Karin’s Leadership Articles

Strengthen Your Career Network By Leveraging Weak Ties

I would describe our meeting as a roll of the dice. Perhaps someday we will upgrade our relationship to “weak ties,” but yesterday we were just two of eight hundred and fifty humans at the Great Ideas Conference chatting through our freebie Hyatt sunglasses over lunchtime brisket and gluten-free potato salad. “Joe,” the CEO (named substituted for anonymity and rhyme), seemed genuinely intrigued by our LGL mission. He works with significant innovators (with a capital I– think people who will invent the next product you must have and will be willing to spend too much for.)

“Karin, what I’d be most interested to hear from you is how you build trust with weak ties. We depend on that. Getting true innovators to connect with and trust one another online and around the globe is a vital ingredient of real progress.”

Game on. I’ve got perspective (as Granovetter’s strength of weak ties theory is arguably my favorite communcation theory of all time), but I’m sure our LGL tribe is up to the challenge. Let’s go help Joe (and others ready to go) make positive change in our world.

5 Ways to Strengthen Your Career Network: Build Trust With Weak Ties

All the components of the Green’s trust equation still apply (credibility + reliability + intimacy/ self orientation)

1. Share expertise (Credibility)

To improve your career network, share your good stuff. Showing up with real expertise will attract other curious and innovative souls. The more people are talking about your ideas, the higher the probability of being introduced to other experts with complementary or challenging views.

2. Respect Others Consistently (Reliability)

I’m always amazed at the stupidity of those who check out credentials before helping. Or treat folks differently based on letters behind their name or klout scores. Discriminatory respect ignores the strength of weak ties theory. Treat everyone with deep respect and you’ll be known as the “really great guy (or gal)” others “just have to meet.” The brother of the intern you met in the forum may turn out to be just who you need on your next project.

3. Do What You Say (Reliability)

It’s certainly easier to blow off a commitment to a weak tie than a colleague. You don’t have to help everyone, but if you say you will, do.

4. Be Real (Intimacy)

Don’t be a snob or tell us how wonderful you are, just show us through your ideas and engagement. Share a bit about yourself as a person. Be honest about where you’re stuck. Whether you’re around the world or sitting in the cube next door, human beings want to work with other human beings.

5. Give generously without expectation (Self-Orientation)

If you’re just out for yourself, people will smell it and tell their weak ties. Social media makes it easy folks, to warn the world. In my own collaborations, I’m consistently being warned of when to steer clear. “Trust checks” are often only a DM (Twitter Direct Message) away. (See also:  7 Reasons Collaboration Breaks Down.)

People trust people who know what they’re doing, who show up consistently with a generous heart. Be that guy, and your weak ties will quickly tighten into trusted bonds of true collaboration.

Other LGL Fun

Karin Hurt, CEO

I’ve had some fun with media interviews this week. A Fortune article on the hottest job trends, and Blogging and Marketing Tips by Experts on FirstSiteGuide and a round-up of most vital leaderhip characteristics. Tip: Blogging is a great way to give generously. Check out Matt Banner’s updated guide to starting a blog here.

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.


  1. Steve Borek

    First time I’ve ever heard the term “weak ties.” I had a knee jerk reaction and started inspecting my neck tie wardrobe.

    It’s all about relationships and adding value with every touch. Regardless of whether they’re a client, competitor, partner, potential partner, etc.

    Being in a state of giving without reciprocity is a rare quality. Do more of this and you’ll strengthen those ties.

    p.s. Wish I knew about this conference just for the change in weather alone! ;-p

    • Karin Hurt

      Steve, I love that “adding value with every touch.” Orlando was wonderful. I took the kids down early and we went to Harry Potter World. Great vacation, great conference.

