh out your grid.

  • Anyone that you’ve already got in your network, write their name in the right box.
  • You’re probably going to have some overlap — for instance, Greg is a great source of practical help and emotional support for me.
  • Then go through and put a cross in any box you don’t need support with (for instance, I don’t need a parenting sponsor), and a star for any position that you need to fill.

Once you’ve gone through the whole grid, then identify your top three “missings”.

Which ones would make the biggest difference to you if you were able to fill them?

And finally, look at the people who you’ve already got in place and ask yourself what you can do for them.

Remember, a great network is all about give and take, so ask what you can give back!