The Ultimate Power Question: “Who Do I Know?”

The exercise of power depends upon the exchange of resources between people. We exchange ideas, money, favors, introductions, information, and more. So it stands to reason: In order to obtain the resources you need to accomplish the outcomes you desire, you need people.

At the Power Summit held by the UT Center for Women in Law, Mary Cranston shared her own personal tool for people-mapping. It’s so simple, so blunt, so instrumental, that some might call it crass. I call it brilliant.

Cranston was the very first female chair of a big national law firm–an amazing achievement, considering the dismal record of big law for retaining and advancing women. Today Cranston is Senior Partner and Chair Emeritus of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP and Chair of the American Bar Association Commission on Women in the Profession.

Cranston trained herself to be focused, fearless, strategic, and deliberate. She understood the nature of power. She knew that, every time she set a fresh goal for herself, she needed to enlist the people who would help move her there. She needed to ask and answer, “Who do I know?”

To that end, she created a process that began with pen and paper and this matrix:

mary's map“Mary’s Map” organizes the world according to two variables: power and relationship. Cranston would literally sit down for three or four hours–perhaps at one of her solo weekend retreats–to fill in it.

With her roadmap completed, she began a systematic lunch program, beginning with weak tie-low power contacts, where she rehearsed her “elevator speech,” and worked her way up to lunching with the strong tie-high power sponsors. Always, she aimed to build reciprocal relationships with mutual exchange.

Over time, Cranston assures, you’ll ride that network momentum all the way to your goal. And that’s power.

More from Mary Cranston:

Networking is not one call and hope it works out. It’s 20 calls.If you’re focusing on lack of resources, then take a breath and think from a positive point of view, “Who can help me?”Face your fears. Pat them on the head and keep going.

Be clear about what you want.
If not, you’ll be the default stereotype.

Follow your internal sense of what’s meaningful.
If every woman did that, we could turn the world on its head.

I used to be anxious, worrying about consequences.
Now I live in the moment, which is where you influence people.
It takes discipline to retrain yourself.

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0 Responses to The Ultimate Power Question: “Who Do I Know?”

  1. Kay Lorraine February 24, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

    Gosh, Mary Cranston sounds intense. Making a power/relationship matrix of people as a roadmap for your “lunch program” is pretty darn focused. Dare I say “harsh?” On the other hand, who can argue with success? So maybe she is brilliant.

    Fuuny, because I am currently working with three lawyers at the Pillsbury, Winthrop etc. in California. It’s a sharp law firm and if she is the senior partner then she must be amazing. Her quotes are sue great.

    I have just applied for law school. Mary Cranston is what I aspire to be. So maybe I should start getting a little more “crass” in how I network.

    An eye opener. Thanks for sharing, Ann. I look forward to reading your other stuff.

    Kay Lorraine
    Nonprofit Executive
    Honolulu, Hawaii

  2. Ann Daly February 28, 2012 at 12:52 pm #

    Mary Cranston IS amazing! She was the highlight of the conference for me: an exemplar of what you can achieve if you target, focus, and execute relentlessly. Thanks for reading and commenting, Kay!

  3. Rach?l - Creativity Tribe November 14, 2012 at 1:23 pm #

    Kay, you have sparked some thoughts for me. I think we are not accustomed to comfortably pairing women with the word powerful. When we do we make associations like crass and harsh. I wonder what power in a woman would look like if we didn’t associate it with negatively tainted words.

    No judgement here for that. I was thinking as I read Ann’s post that from the outside looking in I would feel intimidated by Mary. But I think that is my own new gem to toy with. I want to be at the top of my game like her, living in the moment, and facing my fears (as Mary suggests).

    Are we afraid of being powerful? Doing powerful things? Let’s pat that on the head and move on.

    Thanks, Ann and Kay, for sparking this for me.

  4. Ann Daly November 18, 2012 at 4:57 pm #

    You are SO right, Rachel. Our culture doesn’t support the pairing of “power” and “women.” Let’s make it a new and delicious pairing!