My article, the “10 things I wish I knew on my first day at Google” remains a piece that is being sent to new employees once they join (which is a few hundred every few weeks, so that’s pretty awesome). And from time to time someone ends up reaching out to ask for advice.
This morning I woke up to a question in my inbox which was: “how did you approach surrounding yourself with excellence? Any practical tips for doing that? Or did you use intuition on figuring out who were the best people to connect with?
I ended up responding with three practical tips that I wanted to share with you all as well. Find below three specific things I do to build a network of excellence around me.
1) Networking dinners: From time to time I organize dinners for ~6 people where I invite two people (either friends or folks I've been wanting to reconnect with) and then ask them to each bring someone along that they think is someone interesting to know/meet. I normally frame the dinner as a bit of a networking thing ("let's meet with like-minded people in similar industries" etc.), so my friends bring along someone that has the right mindset. I organize those dinners at a restaurant where the conversation goes for 2-3 hours. This way I get to reconnect with people in my network, expand my network by meeting new people, and have an intellectual exchange over food.
2) Whom should I meet? Within organizations, whenever I have 1:1s with someone, I would ask them who they admire or who they think is a rockstar employee (and why). If a specific person gets mentioned multiple times, or generally seems to be an interesting person to know/connect with, I either ask for an intro or I reach out to the person myself with an honest along the following lines: "I had lunch with X and she spoke very highly of you. I like what you did with project Y and would love to get your perspective on Z. Would you have time for a brief coffee at your best convenience?" This is a great way to connect and learn from people in your extended network (2nd degree connections).
3) Creating regular touch points: One thing I do is keep mental tabs on who are the people in my network whose careers/perspectives/projects I admire. I then try my very best to create regular touch points with those people ("I'm in town and would love to catch up" or "Have a decision to make and would love hearing your perspective"). I think the idea of "surrounding yourself with excellence" isn't just about making excellent people your best friends, but about creating opportunities during which you get to learn from those people. Each of these touch points is an opportunity for me to learn or walk away inspired with new ideas.