The day I declared that I was hosting an angel investment network was the day my circle of relationships seemed to grow exponentially. Suddenly there was a new swath of people who were “friendly” towards me. It’s nice to feel useful – although there is a point at which the number of relationships and requests becomes overwhelming. How on earth do you keep in contact with all these people? How can you meet all the requests they make upon you?
You might treat everyone as a VIP but you can’t have the same relationship with everyone you know. You have limited time, energy and resources so unless you want to crash and burn you have to differentiate your relationships. You need to make decisions about the people you are going to spend the most time, energy and resources with. So how are you going to filter people and do so with integrity?
The feeling of being overwhelmed by people can paralyze us – like a rabbit caught in the headlights of an oncoming car, we freeze not knowing which way to go caught in indecision. Or we can try to please everyone by saying yes to everything – like a rabbit hopping randomly all over the garden. However if we try and make everything a priority then absolutely nothing will end end up being a priority. By attempting to do everything, we will simply exhaust ourselves. And whichever way we react, we never get where we want to go.
There is an alternative to both people paralysis and people pleasing. Instead, review your relational ecosystem and recalibrate your relationship priorities so that you can allocate your resources accordingly. Applying Pareto’s 80/20 rule is a very practical way to filter your relationships with integrity.
Firstly, start by reflecting on all the people in your relational ecosystem. You might find it helpful to write a list, draw a mind map or picture people in clusters. Then highlight 20% of people who are your most important relationships. For example, if you have 150 people, then 20% would be 30 names. These are the people I would recommend you deploy 80% of your time, energy, and resources with.
Set up regular lunch dates, walk-and-talks, coffees and proactively set up face to face encounters. You can get creative and commute to work together, take up a shared hobby or interest or bring together a small group of peers who could support one another and start a mastermind group.
Secondly, consider how you can invest in the other 80% of the people in your relational ecosystem. This is the harder challenge because you only have 20% of your time, energy, and resources left. Networking or filtering your relationships without integrity would say “drop” or “prune” the other 80% of people and just focus on those who can be helpful to you. Treating everyone as a VIP means you can’t simply “drop” or “prune” people, instead you find a way of treating everyone you know.
There are a number of very practical things you can do to keep in contact with your 80%. You can double your time by moving the people you see fortnightly to monthly, monthly to every other month, and quarterly to bi-annually. Talk on the telephone rather than meeting face to face. Refer the asker to other people who may be able to help especially if they could be a better help than you could. Create a regular social event two or three times a year is a great way of keeping in contact with your 80%. Alternatively, start an online discussion group to keep in touch and also add value to your relationships by introducing people to one another. And sometimes the answer simply has to be “no, I’m sorry I can’t help on this occasion”.
This is how you can differentiate your relationships with integrity so you can keep in contact with everyone you know but not snub anybody. The second habit of highly effective relationship builders is to filter relationships with integrity.