There’s more to building a strong network than simple networking.
Most leaders make three major mistakes when thinking about relationships and their career. First, they tend to think about relationships with peers and colleagues in a transactional way: I need this from you. I can help you with that.
Second, they neglect relationships outside their own organization. Most leaders are far too internally focused in general, and relationships are no exception. They don’t think about how peers outside our organization could strengthen their network—until the moment they find themselves out of work, and they start scrambling to reconnect with former colleagues or friends from college. But again, reaching out only when you need something proves you take a transactional view of relationships.
Third, most leaders don’t know each other very well. They never get beyond cordial, surface-level relationships with colleagues, if they manage to build any kind of relationships at all. They don’t know their colleagues personally, they don’t know their backgrounds, and so they fail to see opportunities to use untapped capabilities to drive success.
Ultimately, all of these mistakes come back to the same larger problem. Most leaders don’t really understand the value of a strong network. They focus on small, moment-to-moment needs—who can help me get the budget I need? Who will support me getting this promotion? Who do I know who understands the blockchain?
But a strong network can and should be something much bigger than a group of people who will scratch your back if you scratch theirs. The true value of a strong network comes when that network becomes greater than the sum of its parts.
WHY IT MATTERS:
Because of the network effect phenomenon, a community of leaders can become a multiplier for all your efforts.
The network effect refers to the way that certain types of communities become more and more valuable with every new person who joins. It’s a prized phenomenon in the startup world, where founders strive to build platforms that harness the power of people coming together. You can also aim to create a network effect in your own working life, by seeking out and deliberately building relationships with people who have diverse perspectives and strengths.
Your goal as a leader should be to always have people you can call on for advice; for emotional support; for tough love; for an outside perspective; for strategic support; and so on. The stronger your network becomes, the more it will become a multiplier for all your efforts, helping you make better decisions as a leader and providing you the resources and information you and your team need to succeed. Think about it this way: Presidents and other heads of state typically have both a formal cabinet of advisors with specific areas of expertise and a more informal “kitchen cabinet” of people they can call on for emotional support and much-needed reality checks. You should aim to build the same kinds of systems of support around yourself.
Leaders with stronger networks are more likely to succeed.
One simple study of lawyers found that people with stronger networks had more billable hours than those who were less connected, both because they had more support within their organization and were given better assignments, and because they had more connections outside their organization and brought in more new clients.
You can’t always see the financial benefit of successful network-building this clearly, but leaders in all fields will benefit from building more and better relationships. My own research has found that leaders in all types of organizations are aware that they are at their best when surrounded by a strong, accountable, and supportive community of leaders.
WHAT TO PAY ATTENTION TO:
Work strategically to build your network as a leader.
When you first step into a leadership role, you inevitably lose some relationships. People who were your peers on the front lines now report to you. You can’t be friends in the straightforward way you were before. And as you advance in an organization, this problem only gets worse, as you become privy to more confidential information and responsible for more tough decisions.
As a leader, you must think strategically about building your network. But that doesn’t mean your relationships have to become transactional—in fact, your network will be stronger the more authentic and genuine your connections with peers and colleagues are.
If networking is not a natural strength for you, try focusing on the greater good of what you can do for your team or organization by building a bridge to another leader. Think about what you can do for others more than what they can do for you. Aim to connect with people whose perspectives are different from your own, and think about how you can help each other see past blind spots. Reach out to help others, and you’ll find that positive energy comes back to you when you need it most.
Live Interview on The Network Effect!
How organizations are creating communities of leaders in a hybrid environment.
Dr. Vince Molinaro & Marny Sumrall, SVP of Business Operation at Mighty Networks
Thursday, December 16
11:00 – 12:00 ET
Introducing The Accountable Leaders Community
How strong is your network effect?Gut Check for Leaders
- Are you prioritizing building relationships right now?
- Community starts with building relationships at work
- Learn to love networking
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