  2. David Tumbarello

    Karin –
    This one is not challenging at all. I can nod at the advice and it all makes sense – I think what helps me though is that my starting point as a leader, manager of project, educator, volunteer leader, business liaison – my starting point is somewhat different. I do not approach others with the attitude that I need to help them or they need to help me. I am not a believer in “the opposite of unconditional love” (a phrase I would like to trademark). Instead I am a believer in healthy connections – free of leverage, extraction (as in energy), if-then conditions. I like people. I am fascinated by people. Just fascinated. And this is my starting point.
    I don’t know why I began with that introduction. What was in my head when I read your words this morning was the following. One of the principles above is Respect Others Consistently. I discriminated during the past 2 years and I didn’t even know it. I am in a networking mode since I am looking for new opportunities. Two years ago I was also in this mode. I attend church most Sundays and the woman who sits at the office reception desk always helps me out with a smile. She is the reception-person and she doesn’t look like me. Now, given that my best friend had a different skin color as me, most the time I didn’t even see his color. But the person behind the reception desk — I saw her as an hourly non-skilled laborer who is friendly as a peach and a woman of color.
    During this networking part of my career, I saw her as that person behind the reception desk. Would there be value for me or her if we networked? Again, I’m all about meeting people to make a connection & any career value is value-added. I never imagined networking with her. This says more about me than about her.
    My friend died two weeks ago. For a leadership perspective about how I am different because of his friendship, visit https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/great-leaders-101-tribute-close-friend-david-tumbarello .
    I sat in the church 4 days after his death waiting for one of many meetings during that week. I was in charge of several nuanced parts of his memorial. The woman of color came out from the office and we hugged. She said, “I am sorry about your loss. I didn’t know him but I hear more stories about what a great man he was.” I thanked her and added that this came at a difficult time because I am between jobs. I explained I was networking like crazy and applying for jobs as well. She asked what kind of work I do — “Oh, I work at the University as a Project Manger.” Then she said something that sobered my already sober mood. She said, “I work there too. In Human Resources as a recruitment coordinator. Do you want to meet?” Talk about feeling uplifted and squashed at the same time. More uplifted. Or maybe it is more squashed.
    Today at noon we are meeting for lunch. Chicken shawarma is on the menu. I think I’ll be buying. I also think I should have practiced your #2 above : not assuming credentials before connecting.
    These principles are so sound. And treat others with something greater than respect. Meet others: first with eye contact and then with interest. You might learn that your next networking connection is disguised as a friendly hourly worker at church who sits behind the reception desk. Meet her!

    • Karin Hurt

      Wow! David your comment (once again) is a poignant post in itself. Thanks for sharing your story so deeply, and for linking to your excellent heart-felt tribute to your amazing friend. Namaste.

  3. Sharon Gilmour-Glover

    Hi Karin,

    Thanks for the reference to Granovetter’s strength of weak ties theory. I’m not familiar with it and look forward to it.

    I agree with your list and would add what you imply; communicate using rich media as much as possible. It’s not efficient but is sure is effective, especially when establishing relationships. A high level of communication = a high level of trust.

    As always, thanks so much for your great work. You are one of my role models and online mentors.

    • Karin Hurt

      Sharon, Thank you FANTASTIC add. I like your addition of “rich” media. I am working with a man in England on their social media stratgegy, and we only meet over Zoom (which means video). We use that because it’s free, and a phone call would be costly, but I can tell you our relationship has developed much more quickly because of the video component. There is value in looking into people’s eyes when you are building trust.

  4. Paul Robbins

    Although I have not heard the term “weak ties” before, your EXCELLENT post describes principles of living a life of authenticity, integrity, and meaning in the context of a life’s mission, while serving the value of “radical equality” in relationships. Thank you, Karin! Your post gets to the “heart of the matter.”

    • Karin Hurt

      Paul, thanks so much for your kind words… “radical equality”… excellent.

  5. LaRae Quy

    Weak ties are extremely important. They give you permission to extend your reach without overextending your commitment.

    I have found that weak ties do not work unless there is some type of follow-up or communication on a regular basis—not weekly, but every few months stop and check in. Social media has made this so easy! No longer is it a belabored phone call…now a quick note reminds the weak tie of 1) who you are, 2) what you can do for them, and 3) what they can do for you.

