One of the things that technology has surely enabled is the ability to build a truly global network.
People we call thought leaders and influencers can quite easily build a community following that numbers in the hundreds of thousands.
Much of the attention on this development is focused on the score keeping aspects of building large networks. Increasingly, the attention has shifted to the impossible and exhausting nature of viewing relationships through this mindset.
Real relationships take work. That’s the bottom line. An important relationship requires love and grace. I don’t know what else there is to say about that. Without attention, care and service it’s hard to build something as real as an authentic relationship.
Now, not every single person that comes into contact with your business need be seen through this lens, but most business need at least a handful of people that will run through a wall for them – and that requires genuine, thoughtful appreciation over time to develop.
And mind you, we could be talking about staff members, customers, suppliers, mentors, industry gurus or prospects — you get to define what an important relationship is.
I’m here to suggest, however, that the number you can manage with love and grace is probably far fewer than you might think. A few years ago it became fashionable to cite some research by British anthropologist Robin Dunbar. Dunbar’s number, as it is called, suggested that people could effectively manage about 150 relationships.
The thing is I think that number gets even harder due to the potentially distributed nature of many of our most important relationships. When you rarely sit across the desk from an important person in your life it’s harder to stay in touch.
Add to that the fact that some relationships may be deemed important by factors beyond our choice – a large customer may be defined as an important relationship by default.
If you want to get good at nurturing relationship you need to develop a system designed to allow you to do just that. Nothing can replace your authentic desire to build durable relationships, but employing a few strategies and processes can help you keep priorities where they should be.
Shrink Your Pond
The number of relationships you can actually attend to will differ for each person, but part of the refocus process must involve acknowledging this fact and doing something about it.
Here are two approaches I employ.
I’ve created an entirely separate CRM just for what I call important relationships. This small group is set up in Nimble, a CRM tool that allows me to easily unify all of my interactions with this group including social interactions.
The second thing I did was unfollow everyone on Twitter. I know this sounds a little harsh, but like so many I followed thousands on Twitter only to realize it made Twitter somewhat less useful as a relationship tool. I slowly refollowed several hundred people for various select reasons and now I can interact with this group in ways I had lost.