social capital rolodexThe 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?

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

social capital matrix“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.

photo by sidewalk flying

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