Leadership Solutions from Read Solutions Group: Why Bother Networking?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Why Bother Networking?

Between your work responsibilities, home life and a bit of socializing, how could you possibly fit in networking? Unfortunately, leaving the development of a strong professional network at the bottom of your priority list could prove to be a career derailer. It is the professional and personal relationships that you form inside and outside an organization that give you the edge and the ability to leverage your skills and abilities in delivering results.

In "Networking is vital for successful managers", Herminia Ibarra provides a framework for thinking about your networks. She identifies three types: operational, personal and strategic.

The operational network is the relationships you develop in order to get your work done. This may your link into human resources, your peers, or the finance organization. No doubt, you have already created this network. The question is whether you have gone beyond your day to day job and sought connections with people in other parts of the organization? Whether you are networking with people who can give you new perspectives, offer insights into the motivations of those you seek to influence, and keep you apprised of changes in the organizational dynamic?

Personal networks occur in alumni associations, on the golf course, with former colleagues, and with neighbors. While these networks may require less frequent interaction, ignoring them leaves you vulnerable should a career shift occur. It is this network that most people lean on when making a career change. Predicting when you will need to call on this network is quite difficult in the face of ongoing acquisition and divestiture activity, combined with an economic downturn.

It is only with careful planning that leaders build and use strategic networks. These are the networks that provide insights into what is occurring in your industry, profession and related technologies. Whether seeking an innovative idea, a pre-emptive business strategy or a quick job change, the strategic network provides the strongest leaders an advantage in both "what they know" and "who they know".

Time may be the obvious answer to why networks are nourished by rising managers and leaders. Yet truer reason is that many people find networking difficult or distasteful. Certainly if the network is built only to use in a crisis, when the connections are insincere, the process can seem manipulative. The reality is that networks should be built on respect and nurtured to provide mutual benefit. The networker generous with his connections, knowledge and information will find his network expands rapidly when needed, if ever.

Professional networking sites such as LinkedIn allow you to connect and to reconnect with classmates, former colleagues and others you may have lost touch with. When you connect, take a moment to engage in an email exchange to update the relationship and to reestablish the relationship. When you can build networks that encompass broad differences of backgrounds and experiences, you greatly enhance your capability of reaching out the person who can help you the most, whether with information or contacts.

Remember to:

  1. Be sincere - everyone has an interesting story, perspective or history
  2. Don't ask for (or expect) payback
  3. Respect other people's time
  4. Follow through on promises
  5. Say thank-you.

"It is not what you know,

it is not who you know,

it is what you know about who you know."

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