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Why “Who You Know” Beats “What You Know”

Why “Who You Know” Beats “What You Know”

Think for a second about how most first-world education is set up: it’s often about what you know, meaning the quantity of concepts. This is often why students ask “Is this on the test?” They want to be sure about what they know: is it the right mix of what they are supposed to know?

Even outside of school, students are often encouraged to read more and pick up new skills. It becomes increasingly about quantity. It can lead to a culture of overscheduled kids and anxious parents.[1]

Tony Robbins and Tim Ferriss have addressed this in a podcast episode: there are achievement cultures and fulfillment cultures.[2] Achievement cultures are focused on quantity of tasks or goals achieved; the number matters more than almost anything else. Fulfillment cultures can be more about personal contentment, growth, happiness, etc. — and less about hitting a specific number.

America and many first-world countries are largely achievement cultures, so we focus a good deal on what we know. What if that’s the wrong approach?

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Why “who you know” matters more

What about knowing more people? And what about knowing the right people?

    Dealing with other human beings is a huge part of what most of us do, whether you work in a call center, sell real estate, or create marketing solutions for small businesses.

    How we get along with others is often the greatest indicator of success. Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, has even warned other leaders of hiring “the brilliant jerk” — someone who does well on paper with goals and numbers, but has limited likability and alienates teammates.[3]

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    The bottom line is that people around you affect you: they can make you happier, healthier, and more successful — or the opposite. Based on the research from Nicholas Christakis at Yale, most of this influence is passive and gradual. You may not even notice it as it’s happening.[4] But over time, you become a reflection of those you spend time with. Understanding who is in your immediate network, and whether they’re a good addition or toxic, is important.

      At a deeper professional level, one of the more successful connectors and networkers in Silicon Valley — a huge business hub right now — is Adam Rifkin, and he organizes 106 Mile Meetups once a month.[5] These have become premier technical events for engineers and coders, and often people get new jobs directly from these events.

      It’s more about who you know — and making sure those are the right people — than what you know.

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      How to get to know the right people

      There are a million articles online about better networking and first impressions, so we won’t go down those routes. You’ve probably heard a lot of that advice about eye contact and only discussing yourself 20% of the time (most people flip this and discuss themselves 80% of the time).

      Instead, consider some of these approaches:

      • Thank the people around you. This shows appreciation for their efforts, and you also remind yourself how blessed you are and feel better in the process. Hearing “thanks” from others genuinely strengthens most relationships.
      • Give more than you get. In fact, trying to “take” (get numbers and job offers, etc.) in a networking context is much more of the failure path because no one likes a taker who never gives. Be the person who gives of him/herself at events and offers to help others or find resources. Most will remember and when it’s time for the opposite to happen, you have connections.
      • Ask for help, share thoughts. In short, be social. Connect. Discuss. Exchange ideas. Human beings are social animals. That’s one of our great advantages. Be that when you network and build connections.
      • Connect around your interest. One of the more successful networkers at Davos, Rich Stromback, has claimed that “99% of networking is a waste of time” because many people care too much about first impressions.[6] Care about trying to genuinely connect around your interests instead.
      • Realize this won’t be easy. Relationship-building takes time to do effectively. Jeff Goins has described this well: you need to be comfortable approaching the right people, become comfortable with rejection (very hard), understand nothing happens overnight despite what popular culture might show us, and be ready to approach some people with your fears because it will make you appear genuine and potentially draw you into them.

      Start to connect

      Imagine this fantasy situation: you know everything in the world. Every single fact. Every single piece of knowledge. All of it. If you were this person but didn’t know any other people, or didn’t know how to talk to people or connect with them, how far would you get?

      Not very far.

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      Now imagine you know 1/4 of what that person does. There is much you lack. You don’t know so many things but you know people and have relationships. Think that person will go far?

      Yes.

      It’s not what you know. It’s who. Cultivate connection.

