The characteristics of high-performance personal networks


Research has consistently shown that high-performers – in terms of both career success and contribution to their organizations – have personal networks that are different from others. Observing people’s personal networks is one of the best ways to predict success. Building on ideas and references from an earlier post I made, here are some useful ways to understand high-performance personal networks.


People who are high-performers in their organizations and build successful careers have been shown to have different personal networks to their peers. Their personal networks have the following characteristics:

Diversity. Their networks are highly diverse, across organizations, personal background, gender, hierarchy, area of expertise, and personality.

Awareness. They are aware of who in their organization and beyond has particular talent, experience, and expertise.

Visibility. Their own capabilities and expertise are visible in their organization and beyond. Others are aware of what they can do.

Dynamic. They recognize that their personal networks need to and will change over time, and they make the time to create new relationships rather than simply maintaining their existing pattern of relationships.

Investment. They continually take the time and effort to invest in their networks, both in maintaining existing relationships from their past and immediate work environment, and in building new relationships.


Energy is created in networks by collaborating to achieve worthwhile outcomes. When people interact with an energizer, they feel energized about possibilities and opportunities. When they interact with a de-energizer, they are more likely to feel deflated and unenthusiastic. Energizers are the real leaders in an organization, by creating positive momentum and activity.

There are six key behaviors that create energizing relationships:

Have and communicate a compelling vision. Energizers can effectively communicate that there is something worthwhile that people can achieve together, and that it is achievable.

Seek and acknowledge quality contributions. Energizers don’t think or say that they have the answer – they always actively seek out the best possibly contributions, and acknowledge those contributions to the group’s efforts.

Interact constructively. Energizers focus on issues not personalities, and always look to build positively on people’s contributions.

Make and fulfil commitments. Energizers do what they say. They recognize that if people see that others are doing their part, they will feel compelled to do theirs. However if people see that others are being slack, they will find no energy to do their allocated tasks.

Give genuine attention to people. Energizers pay attention when people are speaking, listen to comprehend, and engage with others. They are interested in people and what makes them tick. They give time to people and their feelings, and do not treat them solely as a means to an end.

Connect others. Energizers are alert to opportunities to introduce other people. More than trying to connect themselves, they see where people should be connected, and they make those valuable connections.

One of the great things about helping people enhance their personal networks is that it benefits both the individual and the organization. I am now consistently seeing leading organizations focus on helping their staff develop their personal networks. One of the best ways to use the characteristics of high-performance networks above is as the basis of a workshop, something which can also be done on a large scale at an offsite meeting. Done well, this builds people’s awareness of their current behaviors, and helps identify specific activities that will enhance their networks within their organization and beyond. Far better is to perform a social network analysis on the organizational group, so people have the data and comparisons to see how their networks are currently structured relative to their peers, and what they can do to enhance their own success.

A significant body of research has been done into energy in networks over the last few years. If you’re interested in delving deeper, the best starting point is What Creates Energy in Organizations, a paper by Rob Cross, Wayne Baker, and Andrew Parker that appeared in MIT Sloan Management Review, Summer 2003.

  • Very insightful. High performance networkers have a different mind-set. They are more like spider-plants that have the freedom to spread their off-shoots far and wide rather than tall pine trees that grow straight up. They focus on relationships rather than competition. Great article!

  • For those of you in Australia and looking to follow Ross’ advice and have an opportunity to apply the six key behaviors here is your chance…
    Don’t let The Sand slip through your finger tips. Sydney, Australia, on May 9th marks the start of The Sand’s global tour focusing on how you can create abundance in your life, personally, in business and in your relationships.For more info go to