It is fairly easy, or "frictionless," to accumulate hundreds of friends on social media. One click, and you're connected. And there are benefits to having a social net, I know. It helps me to keep in touch with folks I grew up with, see how former students are progressing in their careers, share happy highlights in my life, and of course, push my blog!
The trouble is when you spend more time networking than being in your "circle" of friends. Reading John Maxwell's Leadership Promises for Everyday challenged me to wonder, "Are you investing in the relationships that really matter?"(No, I'm not talking about work-family balance, although that can certainly be an issue.) What I'm pointing to are the people who are in the inner circle, the people who we turn to for advice, rely on for accountability, and seek out to test ideas.
Chances are -- if you are intentional about having an inner circle, and that is a big "if" -- that these close associates are a lot like you. It's natural, primordial, even: we tend to surround ourselves with people who are similar to us, with a tribal-like instinct. Why don't we discuss religion or politics in "mixed" company? Because "those" people are in a different tribe.
I challenge you, though, if you are intentional about growing your business or building your career, that you need to surround yourself with people who challenge you and your beliefs. Are you a big picture person? Find someone who can help you think through the details? Are you a very logical person? Get to know a creative type. Reach across age, gender, and race boundaries -- color outside the line of your circle -- to find people with a different worldview. They can be loyal people with integrity, but have a different wisdom that you do.
Sometimes, mastermind groups can serve that purpose, or at least jumpstart you on developing a strong inner circle. As mastermind guru, Karen Greenstreet, describes them, they "offer a combination of brainstorming, education, peer accountability and support in a group setting to sharpen your business and personal skills...Participants challenge each other to set powerful goals, ... and problems are solved through peer brainstorming and collective, creative thinking." (In Central Georgia, we offer Focus Qwest mastermind groups: check out www.qwestllc.com/focus-qwest.html.)
Draw a circle in the middle of your network. You don't need hundreds of friends.
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