      Reference

      More by this author

      Brian Lee

      Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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      Last Updated on April 8, 2020

      Top 10 Management Skills Any Strong Leader Should Master

      Top 10 Management Skills Any Strong Leader Should Master

      The newspaper headlines, blogs, social media, TV programs are talking about leaders, leadership qualities and people who occupy high positions in government, enterprises and multinational corporations more and more every day.

      We understand that all these high positions are not the main things we should talk about. Leadership is not about the profession, place of a particular person in the hierarchy of the company or government body. It doesn’t make anyone a strong leader.

      Being a strong leader means acquiring management skills which allow you to lead people, to get them to the new achievements and high results. That’s the ticket. It doesn’t matter you are a small company manager or an industry leader the next list of TOP-10 management skills will boost your effectiveness, will make you a strong leader.

      1. Always Inspire the Team

      Remember that your job is not just about hitting goals, enhancing sales or raising profits. We both realize the importance of these indicators for stakeholders and investors.

      Now let’s focus on leading your team. Be rooted in reality and always strive to give your empathy, perspective to all circumstances and situations you encounter.

      Roll up your sleeves and inspire:

      • Be visible among your staff to become their inspiration. There is no chance to be a good leader hiding in your office on a top floor;
      • Join your team to complete ad-hoc projects. Believe us, your participation and contribution is always inspiring;
      • Focus on each person’s strengths, stay enthusiastic with his/her contribution;
      • Be closer to your team;
      • Find the right words. It may be the biggest challenge of the day, the right words in a difficult situation can show that you are a really good leader.

      Need more inspirations? This article can help: The Simplest Ways To Inspire People And Change Their Life

      2. Make a Wise Delegation Your Number One Priority

      It is obvious that you can’t do everything by yourself. Moreover, you shouldn’t do that.

      Your ability to delegate responsibilities shows that you trust your staff, you are sure in their competitiveness.

      It is the best thing that you can do within a team environment. You’re able to kill two birds with one stone: you can reduce your own stress level and make the workplace more friendly showing confidence in workers’ abilities.

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      How to delegate to the right person?

      When you’re thinking about the person who will take some responsibilities consider three factors:

      • The relevance between the skills, experience of the person and the delegated tasks;
      • Working style (is he or she is a team player or independent performer; does he has goals which correspond with the responsibilities which you want to delegate?);
      • The workload of the person (does he/she has time to take new responsibilities or this delegation requires some reshuffling of responsibilities).

      Check out Lifehack’s CEO advice on how to delegate: How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

      3. Stay Responsible and Don’t Blame

      Failures always happen. You need to accept this fact and learn how to overcome them. Your job is not to find who is wrong but to take responsibility together with your staff.

      Make your subordinates understand that all of them are accountable for the decisions they make. Remember that you are their leader, you should take a part of the responsibility for their actions.

      Always give them a pat on the back if you see their good results but don’t blame in case of failure. Make an atmosphere in which everyone feels your support and willingness to realize mistakes together and work on their improvement hand by hand.

      Taking personal responsibility for your company and everything that happens in it including failures will motivate your employees to follow you.

      Don’t make excuses, better do this:

      • Take your personal responsibility for the failure;
      • Try to work on the problem to fix it;
      • Think about what you should have done before to prevent this mistake and what to improve in the future.

      4. Encourage Creative Thinking and Innovations

      What is the difference between the follower and the leader? The leader always looks ahead, he is not afraid of innovations, creative approaches to management and business processes.

      Innovative and creative thinking are qualities which make you stand out from the crowd and enable your team to get 200%, not 100% of the result.

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      Don’t forget to encourage your staff because the majority of people perceive innovations painfully and adopt new rules with reluctance. It is all about phycology, a good leader should take it into account.

      Encourage creativity in your team:

      • Become a model for your staff, show your dedication to innovations;
      • Create a supportive atmosphere for creativity in a workplace;
      • Launch events and processes to find and capture creative ideas;
      • Reward fresh ideas, innovations, celebrate success with your team.