    An important post, Karin!

    • Karin Hurt

      LaRae, You raise such an important point about touch bases… so true. On Christmas eve morning this year, a woman I met at the National Speakers Association conference called me and said she was thinking about me and just wanted to wish me a Merry Christmas and an amazing new year. It was so nice! Now, I’m quite sure she must have a long list of folks and this is part of our her tradition, but quite frankly I love it.

  6. Terri Klass

    Great challenge, Karin! I think with social media it is particularly tricky to develop trusting relationships when we don’t have the face to face contact to read emotions. I have always been a believer whether we work internally on a team or virtually, that the best way to overcome weak ties is to get to know the individuals more deeply.

    I worked with a manager who had distrust for his team in another country. He felt they were lazy and he was stuck doing the heavy lifting. When he finally met the team in their location and got to see who they were and understand the challenges they were facing, his opinion changed. New team relationships were cultivated and continued beyond his visit.

    So connect and meet your real teammates if you can to overcome weak ties.

    Thanks Karin!

    • Karin Hurt

      Terri, Excellent point! Start with guy next door. Perfect.

  7. Joseph Henley

    Karin, a very timely and appropriate post. As I am learning the power of growing my network, strengthening my weak ties is very important to me. I would add that somewhere in between ‘Respecting Others Continuously’ and ‘Giving Generously without Expectation’ is the absolute Importance of Gratitude. Many times weak ties are what have propelled us forward on an invisible current of momentum where we tend to only recognize the strong ties as the instigators. A sincere thank you or recognition of a weak tie’s favor may be it’s very own tipping point from a weak tie into a strong tie in your network.

    • Karin Hurt

      Jospeh, FANTASTIC addition. Totally agree. Your comment is timely. Earlier this week, I had a woman call me because my mother is ill. My family has done a lot to support her and her family for years, and I’ve often wondered if she truly appreciated it. Her words of deep gratitude made me cry. Genuine gratitude is a real gift.

  8. Alli Polin

    Love reading through the comments here (and your post!) Great insights! I’d add that you can show up with genuine curiosity. Learn about someone not because you have to, but because you truly want to understand what makes them tick. Figure out who they are as a human being… beyond a fellow worker bee.

    • Karin Hurt

      Alli, Excellent add! Thank you. There’s so much power in getting to know others as human beings.

  9. Paula Kiger

    I love this. I am humbled by the people who share so generously of their time, even (and especially) when they don’t have to just because it’s the kind thing to do.

    • Karin Hurt

      Thanks, Paula. I’ve often found some that when I am giving of my time generously it turns out that the other person has much to offer me as well. The secret is staying open.

  10. Patricia Bradford

    The good thing about this advice is it can be used with everyone you interact with in Life, not just in a professional setting (i.e. conferences). This advice also helps you become aware of how you are perceived by your peers, you can assess yourself based on your strengths and improvement areas.

    • Karin Hurt

      Patricia, AMEN. Yes, it can be used everywhere.

  11. SHANE

    I think this article has a lot of valid points about trust. I think one of the best ways to see how trust works and can help or hurt you is through the show Survivor. If no one trusts you and you act inconsistently people will get paranoid and vote you out. It is also bad to be too trusting as this can lead to a blindside. Essentially you want everyone to trust you but you must remain skeptical.

  12. Stephen (Se Hoon) Kim

    I was not familiar with the term “weak ties”, however, it was interesting to put all the components regarding strengthening the trust into the equation, and the process was totally plausible. One thing I realized from the advice is simple behaviors can initiate the difference. The matter would be “who starts the first?” Thank you!

  13. xinyue yan

    I think being not arrogant is essential to build relationships in general. Even though a leader needs to superior in terms of skills, knowledge etc.than others, he can behave as equal with others and still earn respect. This is a Level 5 leader, humble yet confident.

