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How Savvy Collaborators Create KeyNets

By and

Mon Nov 24 2014

How Savvy Collaborators Create KeyNets

A KeyNet is a small group of strategically chosen people who can help you achieve one specific goal. When you set a new goal or begin to work on a new project, that’s the perfect time to draw together a new KeyNet to help you accomplish it. Include people from at least three and maybe all four of your Four Nets, Your WorkNet, your OrgNet, your ProNet, and your LifeNet.  Choose people for your various KeyNets because of what the unique talents they bring and because they will back you up.   

Consulting with a few well-chosen key players can assure the success of any special project, and your KeyNets are the way you collaborate to make things happen. In their Harvard Business Review article, “Managing Yourself: A Smarter Way to Network,” University of Virginia’s Rob Cross and Accenture’s Robert Thomas, say “effective core networks typically range in size from 12 to 18 people.” 


Suppose you want to transfer to your company’s office in Tokyo, or revamp your firm’s orientation program, or start a new professional association that will serve your specialized niche, or launch a new webcast series to stay in touch with people at remote worksites. Create a KeyNet! 

Tips for choosing your KeyNet collaborators 

Another way to think about who you’d like on your team for those big projects at work—or in life—is to think about the supporting roles people can play. You won’t need someone in all of these roles, but enlisting people with at least some of these attributes will make your work a whole lot easier.  Look for people with these kinds of talents and expertise: 

  • The Brain: Someone with hot-off-the-press information, best practices, know-how, experience, and enough knowledge about new technologies to see how they might help or hinder your project. Basically, this is the subject matter expert.

  • The Promoter: Someone with market savvy who is in tune with the customer or end-user perspective.

  • The Creative: Someone who knows about design, presentation, and color. This person can help you envision and build your brand, and maybe even create any online or print material you need to sell the idea.

  • The Global Citizen: Someone who can cross cultures easily and understands the nuances of international communication.

  • The Influencer: Someone who knows everybody; for example, a long-time employee. This person might accompany you to meet the Board, or be part of the presentation team, if a “pitch” required.

  • The Sponsor: Someone who can authorize money and resources, marshal support, and pave the way.

  • The Wizard: Someone who can make magic, is wildly creative, and who can come up with a stream of “out of the box” ideas. This is the innovator.

  • The Critic: Someone who will “tell it like it is,” ask the hard questions, give candid feedback, play devil’s advocate, challenge your thinking.

  • The Cheerleader: Someone whose energy is infectious, who’s always upbeat, who will encourage you when you have a setback. Someone who can always find the pros when the cons build up.

  • The Sarge: Someone who will hold you accountable, remind you of deadlines, set the pace, push you to excel.

  • The Wise Elder: Someone who has experience working strategically and has pulled off many important projects. Invite this person to a private meeting to troubleshoot your plan.

  • The Novice: Someone who is new to the organization or to this type of work, brings a fresh or young perspective, and will ask both naïve and cutting-edge questions.

  • The Heart: Someone who is sensitive to the feelings and reactions of others, who knows how to appreciate and acknowledge others, and who is an excellent listener. Someone who strengthens the social cohesion of your KeyNet. 

Your roster will depend on what you want to accomplish. You won’t need all of these types all of the time. Or you might decide you want two Cheerleaders, or three Sponsors. Deliberately seek out people unlike yourself—at different levels, in different functions, in different locations, in different organizations. Include people who do not have your biases, people you can learn from, and people who expand your capabilities.

Editor’s Note: This post is excerpted from St_rategic Connections: The New Face of Networking in a Collaborative World_ (American Management Association, January 2015).


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