by Randy Hain | August 19, 2010 1:00 pm
As they ascend the corporate ladder, many leaders do a curious thing … they stop networking. There isn’t much else that can have more of a long term negative impact on a career. I have observed this phenomenon over much of my professional life, most recently in conversations with countless senior executives during this painful recession who have unexpectedly found themselves in career transition. Many spend the first three months of the job search rebuilding networks they failed to maintain while employed. However, the need for leaders to maintain effective, dynamic networks goes well beyond a possible date with destiny in the ranks of the unemployed.
In spite of our hectic schedules, networking is essential to forward-looking leadership. Leaders with strong networking skills benefit themselves, their organizations, their community and the people in their network. Networking is more than creating a safety net for an inevitable period of career transition; it is a means to access an enormous pool of resources with unlimited benefits. The reasons executives stop networking are manifold, and I will address many of those in this article. More importantly, I will speak to the investment required and the payoff for those who do it well.
Why is networking a challenge for many leaders today? What gets in the way? There are five fundamental obstacles that surface on a consistent basis:
Helpful Tip! I find the best way to shift a way of thinking is to ask challenging questions. For example: Does my team have the best talent available? Am I getting the personal development I need? Is my job secure and if not, do I have a network of people who can help me? Do I have quick access to helpful professional resources and competitive intelligence outside my company? If you answered “no” to any of these questions, this article was written for you.
Okay, you understand the importance of networking and its potential obstacles, so what comes next? Networking must be a priority. Rethink your calendar. Be selfless and help others. Make personal interaction the ultimate goal versus simply connecting via the Internet. Vibrant networks take time to build and a long-term commitment to sustain and grow them. Here are five practical ways to make a meaningful investment in networking:
Jo Ann Herold, president elect of the American Marketing Association, Chief Marketing Officer with TopRight Consulting and former CMO of The HoneyBaked Ham Company, shares this insight: “Networking and volunteering have always been important in my career. I like to join organizations I am passionate about and I abide by the old saying: The more you give, the more you receive! I try to take a leadership role when I volunteer because it’s a great way to get to know the organization, the members and the people we serve.”
Helpful Tip! Integrate networking into other activities. Neighborhood swim meets, youth sports events, church social activities and community volunteering all can be fortuitous opportunities to meet other professionals. I have found more success in these casual settings than through any other avenue. There is something authentic about connecting initially as parents, through shared interests and shared faith before discussing professional backgrounds. It builds trust which often leads to a mutually beneficial relationship.
Is investing time and energy in building a viable network worth it? Is there a pot of gold at the end of this rainbow? The answer is an emphatic—yes! Leaders who are skilled at networking have access to people, resources and information to help solve problems and create opportunities. It encourages personal growth, benefits organizations and positively impacts the community. Although there are more, here are five positive results of establishing and growing a dynamic network:
Helpful Tip! An important underlying theme of effective networking is pay it forward. Make your efforts about helping others and serving their needs and you will find networking to be a worthwhile, fulfilling experience that will ultimately serve your needs. When it is all about you, people see through that and networking becomes a miserable, laborious experience on many levels.
According to Dan Stotz, Director of Strategic Partnerships for the Terry College of Business at The University of Georgia, “Executives who are viewed as “transformational leaders” seem to have mastered the art of NetWeaving which is a step beyond traditional networking. NetWeaving is a simple, but powerful, reciprocal approach that focuses on helping others solve problems. I highly recommend the book, The Heart and Art of NetWeaving by Bob Littell.”
To conclude, I advocate that leaders who neglect their networks are missing out on a critical component of their role. By allowing networking to be an integral part of your leadership and by proactively developing and nurturing networking-related skills, you create benefits for your team, your organization and yourself. Randy Patterson, Vice President of Human Resources for Recall and a committed networker shares this insight, “Making the personal commitment to truly building and cultivating my network has been one of the best decisions of my life. In addition to building knowledge to solve business problems or helping me to find great talent for my organization, networking has introduced me to many friends who I will keep for the rest of my life.”
I practice what I preach by meeting people at La Madeline restaurant near my office beginning at 7 a.m. for coffee up to four days a week, and most of my lunches are with clients, team members, friends and networking contacts. I have spent many years building my network and am proud of the highly synergistic relationships we have developed to help our respective businesses, the community and each other. Your next great employee, business opportunity, Big Idea, community impact story or career move may only be a coffee meeting away. It is time to get started.
Source URL: https://integratedcatholiclife.org/2010/08/the-unconnected-leader/
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