86: Growing Your Network Based on the Science of Human Behavior with David Burkus

Ep86 Growing your network based on the science of human behavior with David Burkus on TalentGrow Show with Halelly Azulay

Think networking is all about handing out business cards and having small-talk with strangers at networking events? Best-selling author, keynote speaker, and professor of leadership and innovation David Burkus explains why that’s not what truly beneficial networking is and shares two commonly-overlooked secrets to growing a truly beneficial network that can transform your life and career: diversity and multiplexity. (They’re especially key for leaders.) In this exciting episode of The TalentGrow Show, David discusses why all leaders and professionals can benefit from networking IF they do it right, and ways to overcome the dangerous yet pervasive phenomenon of “homophily” in your network. Discover how to grow or revive your network based on the cutting-edge science of networking. Listen now!

ABOUT DAVID BURKUS:

David Burkus is a best-selling author, a sought-after speaker, and associate professor of leadership and innovation at Oral Roberts University. His new book, Friend of a Friend, offers readers a new perspective on how to grow their networks and build key connections—one based on the science of human behavior, not rote networking advice. He’s delivered keynotes to the leaders of Fortune 500 companies and the future leaders of the United States Naval Academy. His TED talk has been viewed over 1.8 million times and he is a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN:

  • David explains the core idea behind his new book, Friend of a Friend (4:56)
  • The key value that you can get out of networking even when you’re not looking for a new job or selling something (6:09)
  • It’s all about who you know. But who you know is entirely in your control (7:40)
  • David explains the meaning of the word “homophily” and the downward spiral in networking that it can create (8:44)
  • Deliberate efforts you can take to resist the downward pull of homophily (10:50)
  • Something that Halelly encourages people to think about in regard to diversifying their networks (11:55)
  • The first practical step that David recommends to overcome homophily in your network (12:58)
  • We tend to assume that the rest of the world thinks and acts the way we do, but they don’t. Diversifying our networks can help open our mind to opinions other than our own (13:49)
  • What is the best way to meet new, diverse connections? (14:30)
  • We make better connections to more diverse people when we actively engage in some shared activity other than networking (15:08)
  • David explains the meaning of “multiplexity” (17:31)
  • The more different ties that we have to connect us with someone, the deeper our relationship with that person tends to get (18:25)
  • David talks about the benefits of cultivating multiplexity in your relationships (20:00)
  • Halelly: “Networking is the process of building and maintaining mutually-beneficial long-term relationships.” (21:23)
  • Social Capital, Investment, and the Trader Principle (21:58)
  • The idea behind Mastermind Dinners and Influencer Dinners (22:58)
  • If you can’t find the right group for you, think about starting one (25:56)
  • What’s new and exciting on David’s horizon (27:05)
  • David’s actionable tip for listeners to ratchet up their own success (29:02) 

RESOURCES:

Transcript:

Episode 86 David Burkus

TEASER CLIP: David: Ironically, if you’re in the salsa dancing session, you probably have to be asking some work-related stuff. The opposite is true when you’re in a work context. You’re going to that professional networking mixer. Stop asking questions like, “What do you do?” Because you’re going to naturally have the conversation gravitate toward work anyway. You’re at a work function. Deliberately push it to other areas so you can get to know them from a couple of other dimensions and find a couple other reasons to connect. I mean, humans are incredibly complicated beings. You know that there are so many different facets to you and that you really appreciate when someone takes the time to understand all of the different facets of you. Well, that same thing applies to every other human here too and the research supports it, that we grow deeper connections faster with people for whom there are multiplex ties. We’ve got to stop thinking of categorizing people in certain buckets, and then we’ve also got to stop thinking when we meet those new people that there’s only one context in which they can be useful to them. We’re not even at the useful stage. We’re just focused on connections, and it’s better to make as many different context for connection as we can so we can build those multiplex ties.

[MUSIC] Announcer: Welcome to the TalentGrow Show, where you can get actionable results-oriented insight and advice on how to take your leadership, communication and people skills to the next level and become the kind of leader people want to follow. And now, your host and leadership development strategist, Halelly Azulay.

