Who’s in and who’s out? How to strategically build a network that works for you
Janine Garner shares her expert networking tips to help professionals at all levels of business (and all levels of sociability).
Without a powerful and diverse network around you, the ability to grow, build engagement and drive personal influence are minimal. And yet networking is a term that fills some with the excitement of possibility and others with absolute dread.
It actually doesn’t matter where you are in the company tree; networks are a vital way of supporting your career progression and personal growth. An effective network:
- Creates new opportunity for growth,
- stretches, drives and inspires you, and
- enables you to influence more and leverage your position further.
So how do you find, build and manage an effective network? How do you gain entry to a true circle of excellence that will work with you and not against you?
1. Get out of your comfort zone
For the vast majority, when we do network, we network within the slight stretch of our immediate circle, tapping into like-minded networks. This safe space of same however has its limitations – it has the potential to be anti growth, anti difference of opinion and thinking, it can breed laziness and limit potential.
Dig deep and step out of the place of familiarity and safety to connect with people outside your traditional circle. Make a conscious decision to explore other networks, other people and businesses.
2. Know your goal
Understand why you are choosing to network and what you are seeking. What skills, contacts and information are you looking for that will push you further towards your goals? Successful networking is about understanding the connections you should be making, as opposed to those you are making. It’s about asking: “Who do you need to surround yourself with to inspire you, stretch you and push you further than you could ever go alone?”
3. Embrace diversity
An effective network is a diverse network that consists of people with differing levels of expertise, age, gender and experience. Powerful networks are those that are cross functional and cross industry; the ones that create colourful debate and conversation. Imagine the different perspectives shared, the varying insights, the depth of conversation that would stretch thinking and push perspective wider. Diverse connections have the potential to bring to the forefront opportunities that were previously not in your direct line of vision.
4. Surround yourself with the right people
The structure of your network is key to building a circle of excellence that works. Audit your immediate connections to ensure you have people in your network that:
- Provide new information, expertise and market knowledge,
- have been where you want to go and will willingly share their highs, lows and learnings,
- provide honest constructive feedback to enable you to grow,
- provide support and words of encouragement, filling your energy and resilience cup,
- add a sense of purpose to your thinking and direction, and
- promote balance in your life.
5. The give and take of networking
Building a network requires a conscious mind shift and attitude change from thinking about ‘me’ to thinking about ‘we’. Give knowledge unconditionally, open doors willingly, share insight to drive continued growth and success for others, attract them and engage because of who you are, your dreams and actions. Reciprocal networking drives incremental success as individuals constantly look for ways to give and add value.
6. Beware the dream stealers
The sappers of positivity are everywhere – the ones that don’t add constructive thoughts to your dreams, but instead actually steal them and snuff them out – or worse, steal them for themselves. Dream stealers subtly put doubt in your mind and erode your confidence in yourself. Are these the type of people to include in your network? I think not.
Have the courage to open your eyes and walk away from the dream stealers.
7. Capitalise on your network
Regular communication – and not just when you need something – is key. Successful management of your network requires:
- 100% delivery on what you say you are going to do,
- regularly and continuously adding value through communication, and
- listening to others dreams and willingly sharing what you know and who you know to support them.
The few that understand the power of the network benefit immensely – we all know them – those uber connected individuals that seem to be able to weave their web of influence, introduction and business collaboration with very little effort.
The most innovative businesses and organisations are finding that collaboration and effective and powerful networking are giving them an edge.
Attract and engage others because of who you are, your dreams and your actions because at the end of the day the best potential of ‘me’ is ‘we’.
Janine Garner is the founder and CEO of LBDGroup and author of From Me To We – Why commercial collaboration will future-proof business, leaders and personal success.