Building your network is a must if you’re transitioning to a leadership role or looking to improve your leadership skills. At least 80% of professionals consider networking key to career success. The ability to network helps leaders enlist the right people, gain outside support, and support a team.
Networking can be a daunting task depending on the individual. It can conjure anxiety, thoughts of awkward moments after small talk, or make you feel excited at the opportunity to meet another person and learn something new. No matter your situation, networking takes work.
Key benefits of building your network
Why network if there’s already so much work to do? Networking within and outside of operational bounds is an essential function of a leader. While some may be quick to write it off as politics or an excuse to socialize, it benefits both the leader and their team in significant ways.
Keep track of organizational changes
Organizational changes can undermine or boost the value of the work you and your team are responsible for. Part of a leader’s job is to identify the deciding voices, connect with them, and orient their team’s efforts accordingly. Don’t fall into the common pitfall of using only one decision maker’s view if more people are involved.
Find connections before you need them
According to research by LinkedIn, over half of employees are hired through connections they have inside a company. If you’re in a situation where you need to fill a vital role on your team or are seeking guidance in a time of need, you’ll want to have connections in your network ready. It’s best not to start nurturing relationships when you are desperate for help.
Start thinking strategically
Deciding when and how to network should be deliberate. Have your personal brand defined, refined, and ready for introductions. You need to understand your strengths, values, and skills, telling your story strategically. Leaders should also know how to direct their networking efforts to benefit their goals and strengths as a team.
Market your success
Good work often goes unnoticed because we live in a busy world, making the opportunity to market your success a key benefit of networking. Networking is your chance to build a reputation for delivering results that could help you and your team stand out from the crowd.
How to develop your network
We can instantly contact members in our professional communities through popular websites like LinkedIn, but contact alone isn’t enough to build a connection. Follow these tips to start developing your network.
1. Share content online
Share articles, questions, and other engaging content online. This is one of the most effective ways to generate engagement and grow your network.
2. Start informal chats
Informal conversation can sometimes be more productive than a formal meeting. Nurture the relationships in your network with fun activities like shared hobbies, coffee, or common interests.
3. Follow up with contacts
After you’ve connected with someone, always follow up. It’s not just about the number of connections you make — it’s about the quality of your relationships.
4. Practice networking often
Networking takes practice. You don’t have to be extroverted to be successful at networking because it’s a skill that you could practice and improve.
5. Offer to help proactively
Offering help proactively means finding opportunities instead of responding to them. Don’t wait for people to ask for help and find out where you are needed.
6. Don’t be afraid of no
Even if you do everything right, people will still reject and ignore your requests to connect. We can’t be afraid of no when we step outside our comfort zones to connect with new people. Sometime, people do not respond because they are simply busy.
Networking can be fun too
There is a way for all of us, no matter our backgrounds, to develop our network and, more importantly, make networking enjoyable. You can use a hobby, common interest, or love of fine dining to regularly meet people in your professional network and nurture contacts into connections.
As an organization leader, you can encourage your employees to connect internally – with colleagues from other regions, from other departments, etc. Being intentional on this can be a wonderful enabler to solving business issues faster and preventing people to reinvent the wheel again and again.
Contact us to kickstart your journey to building a strong and reliable network that continues to provide value for you as a leader and for your organization. Learn where you fit and find new ways you can enjoy networking and overcome business challenges faster.
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