Halelly: Hey, hey, welcome back TalentGrowers to another episode of the TalentGrow Show. I’m Halelly Azulay, your leadership development strategist here at TalentGrow, and I’m really excited about this week’s episode. It’s David Burkus. He is a guy who is focused on leadership and networking and a lot of things we have in common. This show in particular is about his new book that comes out exactly today, if you’re listening to this as this show drops. It’s called Friend of a Friend. We talk about the whole idea of networking as something that is not an activity that you do, but actually a mindset of how you think about the network that you’re embedded in. We talk about big words like homophily and multiplexity. You will learn what those are, and why you should care, and definitely we think about it from the perspective of the leaders. What should leaders know about networking, based on the science of network science, which is a thing. I can’t wait for you to listen. It’s super actionable and I enjoyed this conversation and I hope that you will too.

Hey TalentGrowers. Welcome back. I have David Burkus on with me. He’s a best-selling author, a sought after speaker, and associate professor of leadership and innovation at Oral Roberts University. He has a brand new book that’s out today if you’re listening to this show as it’s released, so very excited for you to read his new book. I’ve really enjoyed reading it. It’s called Friend of a Friend, and it offers readers a new perspective on how to grow their networks and build key connections, ones based on the science of human behavior, not rogue networking advice. Totally up my alley. He’s delivered keynotes to the leaders of Fortune 500 companies and the future leaders of the United States Naval Academy and his Ted Talk, his previous Ted Talk, has been viewed over 1.8 million times. He’s a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review and he actually has a brand new Ted X Talk that you should check out, related to this new book. Welcome David.

David: Thank you so much for having me. I guess I should probably stop talking about the old talk and start talking about the new one. The book is already out and I’m already behind.

Halelly: You know, maybe it takes a while to amass another 1.8 million views, so I would say that’s a pretty good statistic to have in your bio. I don’t blame you for having it in there! One I might be envious of, but everybody has their own thing. Very cool, I’m looking forward to talking with you more about this topic. My listeners know I love to talk about networking, because I say I’m a born again networker – I have seen the light. Before we do, I always ask my guests to describe their professional journey very briefly. Where did you get started, and how did you get to where you are today?

David: If you ask my 6-year-old son, he’ll tell you that I make books, I give talks and I take care of him. Which is really true. I’ve been super blessed to be able to do that. I look at my journey, my goal is to kind of combine … you say you’re a born again networker, I say I’m a recovering academic. This is actually kind of funny. My goal is to connect those two worlds, the ivory tower and the corner office and find the insights from research that are useful to people who actually need to put those things into practice, translated out of academic jargon into practical application, and I’ve been really blessed that I’ve built an audience through that. Now with three books, been able to have that as a unifying theme through all of them. That’s really been the goal from the get go and that’s really fun that we’re finally getting some traction with it.

Halelly: Very cool. Your books were about creativity and leadership. This is an interesting development.

David: The networking one? Yeah. It really comes from just wanting to study network science deeper, and then wondering, “Why doesn't everybody know this?” There’s a couple of things in the book that are in a lot of other networking advice books. But most of it is, I’m not seeing this anywhere, so clearly networkers need this, so let’s write that book.

Halelly: Cool. What do you expect to be the biggest impact? What was the main thing you were hoping to achieve with it?

David: I really hope that at the core of this book is the idea that we need to think differently about when we even use the term networking. Like a network isn’t something you have, it’s not a collection of contacts on your phone. Networking is not even something you do in terms of we tend to find networking as going to that networking event. I think the best approach is that you exist inside a network. We all exist in one network, 7.4 billion strong and counting, but in your sort of professional life there’s a smaller network that it’s not yours, you just exist inside of it, and you need to figure out how it works, how it operates, who is connected to who. You need to get the map and then navigate that network accordingly. That’s the most effective approach to take, rather than just collecting contacts on your phone or on LinkedIn.

Halelly: For our listeners who are leaders, what do you think is the specific value they can gain from thinking about this? A lot of times, I find personally in my work, that people tend to think about networking either if they have something to sell, so if they’re in a sales role or a marketing role, or if they’re an entrepreneur. If they have a side hustle or something like this. A lot of times when people are not in any of these roles – and this was true for me before I was born again – I was sort of focused on, “let me do my job, let me do a good job and then I’ll be noticed.” A lot of people that maybe are within an organization and doing a good job and getting promoted, they’re leaders, they’re not thinking that networking is a thing that they should even think about. What do you think is a really important message that you’ve got in this book for them?

