Listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of… William Dawes?
April 18, 1775- Dr. Joseph Warren sends William Dawes on a treacherous journey to Lexington to warn the militia that the British are approaching. Boston is almost an island, connected only by the heavily guarded Boston Neck peninsula. Dawes must get through the British checkpoint and travel 17 miles through Massachusetts to warn the Minutemen. An hour later, Warren sends Paul Revere to the north in case the British capture Dawes.
Revere crosses the water to Charlestown, where he borrows a horse and begins his 11 mile journey. Revere arrives one half an hour before Dawes to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock. Dawes and Revere head up to Concord accompanied by Dr. Samuel Prescott, but are intercepted by a British patrol. Prescott escapes by jumping over a stone wall and continues to Concord. Revere is captured. Dawes knows his horse is too tired to outrun the patrol, so he cleverly stops in front of a house and shouts, “Haloo boys! I’ve got two of them!” The British fear an ambush and retreat.
Why was Revere immortalized in American history while Dawes disappeared into obscurity?
Malcolm Gladwell suggests in The Tipping Point that Revere was well connected to the right people. Since he knew the correct doors to knock on, he was able to circulate his message to the right people faster. This is not unlikely, considering that the British considered Revere a troublemaker. In any case, Dawes and Revere’s story is a powerful illustration of how having the right connections can help you circulate your message more quickly and efficiently.
When you hear the word “networking” you might think of attending events and handing out as many business cards as possible, hoping that one of them will lead to a meaningful relationship. I suggest a more targeted approach:
Know which connections you need to cultivate.
You have a cluster of people you are already connected with, and odds are that they are all connected with each other. Identify the people in your network that can help you achieve your goals. Identify the people you still need to connect with to achieve growth. Make sure that your connections are not all in one cluster. You should have connection clusters in various industries with different backgrounds and expertise. Remember that developing your network does not mean meeting as many people as possible; it means meeting the right people.
Do your homework.
Once you have identified potential connections, find ways to meet them. Does anyone in your network have a relationship with them? Do you have a friend of a friend that could facilitate a connection? Lean on your mentor for help getting connected to this person. Referrals are a powerful way to meet new people. Where could you go to meet this person? Do they volunteer for an organization that you care about? Do you have a common interest that might connect you? The strongest connections are made in situations outside of work that require teamwork and a common purpose (ex: training for a triathlon or taking a difficult class together).
Offer value to your new connections.
This is not all about you. Find out what is important to your connections and help them achieve their goals. This is the surest way to create meaningful partnerships and create goodwill.
Ask for help.
After you have demonstrated value and created a meaningful connection, ask them if they can help you achieve your goals. You should both benefit from the relationship.
Become a broker of connections.
Look for ways to connect your different clusters of contacts. This leads to innovative collaboration. It has the potential to get you and your organization in on the ground floor of breakthroughs in the marketplace. It also demonstrates value and strengthens your existing relationships.
Keep in touch.
Do not forget about your valuable connections. A phone call or a quick note to let someone know that you are thinking of them goes a long way. Better yet, send a thank you note to the people who helped you get started. This is an effective way to connect and show your gratitude. Also, people who show gratitude are more likely to receive help in the future.