Keeping Your Network Small

I was chatting to a colleague this week about why he keeps so few permanent connections on LinkedIn. He said that he only really needs around 150 people in his network to make optimal use of the platform. A network that is too large and unwieldy is a hindrance, not a help.

If we’re honest, keeping in touch with your business network can be a chore even at the best of times, and for FM professionals the task is particularly daunting. How can you effectively keep up with all those opportunities, referrals, hot leads and dead ends over the course of seemingly innumerable phone calls, texts, emails, liquid lunches and coffee breaks?

Platforms like LinkedIn are sold to us on the basis that they make this complex web of communications easier to navigate, but we often use these tools inappropriately. LinkedIn’s “social media” landscape can encourage you to approach it like a workplace version of Facebook, constantly making new connections with the aim of making your following as expansive as possible. The issue with this approach is that is often leaves you feeling overwhelmed by the plethora of activity your network does on LinkedIn. Your feed can very easily become a constant stream of mostly irrelevant information that makes keeping in touch with leads and actionable business relationships a bit of a “needle in a haystack” mission.

In an industry such as ours, largely dependant on close, one-to-one transactions and relationships, there is relatively little to be gained by oversaturating the forums we use to engage clients and customers, we should instead aim to keep our networks, small, manageable, actionable, and fluid.

The anthropologist Robin Dunbar’s theory that nobody can maintain stable relationships with more than 150 people hold particular weight in the facilities management world. We tend to work with people we trust, have worked with before or can usefully engage with whilst side-lining everyone else. Rather than trying to fight this fact, we should embrace it, and acknowledge that it can help us to strengthen and focus on the relationships that really matter.

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