David: You’re exactly right. Most people think, when they think of the reason for networking, it’s either, “I need a new job, I need to make a sale, or I have this side hustle or startup thing that I need to make work.” The truth is, in all three of those categories, the value that a network provides is the same, and it’s information. That doesn’t change when you’re in a leadership role. Now you have information where you’re making decisions where multiple people’s lives, not just your own, depend on you making that right decision. So it’s even more incumbent to be making sure that you’re getting as accurate and as valid and also as diverse a set of information as possible to make those decisions. Ultimately, you have to kind of take responsibility, not only for your own network, but for the network of the people that you lead, you manage, so that you’re all getting accurate enough information to do your jobs appropriately. Then of course if your goals are even more upwardly ambitious, the good news and the bad news is that it really is who you know. It’s bad news if you don’t know that many people, but it’s good news because you have control over that. So you become that sort of born again networker, you begin to realize that who you know is something entirely within your control.

Halelly: Totally. Of course one of the things I will link to in the show notes, there’s a lot of ways to go about that. Right ways and wrong ways about how you want to approach people when you want to become a born again networker. We’ll leave that for another day. In your book and also in the new Ted Talk, which I’ll link to because I enjoyed watching it, one of the biggest messages you have, which I don’t know that we’re going to talk about as much today because there’s a couple of hidden messages that I think people aren’t hearing that much, it’s the idea that there are people that you’re immediately connected with, and then there are people in your network that are more distant ties or kind of connections you’ve allowed to go cold, and that there’s tons of juice and value in those, in the research as you mentioned in your book, called Dormant Ties. There’s something that you talk about in your book that I don’t hear a lot about, which is the term homophily. I would love for you – and I think you just mentioned how information is one of those benefits for networking, and this seems to me really related. Let’s talk about that. What does it mean and why do you think we should resist it?

David: You’re exactly right. From an information standpoint, this is key, and I think this is probably the biggest lesson from network science, specifically for leaders. I mean, the things we talk about with weak ties and friend of a friend connections, etc., are hugely important, all because they sort of serve as that information piece. But, homophily is a really interesting one. Homophily translates, literally, to love of same. It brings its roots back to the whole idea of like attracts like and there are certain people that look like you, act like you, think like you, you’re more likely to click with them, etc. For the longest time, we thought that most of the lack of diversity in someone’s network was driven by this pull of homophily, just people not wanting to interact with a diverse set of people. And interestingly, that’s true, but it’s not the dominant factor.

What happens, when we look at network science and studies of how diverse people’s networks are, there’s sort of a downward spiral of homophily. It starts with the initial, we click with people that are already like us, who do our same job or have our same background, etc., but over time, what happens is that networks also serve you new introductions. Your friends introduce you to friends of friends, etc., and if your network from the get-go isn’t diverse enough, what happens is the likelihood that you’re then going to get more diverse connections served to you from that network goes down. Over time, the less diverse a network you have, sort of spirals out of control, because if everybody looks alike, acts alike, thinks alike, has the same job, then everybody they know looks like, thinks like, acts like, has the same job. So homophily, this problem of lack of diversity, is actually a network problem, not necessary just an openness to getting to know divers people, getting to know diverse sources of information. You can overcome the initial pull of homophily and still find yourself in a network where everyone you know and could meet is already too similar to you. The lesson is that you have to take sort of deliberate actions to go outside of that. Sometimes that’s finding that one person that has the right level of diversity and using them as a structural hole to bridge you over to communities that you’re not connected to. Other times it means doing the hard work of actually going and being a total stranger yourself to a new community so you can break out of that downward spiral and move forward. But you’re exactly right, that this all services the information piece. The best term I hear for this is Ronald Burt, one of the associate sociologists we feature prominently in the book, uses the term redundancy for anytime somebody has all the same connections, thinks like, acts like, etc. I love that term, because clearly as a leader, if everybody that is speaking to you and giving council to you also thinks like you, then those people are redundant. What you need are people who are not redundant, and homophily is sort of the warning that your network isn’t going to serve them naturally. You need to be doing sort of deliberate effort to make sure you’re going out and making those new connections.

Halelly: And in your book, I love how you end every chapter with really actionable advice, both things to do in person and also things to do online. I appreciate that. You know, one of the things I also teach people to do in this situation is to think about, “Who are the people that you’re most connected with? Who are the people that you lean on the most for information and connections? And do they have a very similar role to you, or are they in the same industry? Do they see things from the same perspective? Because that’s your sign that you’ve got homophily as a problem, and then how do you diversify the inputs that you get? And your ability to see things from different perspectives, which of course allows you to bring more value to your network, because you’re going to be one of those, as Burt says, brokers. You can be one of those people who carry information and ideas from other networks into yours. So share specific techniques that you teach about how to overcome this. Because you just said you need to take that risky step of going to some place where no one is like you, and that is both very – it sounds kind of general – and completely scary.

