Ready for the latest installment on Leadership Lexicon? See earlier posts on Relationships, Responsibility, Small Talk, and being Transparent, Approachable, and Socially Adept. [LINK to others in series.] Today I want to address the importance of a leader’s ability to network. In Sustained Leadership WBS I define it in this way:
WBS Dictionary: Networking here is the activity (verb) involved in engaging with your network and taking actions to grow and strengthen it. This is distinguished from the network (noun) described in 220.127.116.11. Historically, networking was sending notes, paying visits, extending invitations, and engaging in purposeful social interaction. In the more modern world much of that occurs electronically, but that does not suggest that the old ways are inappropriate. What would it mean to you to receive a handwritten note from someone? You would consider it a significantly gracious act. Do you engage effectively on the social networks? Do you always try to put your best foot forward? Does your social networking site have pictures of your latest tattoo or of you receiving recognition? Are all of your “friends” bikers and people with a long rap sheet, or C-level corporate officers? You are known by the company you keep and you need to actively engage to keep your name in front of people in a positive light. Write posts. Make constructive comments. Do not be snide or rude. Don’t pile on when a group denigrates one of its members. Reach out one-on-one to members of groups. Ask good questions (4.4.1) and practice good communication skills and techniques (4.0). You never know when you will need your network, so network effectively; make sure that you are a constant contributor so that everyone is willing to step up and help you when you ask.
Nouns and Verbs
In Sustained Leadership WBS I differentiate between the noun and verb forms of this word. You have a network within which you network. You build a network of people, and you selectively consult with individuals in that network.
You should be constantly adding people to your network and as noted in the definition above, that might be bikers (especially if you are into riding or in selling or repairing bikes) or CEO’s. And having tattoos does not disqualify someone from your network (despite old social mores). Most importantly you are seeking people of high quality and character.
The broader and deeper your network, the more valuable it is. Conversely, having 10,000 followers with whom you rarely if ever interact is not a network. It is a vanity metric and meaningless, if not actually detrimental since it might reflect your own shallowness.
More Blessed to Give
When you network you must first learn to give before asking to receive. Offer your content freely. Be viewed as one who affirms not as a “Debbie Downer.” Positive attitudes go a very long way in networking. Show yours and do it with a smile. Smiles have an amazing exchange rate. The more you give away, the more you receive in return.
It is appropriate to ask your network for favors – requesting contacts, business leads, recommendations, and introductions are all common networking activities. Be certain, however, that you have in fact done this already within your network. This is not necessarily a quid pro quo situation (a thing for a thing so that it is an even exchange), but considered on a more macro level. You contribute to the network and others contribute to you. It is more of a “pay-it-forward” environment. Be willing to give before you ask.
Information carries great value. In most cases your networking will involve the exchange of information. Always be certain that the information you share is accurate and reliable. If you give someone bad information, the network will learn about it and your trustworthiness will suffer. On the other hand, sharing a view or opinion rather than verifiable factual information can be slanted as you see fit. It is after all, opinion, and you should identify it as such.
Think of this in terms of having mentors, who are a special category of your network. The mentor relationship is typically more formal with specific agreements on the give and take. You share confidences with a mentor and they provide you with thoughts and advice. Mentoring is always two way street and you should treat your network with the same, albeit less formal, manner.
Do you offer business leads to your network? Do you even know what sorts of leads they are seeking? One great way to build a strong network is to ask each member on your team specifically how they would describe their ideal client or business relationship. For some, they may have trouble articulating it. Help them frame a quality answer. By helping them think through their answer it will most likely help them in their own marketing efforts. It also helps you as you learn more about various businesses and you can now keep your eyes and ears open for leads you can send their way. It will help them and help you. This is networking.
Do not be a network consumer. Remember the Covey bank account metaphor. You must add value in before you can make a withdraw. Always try to leave a relationship where your investment exceeds your withdraw. That is the way of a sustained leader.
This material is derived from the book Sustained Leadership WBS and is found in section 18.104.22.168.2 Networking. Buy the book here.
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