Building strong networks

April 28, 2022
by
Liz Luya

A common conversation with my coaching clients sits around how they influence others.  At the heart of being effective at influencing is the need to have strong connections.  It is, after all, much easier to influence someone who knows and trusts you.  

Yet it’s equally common to find clients who don’t build connections and networks within, or outside, their organisations.  The reasons they cite are that they don’t enjoy it, don’t know how, or don’t have the time.  If this sounds anything like you, this article will help you think about how to approach networking.

There’s only so much you can do on your own to increase the influence you have.

Leveraging links with others by building networks is a critical step towards enhancing your efficiency. A strong network helps you to be better known, equipped, connected and in turn more influential.  It’s a worthwhile and ongoing investment of your time.

Establishing a network is based on one principle; unattached reciprocity.  The best way to develop your network and build sustainable relationships is to connect with people for who they are, not for what they can do for you. Always keep in mind what contribution you can make to your network.  When you meet people in different capacities and in different settings ask yourself what can I do for them, what can I bring them?  For example: share specific information; offer a shared experience, introduce them to someone interesting, support them on something they’re doing, offer your views/experience – the list continues.

In an increasingly virtual, fluid and complex corporate world being successful also requires you to invest in a proper networking strategy.  Think about building or mapping your network across three pillars; 

  • Operational – those people who help you get your current work or role done efficiently
  • Strategic  - those people who can influence future priorities, can help you achieve personal and organisational goals
  • Personal – those who help enhance your personal and professional development.

In addition it also involves being clear about who are your endorsers, allies and advocates, those people who will help you to build your network, leverage and influence others or back you to others when you’re not around.

Finally, networking requires energy. For those of us who typically avoid networking the need to continually reach out and meet people you don’t know well, or tactically manage your time to allow space for networking meetings, or attend functions you might normally avoid, can be exhausting. For others networking gives energy as we charge ourselves from interacting with others.   It’s important to recognise how you feel about the energy you need to network and manage your time accordingly.  If you find the thought exhausting, pick a limited number of days per week where you set up ‘networking’ events and keep several days completely clear to recharge.  Think also of the times during the day when you have most energy to give to networking (do you organise coffee/tea, lunch, drinks, dinner or a meeting)

Here are some key points to remember when thinking about building your network:

  • Invest time.  Networks are dynamic and constantly changing. Make regular time in your diary to create new connections and build on existing ones.

  • Influence comes from observing your environment and managing it- understanding your stakeholders and their needs is central to that.  Your immediate stakeholders form a crucial part of your network. Regularly map your top stakeholders so that you are mindful to manage those relationships proactively. 

  • Brainstorm your network (and future potential network) into the 3 pillars, strategic, operational and personal.  This will help you see if you have balance and perhaps help identify any gaps.

  • Clearly identify your allies, endorsers and advocates and ask for their help (a great influencing tactic). These people can act as accelerators in building your network, or influencing others on your behalf.

  • Spend time planning what you will discuss (based on their interests and needs), always build rapport and connection at every interaction. Consider how you can create the best impact.

  • Recognise that networking takes energy and depending on your preferences manage your energy to ensure you can maintain momentum.  

  • Remember that networking is based on unattached reciprocity- you are not in it for what you might gain but what you can do for others- which then means you do get something out of it

In summary, networking is about having the ability to contact or put people in contact with each other to solve a problem fast or create value. It allows you to create a rich ecosystem of personal contacts ready to provide support, feedback and resources to get things done. In turn this helps develop your ability to be able to influence others effectively.

Get in touch with us at connect@boldly.app to see how coaching can help improve  your networking abilities.

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