There is much more to networking than collecting likes, friends, connections or old-school business cards. To really succeed, and break out beyond the online realm, you must become the master of your network both at work and in life generally. The right network is about having the right people and the right relationships in your professional and personal life. The question is:
- Who is really in your network?
- How much input or influence do they really have in what you’re trying to achieve?
- How much do they truly know you and your goals?
- How much can they help?
First, identify the ‘Who’
This isn’t about doing a brain dump of everyone you know. When assessing your network, think about the individuals you currently go to or rely on for support, information, advice, and inspiration or simply as a sounding board for your thinking. This might include your partner, colleagues, friends, family members, or your existing or former boss.
Next, let’s audit
A balanced, interconnected network enables diversity of learning, reduces bias in decision making, and increases opportunity for personal growth and opportunity. An effective network bridges smaller more diverse individuals with differing levels of expertise, age, gender and experience. Powerful networks are cross-functional, cross-hierarchical and cross-industry delivering balance and diverse thinking. Take a look at your core circle. Are they providing?
- Company, market or wider industry information?
- Influence through sharing insight, experience and connections?
- Mentoring to accelerate your personal growth plan?
- Energising you to take action, holding you accountable?
- A sense of purpose, of balance and worth?
Sink the dream stealers:
Knowing who to cut from your network is as important as knowing who to keep. Sometimes we have to make some hard decisions and sink the energy zappers, the under miners, the dream stealers. The antitheses of networking, these people zap positivity and don’t add constructive thoughts to your thinking. They dampen the collective conversation, instead stealing ideas and snuffing them out – or worse stealing them for themselves.
To really succeed you must become the master of your network in both work and life. Here are three key tips to building a network that works.
Identify your critical few:
Momentum starts with a small, diverse circle of influence with you securely in the centre, rather than mixed in somewhere with all the other participants. It is here that a small group of people providing quality thinking and behaviours and push you further than you could ever go alone.
You need a personal:
Board of Advisers that bring out the best in you – they act as a sounding board and safety net to explore your ideas and plan your next career steps. Your boardroom provides encouragement, support and inspiration.
Intelligence Bank that sustains you over the long term – invest in the right people with the right skills and it will pay dividends over the long term.
Marketing Machine that champions you and your cause – Without a marketing machine around you, your ability to create change and build engagement and influence is limited. To really drive your net worth and influence, you have to tap into what’s around you.
Be brave and diversify
Step out of your comfort zone, strategically expand your circle of influence, diversify your connections, and explore other people, businesses and experiences. Consciously consider who else you need to learn from, add value to, engage and collaborate with. Be brave enough to seek out new individuals, being brave enough to connect.
Value exchange is key
Bringing people with positive energy into your inner circle is key. If those around you are enthusiastic, authentic and generous you will be too. Find ways to add value. Ask yourself if you are doing enough with and for your connections? Consider what more you could do to add value to them and their business? Model the behaviour you seek in return. Give knowledge unconditionally, open doors willingly, share insights to drive continued growth and success for others, attract them and engage with them.
No matter what stage of your career you are at, in today’s world of constant challenge, change and busyness you simply will not be able to move fast enough on your own. It’s time to create a new plan of action — one that puts you in control, identifies the right people for you and creates the right behaviours that will nurture your network for mutual success. It’s time to get back in control and build a network that works.
Janine Garner is an internationally-acclaimed entrepreneur and Fortune 500 mentor, keynote speaker and author. She is a partner at Thought Leaders Global, and the founder and CEO of the LBDGroup, a networking community that connects like-minded women together to help them achieve extraordinary growth. Janine is the author of It’s Who You Know: How a network of 12 key people can fast-track your success (Wiley 2017) and From Me To We: Why Commercial Collaboration Will Future Proof Business, Leaders and Personal Success (Wiley 2015). http://www.janinegarner.com.au