David: Well, it is completely scary for a lot of people. The biggest thing is first we have to figure out if there’s a problem. You kind of hinted that this that you’ve got to sort of audit your network, and figure out, okay, the people that are closest to you, how similar to you are they? In the book I encourage people to basically make a list. Who are the most frequent interactions you’ve had in a given week or a given month, so you can use email, look at your sent messages, you can look at your call records, whatever. Who are the, let’s say, 15 people that I interacted with the most this past week? Then write out. That’s column one. Then write out a couple of other columns about what matters for you and your career. It might be job function, it might be age, it might be background, it might be political ideology. Whatever it is that’s most important for you to break out of this homophily piece and go for diversity. Write those out, and then do an audit and go sort of find that information. The most interesting thing is we tend to assume that most of the world thinks and acts like us, even though they don’t. In doing this audit, you’re deliberately seeking out and you’re probably actually going to find a couple of people in your network that actually don’t think like you. You just assume they do, and those people are actually value because they provide you that diversity kind of already, but be ready for a little uncomfortable shock there.

The other thing is, really look at it. Not saying that you need to ignore people that work in the same field as you. You need that sort of community of practice, but you don’t need it to be all 15 people. You need it to be half or less. You do need trusted people that are similar to you so that they can kind of give you a little bit of counsel, but they can’t be your only source of information. Then you have a problem. If then you have a problem, then we get into how do you go meet those new connections? This is where I actually sort of misspoke – the actual sort of networking mixer, where you go out and meet new people that everybody assumes, it’s actually not all that effective in this. You go back to that whole love of same. The best thing to do is actually start diving into what, in the research we call, shared activities. Things where there’s a diverse set of people that are drawn to it. There is an activity or a goal or objective that is bigger than just meeting new people, so this could be everything from volunteering for a nonprofit to a pickup softball league. As long as there’s something at stake that’s different than just connecting with other people. The interesting thing is we find that we make better connections to people and we make better connections to more diverse people when you’re not focused on it. When you’re focused on that shared activity, you end up alongside people to your right and left who are different than you, and then you build a stronger connection to them through that activity. It’s really a far more valuable time than, “Oh, my network is not diverse enough. I’m going to go to a networking event.”

Halelly: Yeah, and let’s see – because my ethnicity is I’m a Latino, I’ll go to an Asian networking event. There, I’m done.

David: Exactly. And it can be a whole lot deeper than that. It needs to be, actually I’m thinking about this from an ethics standpoint, it never made it into the book but I was talking to one person who moved to Sweden, I think, and wanted to make sure that from work she knows lots of those people, but wanted to know the expats from lots of other places, so she started taking salsa dancing lessons. Because that’s kind of a thing that will draw out sort of expat people from Hispanic communities originally, but also people with an interest in it, and then she moved from that to square dancing. Because supposedly that gets all the Americans? I don’t know, that’s a huge stereotype. But it was this idea of deliberately picking the activities because they were not anti-Swedish, but they were definitely not what that culture normally did. If you want to think about it from the standpoint of, “I need to deliberately meet a certain group of people,” yes. But, go to the activities that that group of people do. Don’t just go to the, “Oh, I’m going to go to a Latino networking event, because that’s going to work.” It’s not. It still has the fundamental problem of being an event where the whole purpose is to connect with other people. All the research supports the idea that we don't actually connect all that well.

Halelly: And it’s such a shallow, I mean, it’s fine as part of a more robust and holistic networking approach. There’s nothing wrong with going to events here and there, but so many people equate networking with an event, and it’s totally not that. I love that you recommend people get involved. I think that for most people, when you get involved with some kind of an extracurricular activity, or you volunteer or do something on the side, there’s usually some common interests. So if you think about those Venn diagram circle, there’s some overlap of something of an interest you have in common with these other people. Then you’re probably very different from them in all of these other areas, and that’s where the value is of sort of mixing up your inputs. This, I think, also is a good connection to another concept that you bring up in your book, which is multiplexity – another big word that we must define before continuing. But I think that these kinds of activities, rather than events, also help with that, don’t they?

