Creating a Personal ‘A List’

My list for 2012

One of the things that a mentor of mine shared with me many years ago was how I should always keeping a running list of people that I want to really work with. He told me that he had been doing this for decades and it had helped him achieve much of his success over the years.

He suggested that I do the same and that I should create a yearly “A List” that should be curated and managed well and do so every single year. He suggested that I every time I meet someone of particular and overwhelming interest that I should write their name down and make it a point to get to know them even better to discover and explore if there are any opportunities to either work with them directly or recruit them.

As I sat down this morning to walk through my list I realize that I’ve never shared this strategy publicly as it’s one of the best and most “interesting” things that I do every single quarter. As we enter into calendar month #6 it was time to open my “2012 A List” and make a few edits.

Here’s what I do:

  1. Anyone Missing? – I always review the list of who I’ve added and spend some time contemplating if I’ve forgotten to add anyone to this running list. Inevitably I will have forgotten one or two people and I add them to the bottom of the list.
  2. Any Waste? – It might sound harsh but there are some people on my list (and my mentor’s list) that after some time, discovery, or after the initial energy and excitement of meeting the person for the first time dies down you realize that this person has little to be offered at this point in time and has little to return as well. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t great people to network with in the future but the reason you cross these people off is because you only have a limited amount of time each year to do your best work with and you want to be incredibly judicious about the list yearly. I also inevitably cross a few names off the list each review cycle. Occasionally (and sadly) there are times when I have to cross a name off because I learned things about that person that completely turned me off or because of some ethical issue that I discovered.
  3. Any Success? – The next thing I do is I check off the names that I’ve engaged with and that are in a state of active conversation. I then let email track the rest of the relationship. I also spend a moment reflecting with gratitude the opportunity afforded to me to work with these people. More often than not they are providing me more value than I am able to return to them – incredibly humbling!

My personal A List has helped create conversations and generate relationships that are still in effect today – and some of the most important connections I’ve made were once birthed from the list.

Get On As Many A Lists as Possible

One personal goal I also have in terms of “A Lists” is that I try to get listed myself on as many people’s personal lists as possible. Now they might now have a physical place to put my name but there’s a mental bank that everyone’s created that is very similar.

I try to do as best as I can to be on as many of them by following this very simple rule: Provide as much value as possible to others.

The result is that I am shared amongst the people that I work with and I am a positive reflection of the businesses that I lead. My name and my organizations get passed around people’s internal networks as I’m virtually introduced to others.

My actions and attitude go before me everywhere and I try to be aware of this at all times. I know that my name has been “in” and “out” of season for many people just like there have been times of intense engagement with certain people and organizations and then seasons of silence and quiet. It’s not that these people or organizations are “done” with me but rather that we’ve moved on or are waiting for the next season of engagement!

And I can’t wait. Until then I’ll be doing as much as I can to serve the people who need me now.