127: Think of a network as a set of relationships - with James Millar

About James Millar

James Millar is the author of BUILDING BRIDGES: The Case for Executive Peer Networks. He is the founder of SkyBridge Associates, a company that designs, creates, and leads the executive peer networks leaders need to build authentic relationships and share valuable insights. Since 2004, James has led more than 150 round-table meetings for executives and board directors in the United States, Canada, and Europe. He is the former director of MBA Admissions and Financial Aid at Harvard Business School.


You talk about how networks and networking are not the same. Can you explain?

“these are usually groups of about 20 people who agree to get together several times a year. And the idea is to have conversations with a group of people that you should be spending time with and probably aren’t…”


High-level executives are very busy, and their time is precious. Why should an executive join a peer group?

“I think certainly the insights are important. You know people have a lot that they don’t know. We all know what we know but there’s an awful lot that we don’t know we don’t know. I’m a big believer that our beliefs shape our behaviors and behaviors shape outcomes…”


Why might a company want to sponsor a peer network for their clients? Are there industries or companies that stand to gain the most?

“I think the benefits are greatest in the B2B industry… my belief is that you as a service provider in any industry, find a way to be a fly on the wall, listening, supporting as your largest clients are talking to each other about their biggest challenges…”


Can you share with us your most successful or favorite networking story/experience that you’ve had?

“I had run into a client and wed been talking and he said id like to put you in touch with someone that I know. He is doing something kind of interesting I think you guys would hit it off. And so, he made an introduction and that’s how I ended up at my previous company where I worked for about nine years…”


How do you stay in front or best nurture your network community?

“So, I think a big part of it is continuing to honestly care about people…”


What advice would you offer to the business professional who is looking to grow their network?

“…being more intentional. And it depends what you are trying to accomplish, I think in my experience there are usually two types of networks people need to build. One is the peer network we discussed…  the second type of network that people typically want to nurture is potential jobs leads…”


Digital networking or traditional networking?

“well traditional networking for sure…”


We’ve all heard of the 6 degrees of separation… Now, who would be the one person you’d love to connect with and do you think you could do it within the 6th degree?

“I would love to meet Barack Obama and I would also love to see Richard Branson again. Richard Branson had actually come to my business school class when I was there back in the early 90s…”


Any final words of advice for our listeners?

“think about networking as a set of relationships. I think too many people look at networking as this sort of transactional activity. You know, where you're trying to collect business cards, or you're trying to collect names on your LinkedIn account.”


You can get in contact with James at:

Website: https://www.skybridge.associates/