David: Yeah, it’s weird. It’s almost like I did that on purpose. It’s actually the way network science works. All of these concepts are sort of related. Real briefly, multiplexity refers to the number of ties, or numbers of reasons for a connect you have with someone. If you only have a work connection, let’s say, to someone – it’s the only context in which you know that person – you have a uniplex tie to them. But if you work together and your kids go to the same school, then that’s two ties. You work together, your kids go to the same school and you both love soccer, or football, depending on where you’re listening to this, that’s a third tie. The research says that the more context, the more ties that we can use to connect to people, the deeper a relationship will get with them faster. Why is this so important? Most of us are sort of trained, even at those networking mixers, etc., to stick in one sort of bucket. We put people in certain buckets. So we met them in salsa dancing class. They are our salsa-dancing friend and we might not inquire much more beyond that. You’re not going to build a deep connection to them faster. You have to be asking, ironically, if you are in the salsa dancing, you have to be asking some work-related stuff.

The opposite is true when you’re in a work context. You’re going to that professional networking mixer. Stop asking questions like, “So what do you do?” Because you’re going to naturally have the conversation gravitate toward work anyway. You’re at a work function. Deliberately push it to other areas so you can get to know them from a couple of other dimensions and find a couple other reasons to connect. I mean, you know this because this is true about you and then we don’t tend to think about it as other people, humans are incredibly complicated beings. You know that there are so many different facets to you and that you really appreciate when someone takes the time to understand all of the different facets of you. Well, that same thing applies to every other human here too, and the research supports it, that we grow deeper connections faster with people for whom there are multiplex ties. We’ve got to stop thinking of categorizing people in certain buckets, and then we’ve also got to stop thinking when we meet those new people that there’s only one context in which they can be useful to them. We’re not even at the useful stage. We’re just focused on connections, and it’s better to make as many different context for connection as we can so we can build those multiplex ties.

Halelly: I totally agree, and I think it also makes life much more enjoyable. What do you think are some of the other kinds of maybe unknown benefits to multiplex ties?

David: The thing that’s really interesting, when you start breaking out of these buckets, is how useful work friends can be to you in a real world scenario. Not to separate work from real world, that’s awkward, but you know what I mean. Work versus personal life scenario. Also personal life from a work scenario. In the book we talk about Whitney Johnson, who is a dear friend of mine, a brilliant thinker, who got her start in working investment banking, and eventually became and institutional sort of analyst and then ended up working for a hedge fund with Clay Christiansen, not because Clay was familiar with all of her investment analyst work, etc., but because they went to church together and served on a volunteer committee together. Because of that connection, Clay was smart enough to think, “It’s not just about who I know in the context of the investment world. It’s who I know in the context of everyone in my world, and then oh, a couple of personal connections also have a shared work context. Maybe I should reach out to them too. Not just the people I know inside that sort of work bucket.” There’s all sorts of opportunities that are in that, but again, that only happens if you’re willing to kind of look at other people as multidimensional. You’ll see that the ways they can help you in multi-dimensions, but more importantly probably ways that you can help them in ways they don’t even expect. Because they might be putting you in one bucket instead of seeing you as multidimensional.

Halelly: Yeah, because networking is actually the process of building and maintaining mutually beneficial long-term relationships. It is never transactional and you should always seek ways for you to give first. And often, because then when you need a favor, people are just chomping at the bit to help you. Because you’ve helped them so much.

David: Exactly right. I like to call that being a decent human being!

Halelly: Kind of seems obvious.

David: But obviously, some people aren’t born again networkers. They’re just networkers, and so they don’t see that. The principle is still the same – I really love to go back to Ronald Burt. He wasn’t the one that coined this term but popularized this term, social capital, which is a little sleazebag because it takes all of these human dimensions and puts them into a capital instrumental sort of way, but if it’s capital, it also obeys the principle of investment. It means the more you put into it, the more you invest in it, the more you’ll have over time to withdrawal. If you want to be that person that just makes networking about transactions, you’re still better off giving and putting lots of value into the network before you extract it.

Halelly: The trader principle. I liked also that, in the book, you shared the story of two guys that are doing this in an interesting way. I’d love to maybe share this with listeners. Jayson Gaynard, who does mastermind dinners, and Jon Levy, who does I think he calls them influencer dinners, right?

