Not What You Know

I have no idea how old I was the first time I heard the expression, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” What a strange statement. At the time, this meant only one thing to me: if you don’t have the right professional contacts, you’ll never find a job. Fortunately, I learned how to network.

But then I grew up (a little), and over the years, this familiar saying has evolved into something very different. Because what I’ve learned (drumroll…) is that relationships are worth so much more than jobs or connections. Sure, the simple favors and introductions are nice to have, but it’s something bigger — something intangible in the actual connections — that’s the most valuable part of knowing someone.

This week was full of what I refer to as Level Three Catastrophes at work. This generally occurs when people other than my boss either: a) think that they can do my job, b) tell me how to do my job, or c) try and do my job in secret. PR pros and communicators know exactly what I’m talking about…

The problem isn’t that my role is the most important in the company, but it is a function that impacts every single employee, tens of thousands of ’em. And when processes go awry, it causes a domino rally of crap (<– please watch that link, it’s fantastic).

Today, just when the dark clouds of insanity were about to send me into a scary place, some key relationships saved the day. It wasn’t because anyone owed me a favor, or was showing off; it was the simple fact that there was trust, respect and a need for help. Good leaders know how to fix these situations, and great leaders do fix them.

In a few moments, something that had been infuriating to me all day was wiped away and all was well.

I am so lucky to know tons of people who don’t hesitate to help me, teach me and support me everyday. For me, that is the value of “who I know.” It’s based more on the connections I form with people than what they can get me.


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