I enjoy connecting with interesting people. It’s one of the ways I learn and gain new ideas. The people whose relationships I value tend to share, are inclusive and supportive, they talk to or connect with other interesting people, and because they are curious, their focus is external.

“network / nétwerk n. & v. a dynamic set of relationships (both close and distant) of mutual value that impact on your ability to get things done, develop and learn. It is a fluid, organic, reciprocal, collegial source of shared inspiration, unique information, advice and guidance for professional or social purposes.”

Here are the eight types of people I follow:

Big Picture Thinkers: Strategic in their thinking and approach they can help you ‘go to the balcony’ to see how broad trends and patterns interconnect. They can see new paths that you may miss. They help you move from the problem to the solution or shift the time orientation (past, present, or future) or its hue (positive or negative.)

Connectors: They have access to people, resources and information – and willingly share them. They are skilled at helping you make connections, find resources and cross-community opportunities. They help you based on where you aim to be, not where you have come from. Think about three goals you aim to achieve in the coming two years. Is the strength of your reach adequate to support your objectives and if not, where should you invest, engage or disconnect?

Specialists: These are technical experts and industry insiders with insightful and deep knowledge of their sectors. They are trend spotters knowing where the industry is headed. They know the right people within the sector and related functions. They are business leaders, divisional managers, industry body heads, entrepreneurs or professional specialists. People tend to be more creative and innovative when they are new to an industry, and less innovative when they have tenure or familiarity.

Trusted Allies: These strong partners, colleagues and associates – from multiple, diverse sources – form a reciprocal action, support and intelligence network. It means you don’t have to go it alone when dealing with a complex challenge. There’s an African proverb that says: “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Mentors, Sponsors, Advisors and Coaches: These are the people who you trust for guidance, wisdom and as a valued sounding board. They help you learn, discover, solve problems and share ideas. They assist you decide what matters, what creates meaning and which measures of success or failure are realistic. A mentor helps you ‘find your voice,’ an advisor helps you ‘build content and tone of voice,’ a sponsor will ‘get your voice heard at the table,’ and a coach ‘strengthens your voice.’ They can also help you assess any structural, affiliation and behaviour traps with contacts and stakeholders.

Idea Generators: These are interesting people who are coming up with, or aware of, what is new or different.  They can assist you in an area where you’re not particularly strong. They are creative and help you brainstorm. They also challenge and stretch your thinking and approaches. Connections need not be limited by geography, generations or industry type. A diverse network of close and distant ties is more likely to stimulate creativity than being within a uniform network.

Analytical Pragmatists: These are the people who ask ‘so what?’ They also give you the necessary reality check that can help you map a well-thought out, actionable plan. They offer a level of detail and analysis that you may not have.

Mentees: These are the people you guide based on your experience and insight. Often, the best way to learn is to teach or explain something to others. It is also a source of reverse mentoring as you learn new perspectives from each other.

I would like to think these people also follow me for what I share, teach, reciprocate and collaborate.

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