David: There’s actually three in the book. The idea was, we’ve got people at sort of all spectrums of this growth curve. Jayson Gaynard, who runs an amazing event called Mastermind Talks, that was an outgrowth of these mastermind dinners that he wanted to put on, and essentially the story is that Jayson realized I had a company that was thriving, some changes in the credit industry happened that sort of left him basically bankrupt, and he realized in trying to grow his business, he had basically ignored most of his relationships. As he’s trying to sort of grow them back, he starts with what he calls mastermind dinners. The idea of getting people together over a little bit different meeting. It’s not lunch. It’s not a networking mixer. It’s a longer thing where you and kind of get to know people on a multi-dimensional level. He has grown his network to the point where he’s actually more worried about pruning people, or I like to not call it pruning, but give permission for someone to be a weak tie instead of a close-knit tie.

Then you’ve got Jon Levy who has been running his influencer’s dinner for a really long time, and Jon and another gentleman, Chris Schembra, Chris is a little bit newer into this dinner game. And if you haven’t figured out, dinners are like the secret weapon of networking. But what both of them have in common is that their dinners are participatory. In Chris’s case, there is an assigned task. He has the same meal every single time, and so he knows what he needs 12 different people to do. So you come to the dinner and starting at 7:47 – he calls his dinner 7:47 club dinners, because that’s how long it takes to cook two boxes of pasta if he wants to eat at 8:00 – and he knows in those 13 minutes that we have all of these different tasks that need to get done, so he assigns them all out.

Jon takes a little bit different approach where he’s got a couple of different menus, different things, but the coolest thing about Jon’s dinners are there are basically two rules. You’re going to get paired up with someone to cook your own dinner, and you’re not allowed to use your name or talk about what you do as a job. You are sharing an activity, where there’s something at stake – building this dinner together – and then you’re not allowed to talk about a work context yet. It keeps you from sort of having that script that we all kind of fall back on and it forces you to find multiplex reasons to connect with people. You end up, like we were saying earlier with shared activities, building a deeper relationship faster, because there’s a couple of different dimensions you’re connecting to. And you’re connecting to people who, if you were just sticking to that “what do you do?” script, you probably would have written off 10 minutes into the conversation. But you’re connecting on a deeper level and you never know where it’s going to go, as we proved with multiplexity. You can’t put people in buckets because you never know who is going to be able to help you and who you’re going to be able to help.

These dinners, all three people, these dinners leverage these principles of sharing an activity, seeing somebody for more than just that professional connection, and building a multiplex tie to them.

Halelly: I really love that you shared that and I wanted listeners to think about this, because it also introduces – and by the way, these guys are also very thoughtful about how they pair people up. Jayson thinks about how he seats people around the table to create that maximum multiplexity effect, plus, but also give people what he knows might be a point of commonality or some common interest or something he knows can spark an interesting conversation and true connections. But I wanted everyone to listen to this because sometimes we think to ourselves, “I don’t know what to do or I don’t know where to go to meet different people,” and you can think about being the creator. If you can’t find something someone created, it’s not that hard and you can be creative and find a way for you. That allows you to add value to everyone else, well beyond the value that you also receive from attending these.

David: Yeah, the reality is there are 7.4 billion people in the world. Okay, you are special and you’re unique, but you’re not that special. If you can’t find a group that is the group you need to join to get those things for you, the odds that there are other people who are in your similar role that are begging for this type of group are pretty high. There are 7.4 billion people in the world! It’s probably that initial indication of, ”I don’t know where to start because there’s not a group for me,” that’s a pretty strong indication that there’s a market need, a lack, and you’re the one that’s going to meet it.

Halelly: Love it. All right, well, hopefully everyone listening has gotten tons of value already and will go and buy your book. We’ll link to it in the show notes. Before we wrap up and before you share that one specific action, asking someone who is in the throws of a book launch what is new and exciting on your horizon is a little bit potentially of a cyclical question. Are you able to even think about anything beyond this, at this moment?

David: It is actually, I feel like we’re on day one of the campaign trail, and so we’re hitting the pancake breakfast up on Iowa. But to stay the same message for a really long time. On the other hand, we do have a couple of different ideas for what projects and things I want to do. I really, really enjoyed the communities piece, like we just talked about over dinners, and there’s another piece of the book where I talk about silos, actually possibly being a good thing so long as you don’t stay in them too long. That’s probably where my curiosity is going to head, once we get out of this message. I don’t know if that’ll turn into a book or an extension on Friend of a Friend or a course or what it’s going to turn into. It’s kind of the studies and the anecdotes that I’ve been throwing in Evernote a lot recently, to look at later, when we come up for air from this book launch. There’s probably something there. I don’t know that I want to call it a project, but that’s probably the hint. How much are we influenced by the people around us, and then how important is it to make sure we select those people properly for whatever life it is we want to live?