  14. Sakib Tauhidul

    In the business world treating others with respect consistently is so important. It is very surprising how small the world is. There is someone I met in an unpaid internship few years ago. He is now working as a manager position in a fortune 500 company. The people who you work with will come into play in the various stages of your career.

    • Karin Hurt

      Sakib, Ahh yes… stay in touch… vital to networking. You never know where someone will turn up.

  15. Stephen (Se Hoon) Kim

    I also believe that treating people genuinely is the important value when you meet with people. Although it is sometimes very hard to keep with consistency with human relationships, it would bring you a greater value in the long-term, if you have a faith in that. Thank you for sharing!

    • Karin Hurt

      Stephen, YES! People can spell fake in a heartbeat.

  16. Jingting Li

    To strengthen the trust, we have to better share and communicate our thoughts and ideas with others. It is a bad idea to let your partner wonder or try to guess what they could do for you. Some people might believe good relationships rely on ongoing surprise, however, I think uniformity is more important, we need to be predictable to build trust and make things work in long run.

  17. Jing Xiao

    Open communicate is important in strength trust with weak tie. Just say what you want to know and what you want to do. Do not let your teammate wonder or guess your idea. That will waste time and teammate will not know your heart. Open communicate in the team can build trust and strengthen trust with weak ties.

  18. Olivia Cortese

    Such a great message! I agree that this theory extends far beyond the office. These qualities should be something that we all apply in our everyday life. I think leaders who possess these components of trust can rub off on their own team and improve the weak ties in their organization. If your superior lacks qualities such as reliability and creditability; the trust foundation will suffer. A leader who shows they value each member and shows genuine authenticity is in a much better position to build trust within their team.

  19. Jingan Lou

    I believe that giving generously without expectation is quite important not only in business world but also in daily life. When we try to build relationship among people, we show our generosity and do not expect any return since they do not trust you very well. If you keep giving generously and constantly showing up with a frank heart, others could tell and tight the relationship themselves, which is your real return.

  20. Sulun Yao

    Great article! To be honest, “weak ties” is a new word to me, but it is really an interesting topic to me. It’s a good idea to manage relationship risk through trust rather than control. Trust can be a good way to mitigating relationship risk. The above five ways to strengthen the trust with weak ties look simply and easy, but I believe they really work!

  21. Dongna Wang

    Even if Trsut builds up with weak ties, people trust you in their hearts. I always believe that trust will make the world change and creats a healthy environment to produce excellent achievement. In our social life, It is true that building trust is difficult. But we are lucky enough having these concepts to apply to strength trust.

  22. Dandan Xu

    Trust is really an important element in today’s social relationship. After reading this article, I get more detailed knowledge of how to strengthen the trust between people. I believe trust is reciprocal and the more trust we give others, the more we will receive from them, and more close the connection between people will be.

  23. Bingyi Xiang

    Well said.I cannot agree more with the point ” be real ” is really important in building trust. Being true to yourself and help others. Being too perfect sometimes push people away.
    And this is a great point-anyone who blogs, tweets or facebooks for a period of time can see their weak-ties network grow enormously. Mine certainly has since I started facebooks six years ago.

  24. Bei Li

    I believe that behave consistently really work when strengthen trust. Your behave represent what you think. Consistent behavior provides predictability to others, which can build your reputation for reliability.

  25. Hanxia Zhang

    I think show expertise and be real are correlate with each other. Vanity and the matter of face may let people show too much or show off their expertise that make others distrust you. But if the person is a quiet one, be as silence as he/she is will not strenth trust. People need to leverage the relationship and find a balance point between show expertise and be real.

  26. Yichun Suo

    Being real is very important for building trust with weak ties. Doing what I say. And being real to teammates instead of exaggerating own importance or wonderfulness. If I have any better ideas or expertise, I should share with teammates immediately.