      In short, ensure psychological safety in your team, this will encourage more innovative ideas. Learn more about psychological safety here: If You Want an Invincible Team, Make Them Feel Safe

      5. Stay Positive in Any Circumstances

      If you want to be a great leader, you should understand that you need to be positive and motivated despite any circumstances.

      Even in the hardest situation, you should be an example to follow for your staff because you will be who leads the way, so stand firm and show a positive attitude.

      Always keep the lights:

      • Create constantly friendly, open atmosphere in your workplace;
      • Remain positive when things go wrong;
      • Find the ways to keep your team motivated when the situation goes in a bad way.

      Here’re more tips to help you stay positive: 11 Tips for Maintaining Your Positive Attitude

      6. Develop Your Employees

      Along with developing yourself don’t forget that without people around you and their skills the success may be not so bright.

      Thanks to the staff development, not only employees will get new skills which they can use when they write resumes, your team can make tasks easier; besides, it will foster morale.

      Use these tips to develop your staff:

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      • Turn your staff meetings into an instrument of learning;
      • Launch annual education/ training for employees with coaches, experts;
      • Encourage their willingness to develop their skills;
      • Share your own knowledge with your team

      7. Remember Your past Experience When Making a Decision

      Futuristic vision is good. But you can’t go far in business without your experience. You should make all management decisions taking into account not only your skills, statistics, ideas of key stakeholders or innovative approaches.

      You should also consider your past lessons. The right decision made at the right time has a great impact on the masses.

      Look ahead, think hard before making a decision. But after you make it, be firm and stand by it.

      Improve your decision making:

      • Trust your management vision, intuition;
      • Try to connect your present-day challenge with the lessons which you learned in your career before;
      • Better to take notes when you make important decisions, write down the results both positive and negative so that you could get back to them in the future.

      You can also take a look at this guide for making better decisions: Decision Making 101: How To Be a Successful Decision-Maker

      8. Show Your Charisma and Confidence

      As for charisma, everything is simple like wiping the window in the rain. People normally are more likely to follow the person who they like.

      Let’s remember the best leaders. All of them are friendly, close to people, well-spoken, showing care and empathy.

      If you behave in that way, your employees feel that it is not hard to reach you, they will show a willingness to follow you.

      Make confidence your strength.

      Believe in your success and your company’s prosperity, show it everywhere.

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      A great leader exhibits confidence to everyone in any situation. (Take a look at the 5 Key Traits of a Charismatic Leadership.) This will inspire your employees and give them the feeling of confidence in the future, that’s exactly what you need for enhancing their achievements.

      9. Sense of Humor Is Vital to Success

      As a leader, you need to have a sense of humor. Show it when something goes wrong and you need to encourage, relax your employees.

      The ability to laugh things off can make morale up which is so important for staff productivity in difficult situations.

      How the sense of humor can save you in some situations:

      • Humor is able to humanize you. It makes your employees feel that you are all in the same boat, boost camaraderie;
      • It is a key component of a set of empathetic leadership.
      • Humor promotes a sense of shared culture, unity in a workplace.

      10. Consider Failures as Challenges Not as Unrecoverable Mistakes

      Even if you try the hardest in the world failures will happen. Your job is to cope with them and do it with honor.

      If something goes wrong, realize that it has already happened and try to find the best solution.

      How to manage failures:

      • Remain calm, think logically;
      • Don’t stay apart from your team because it may cause the negative morale;
      • Encourage discussion, communication within the team to find the root of the problem, design the best solution.

      The Bottom Line

      It is not easy to become a strong leader, you must have a lot of qualities and experiences. You should look ahead and go beyond the frames in your everyday tasks and responsibilities.

      Moreover, you should be an example of intelligence, wisdom, honesty, commitment and dedication. And that’s why these 10 management skills are so important to master if you want to become a great leader.

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      Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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