HR Roundtable: Do You Really Work to Manage Your Connections?

It’s been a few months since the Cincinnati HR Roundtable gathered, but we came together again in August to discuss the intriguing topic of “Do You Manage Your Connections?”

It’s a “given” that people need to network, but do people really do anything with the connections they make? To start the meeting, Steve put the following numbers up on the flip chart:

  1.  988
  2. 165
  3. 4,756
  4. 5,081
  5. 2,934
  6. 1,524
  7. 13,710,114
  8. 5,993

Since HR people aren’t known for their math prowess (in general), Steve had people guess what these numbers represented. They were somewhat close in guessing that they had to do with connections of people, so Steve revealed what they meant.

  1. 988Friends on Facebook;
  2. 165Connections on BeKnown on Facebook;
  3. 4,756People who follow Steve on Twitter;
  4. 5,081People Steve is following on Twitter;
  5. 2,934Number of first level connections on LinkedIn
  6. 1,524Number of people in the HR Net group on LinkedIn;
  7. 13,710,114The “number” of people the first level connections represent in all of LinkedIn; and,
  8. 5,993The number of people who are on the HR Net.

Now, these numbers are for descriptive purposes only. This is just an example of one person’s connections. Many people have various levels of connections, so the groups took on the following questions:

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  • What makes a “connection” vs. a stalker?
  • How do YOU manage your connections?
  • Why should you have “connections?”

The small groups jumped into the questions with fervor. They really wanted to share their experiences and hear from others as to how they handle this topic. Here’s what they came back with.

What makes a “connection” vs. a stalker?

  • They’re willing to take a second call. Interesting way to get the conversation going! This shows some traction, though. If a person will get past the initial meeting/contact, there could be some value that would lead to a person becoming a connection.
  • Dialogue and not self-centered conversations. If the communication between folks is only about one person – stalker. If it has give and take, agreement and disagreement – then chances are the connection is forming. One sidedness is just sure to sink any relationship.
  • Frequency. If you’re spending more of your time with someone intentionally, then connections are occurring. The only caution in this is if someone is just showing up to you over and over and over, but not adding real value to the time you’re together, frequency may not be a good thing !!
  • Depth vs. shallow. This is one of those true “telling” factors of a person who is a connection. If you can’t get past the, “So, what do you do for a living?” types of conversations, you won’t become connections. Depth shows vulnerability and accessibility and both are essential.
  • You see this as a meaningful relationship. Ironic, isn’t it that we’re afraid to use the terms “meaningful” and “relationships” in the business world these days because that is what people truly seek in their lives. Now, to define what is meaningful varies between different people and that is actually healthy !! When there is caring, concern and empathy between connections, you can start seeing facets that truly will remain meaningful. Don’t downplay this.

How do YOU manage your connections?

  • Forums. Where the group went to on this was social forums such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. People thought that these types of forums organized contacts. Now, not all contacts have turned into connections, but they are good places to gather folks.
  • I Don’t. This was the overwhelming answer and the group spent quite a bit of time on this because most people confuse networking with those that turn into connections. Too often, people are taught the “splatter” approach which just ends up with people constantly adding people to a network, but doing nothing to further or nurture contacts to see if they’ll become connections. In fact, some attendees didn’t feel that there was value in having connections because people take “too much time.” (Steve almost swallowed his tongue here.) He mentioned that if building and nurturing relationships takes too much time, then chances are you aren’t as successful in the business world as you think you are. You may see short-term success, but you will lack long-term sustainability.

Why should you have “connections?”

  • Builds your brand. Everyone has a brand. Everyone. So, if you don’t think this is important, then your brand may be “nonparticipative.” You can leverage the fact that great connections and surrounding yourself with meaningful relationships.
  • People need them. It’s a fact. We want to have these types of relationships in our business lives as much as we want them in our social lives. In fact, why would you forsake these in your business lives? Own up to this and pursue connections.
  • Understand the value YOU bring to being a connection. Don’t just seek the “best and brightest.” Offer who you are and what you bring to a relationship. If you’re just trying to gather connections from a status standpoint, you don’t really have value, you have a clique.
  • Learn from others. Everyone knows someone who is truly connected. You should see if you can also be a part of their group and see how they’ve been successful in developing relationships. Chances are they will welcome you in because they are folks who truly get energized from being connected to others and they will make sure you have a more in-depth relationship.
  • Understand that isolation will lead to failure. Being an island is just silly in today’s business environment. Even the most entrepreneurial people around have connections that they go to and consider essential.
  • Give first. When you meet people who are connectors, chances are they give first before expecting something from someone else before they give. This goes contrary to how we were raised or taught to succeed, but it works. You will be wildly successful if you take this approach in your networking relationships.

Having connections is a great way to take networking to the next level. The Roundtable agreed that it is something that we all can work on in order to become more successful business people!

Steve Browne, SHRM-SCP, is the Executive Director of Human Resources for LaRosa's, Inc., a regional pizzeria restaurant chain in the Greater Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio area with 16 locations and over 1,200 team members. Steve has been an HR professional for more than 30 years in the manufacturing, consumer products, and professional services industries. He facilitates a monthly HR Roundtable in Cincinnati and runs an Internet message board for HR pros that reaches 7,800 plus people weekly. Steve joined the SHRM Board of Directors in January 2016. You can contact him at, or on Twitter (@sbrownehr). You can also read more on his personal blog, Everyday People.