  27. Johana Ducatman

    Leading by example includes treating others with respect and being able to strengthen relationships. It is very important to acknowledge that “human beings want to work with other human beings” which means that leaders should share their vulnerabilities to strengthen relationships with their employees. By doing this, employees will know that even though they have the expertise and credibility, they are still human beings that can learn from each other.

  28. Qiqi Lu

    Thank you for sharing. Let other people trust you is very difficult nowadays. I agree your tips, and I can see you often share your experience in class, and I like those awesome experience. Sometimes the eye contact and the body language also important when you talk to someone.

  29. Tong Xu

    This article is important for social networks to do business and to build professional and personal relationships with people you like. Open communication and treating people genuinely, everyone will sincerely and appreciates the genuine.

  30. LU CHEN

    This article helps me a lot! That’s right that people do not like people who always boast themselves. Always boast yourself and say how cool you are is not good for build trust. Also, be consistent with what you say and what you do. If others find what you really do is different from what you said before, trust collapse.

  31. Yuan Yuan

    Whenever you do business or work with other people, building a good relationship with them could foster preferred results. Building good relationship can also be applied in the future career. When I step into work, to build good relationship with co-workers and let people want to work with me is a key to success. “Do What You Say” means to build up your reputation and the reputation information is carried through those social networks and bring you more opportunity.

  32. Zhuyue Li

    Thank you for sharing these wonderful viewpoints! I especially have resonance for the 2nd way (respect other consistently). Personally, I really really hate to be treated unequally. For leaders who can treat every subsidiary with respect and truly empathy, I will show respect and loyal to him or her. The feeling of respect is mutual.

  33. Xinyue Tao

    Although weak ties don’t stand in a weighty role compare with strong ties, they still give us an interconnected and allows us to gain benefits in an indirectly way. I think being reliability is very important. People don’t like to be in contact with those who are unreliable. They’d rather give their business and rewards to someone they can trust.

  34. Woorma Joo

    I definitely agree with your opinion. Building trust starts from small things such be intimacy, be consistent, be true, and so on. It is not an exaggeration. I will keep doing more of these small things to strengthen weak ties.

  35. Xueli Zhao

    Definitely treat people as equals. You will never know what people will turn out to be. My friend from high school, we attended the same high school and separated our ways in the US. I just heard from him that he is now working for Google in California. People change in various ways, so show respect consistently to the people you know.

  36. meilin xu

    Great article! With the globalization and expansion of companies, it is really important to learn how to build trust with weak ties. I cannot be more agreed on the significance of “do what you say”. It’s not only about reliability, but about your personal brand. People may ask you a very small favor in the first time, while it can determine whether they will trust you in the future. It only take one thing to destroy trust. So thank you for reminding us to always do what we say.

  37. Ruoying Wang

    Great article! Before read article, i never know that we can use the “weak tie” to strengthen trust. I think the most helpful two ways are “do what you say” and “be real”. if you do what you promise to do, people will trust you because you are reliable and action are more powerful than words.

  38. Yayi Wang

    After read these tips, I found “Do what you say” is a truly helpful message for building trust in weak ties. It is very easy for people to unconsciously say too much, but forget to carry out what they promised. As the result, they will make weak ties become even weaker. I also found taking perspective of others and consider the world from others’ eyes can effectively help strengthen relationships.

  39. Emma(Xuyang) Hao

    It is really important to be yourself and perform consistently.If you don’t do that, people will consider you as a “changing” person and they will never know which one is the real you, which words are trustworthy, which actions can reflect your mind. And a “changing” person is not always being trusted.

  40. Yang (Michelle) Zhou

    I always think that showing respect to everyone is a must regardless. You want to treat people the way you want to be treated and everyone wants to be respected. And good leaders “walks the talk”-they have credibility. Keeping your words is also critical in a sense that you want your words to be consistently taken seriously.

  41. Xinhua Mai

    This article is really practical and useful in the daily life, not only in the workplace but also in the job hunting market. Do what you say is necessary in building trust with other. People tend to obverse whether a person’s behavior is consistent with his or her word. This is the most straight forward way to judge strangers.

