Two weeks ago I was leading a webinar for a global affinity group about building your leadership brand.  With almost 1,000 leaders in attendance, the questions throughout the session were insightful and thought provoking.  During a brief segment about the importance of energizing your digital brand, I encouraged them to spend five minutes every Friday building their network to more than 500 connections. 

I could barely see my screen the questions popped up so fast and furious.  Why so many connections?  Does anyone really notice the number of connections? Isn’t quality more important than quantity?  A myriad of unspoken assumptions were clouding everyone’s perspective in that moment. 

The answer to their questions can be found in two words – confirmation bias.

Take a look at this illustration:

Confirmation bias is the principle that when people believe something to be true, they
unconsciously look for something to support their opinion. 

Through executive coaching engagements, there are three simple ways I have seen a low connection count on LinkedIn work against someone’s personal brand.

  1. If someone believed the leader was too young and inexperienced, a low LinkedIn connection count was one of several facts which confirmed their assumption.
  2. If someone believed a leader didn’t have a large enough network, the low count reinforced that message - EVEN when it was not true in the real world.
  3. A leader was working with a global team where virtual communication was the primary tool.   Remember, a LinkedIn profile can appear frequently, even if the individual being viewed is not active on the social networking site.  Miscommunication issues on the teleconferences were reinforced by the low connection count of the leader in question. The sentiment was as simple as “they don’t know our industry well enough . . . after all, what few connections they have are in “x” industry”.

Keep in mind this is usually not a conscious process.  It takes quite a few questions to dig deep enough to discover what is driving the opinion. The assumptions are often based on the idea that success is to remove things like this that could detract from your leadership brand. 

Why allow something as simple as LinkedIn connections to stand in your way?

Aside from confirmation bias, there is a more important reason to set a goal of 500+ connections.  It is to invest in your future.  Do you realize many of you are part of very powerful global networks?  Many of these networks have legendary status!  Relationships that span years, even decades. Many, many careers have grown based on these networks – especially when people move on to new chapters in their career.

As for the webinar last week?  If they solely focused on the leaders who attended the webinar, they could easily reach 500 solid connections.  Not utilizing the network you are a part of today could translate into lots of $$$’s from missed opportunities in the future.

The real question is, why wait?