Halelly: Kind of like that you become the average of the five people that you surround yourself with thing?

David: Right. Exactly. You know, because you read Friend of a Friend already, it’s actually far more than just the five people. It’s also their friends and their friends of friends and all that kind of thing. And the lesson for that is that we probably needed to be way more deliberate about the communities that we’re a part of, and how they reinforce habits and all that sort of stuff. That’s probably where we’re headed.

Halelly: Interesting. I can’t wait to hear more about that. Very cool.

David: Whatever project it turns into, I’ll email you about it and we can talk about it at length whenever it’s ready.

Halelly: Okay, deal! I would love it. So, we always like to end on something super actionable. What’s something that listeners can do today, tomorrow, this week, to ratchet up their own success and effectiveness, either as a leader or in general in their careers?

David: I want to encourage you, if you’re listening, we know that multiplexity is important. We know we need to resist the pull of homophily, so here’s the big kind of thing, which is break out of that habit of the, “So what do you do?” question. It’s not a go do this right away, but your trigger is when you meet a new person. When you meet a new person, anytime in the next couple of weeks, what I want you to do is ask a different question. I can give you lists of questions, everything from where did you grow up, what is your favorite hobby, who is your favorite superhero – which is a personal favorite of mine – what charitable cause are you most passionate about, but ask a different question. If you can’t think of any other thing, ask your question that you just asked me – what’s new and exciting with you?

Halelly: That’s one of my favorite questions. Funny.

David: Most people won’t say their specific job function. They’ll say something else they’re more proud of and want to disclose to you, and you’ll end up getting to know that person far deeper than if you know, “Oh, you’re an analyst at Smith Barney. Great.” So ask that question instead. Make that introduction the trigger event, and make the new habit asking a different question than, “So what do you do?”

Halelly: Love it. And if you want to send in your questions and how they work, like what question do you like using and why or what did you try and did it work or not, I would love to hear that. You put that in the show notes comments section or Twitter or someplace. I’m sure David and I will both enjoy learning about what you tried and how it worked. Well, David, it’s been a pleasure having you on the TalentGrow Show. We really appreciate your insights and how can people learn more and get more of that juicy, interesting information from you?

David: Obviously I hope you check out the book, Friend of a Friend. It’s available in every good bookstore. If it’s not available, it’s because you’re not at a good bookstore. But if you’re listening to this, you listened all the way through, and you’re part of a very exclusive group of TalentGrow Show fans. You are part of the end of the podcast club, which is a very elite club of people who listened to me blather on for 30 minutes, and I want to give you a thank you for listening to that. The best place to connect with me is if you go to DavidBurkus.com/talentgrowshow, we’ve got a special, I call it an audio course. Think of it like a collection of a couple of different podcast that will teach you based on these network science principles how to give the introductions that either you need to give, how to get or feel out and figure out who the people you need to connect with are, and even how to introduce yourself better in line with all of these principles. That’s the how to connect course, yours totally free for being part of the end of the podcast club. DavidBurkus.com/talentgrowshow.

Halelly: Love it. And I love that new term, I might steal it. Very cool. Well, thanks again, and good luck with the book and let’s stay in touch.

David: Absolutely. Thank you again so much for having me.

Halelly: It’s absolutely my pleasure. We now have a new club name, right? The end of the show club, is that what he was calling it? I hope that you’ll take action as David suggested, and that you will also take my challenge, which is to share in the show notes comments or on social media what were some of those questions that you tried and how did it work out for you? I’d love to know, very curious. I really would love to support you even better by knowing more about what it is that you want to learn about, what you’re struggling with in your leadership development journey, so that I can craft more shows that help answer your questions and your needs even more specifically. Definitely drop me a line and let me know. That would be so awesome.

I’m Halelly Azulay, your leadership development strategist here at TalentGrow. And you’ve been listening to the TalentGrow Show. Thank you so much. I really appreciate you listening. And until the next time, make today great.

Announcer: Thanks for listening to the TalentGrow Show, where we help you develop your talent to become the kind of leader that people want to follow. For more information, visit TalentGrow.com.


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