  42. Zishen Wang

    With understanding of trust, it is important to know how to strengthen trust in a group. According to the five tips above, more ways to gain trust came to my mind. I want to share the top three points in my mind. Indeed, credibility is the most significant point in my consideration. Only if the others know that you have the expertise, they could believe your words. Respect ranks the second in my consideration, because I think only if you know how to respect the others, then the others would know how to respect you. Anything associated with discrimination should be prohibited in a team leading. Similarly, intimacy, which is my third point, will help a lead to get more respects. It is vital to give the others a “REAL” feeling.

  43. Yiyun Jia

    I feel what you mean especially in #2& #3 Karin. Show the respect and be the one that other people can count on are so important. Everyday it might be opportunity that can help your life and career; therefore, be respectful to the person you just know. He/she might just be a really good friend or mentor in the future. Besides, do what we promised to do is a key. Trust is earned, so treat every opportunity seriously and show others that they can trust you and work with you.

  44. jing cheng

    It is really important to do what you say you will do because it is related to your credibility. When a person trust you, he or she will give you something important to you, like if an employee trust you, he or she will give you the task which is very important and no matter what you did well or badly, they will not blame, they will encourage you because based on the credibility on you, they trust you have do your best.

  45. Sixuan Wu

    I totally agree with “Respect Others Consistently”. Even when I was a entry level assistant, my supervisor always give me credit for my contribution to our organization. He told me “You actually have more accounting knowledge than I do. I only need to show you the way to put them into the system. You are always able to record them correctly into the system.”I felt I was respected even as a entry level assistant. I felt I could make a difference of the organization so I was really motivated.

    I also agree with “Do What You Say”. I trust people who follow through their promises. I knew a student leader in my student organization who never updates with the group when he couldn’t make it to the meeting while he promised to show up. He ended up lost the group’s trust and end up being involuntary resigned.

  46. Lingyi Zhang

    I think do what you say is really significant in one’s career. I met people who have much confidence but showed a little ability in the end. I always felt uncomfortable when the result was not satisfied with expectations. So, do what you say is one of my goal in the future,

  47. Lingyi Zhang

    I think do what you say is really significant in one’s career. I met people who have much confidence but showed a little ability in the end. I always felt uncomfortable when the result was not satisfied with expectations. So, do what you say is one of my goal in the future.

  48. Lingyi Zhang

    I think do what you say is really significant in one’s career. I met people who have much confidence but showed a little ability in the end. I always felt uncomfortable when the result was not satisfied with expectations.

  49. JILEI GU

    From my personal experience, the best way to strength trust with weak ties is to do what you say cause people will not trust another person by their words but by their behaviors. Doing what you say is telling others you are a person keeping his words and they can rely on you.

  50. Hanxue Zhang

    “Do what you say” is one of the most important things to strengthen trust between people. You always need to step up and complete what you committed to do. People are easily promise things no matter in workplace or daily life. However, when you don’t do what you promised, you are hurting the relationship.

  51. Sunhe Wang

    Great article. It’s the first time I heard about “weak ties”. I agree that building relationship with trusts is very important. Actually I felt struggled finding a job recently and found that networking is really important and useful. But at the same time, I still wondered how to maintain a good relationship with others. I may sometimes set myself under others.

  52. Shuchen Wu

    I have a deep feeling with the third tip, stay reliable with colleague and others in company. Actually, when I was a internship in my prior company, at first, I’m not really reliable, because I often take off days by some excuse, such as I have a exam tomorrow, so I can’t go to work tomorrow; or I make a appointment with my team member to discuss our projects, so I can’t go to work. Than was so bad at that time, so that my supervisor find me one day and talked to me that because of my absent from work, he thought that I’m not reliable and so that he was kind of not trust me. After that conversation, I thought how worse it is when you are become not reliable. So, from that day to the day that my internship ends, I never take off from work any more, even if I did not feel well. The result is that my supervisor is happy because that I accept her advise and made a change.

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