The five people you must have in your network
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
By Jo Miller
An emerging leader asks: "As a program manager, I
rely on heavily influencing without authority to get my job done. As part of my
development plan, my manager suggested that I expand my network among our
internal business partners so that I can be more influential. However, I don’t
want to be seen spending too much time unnecessarily schmoozing. Where should I
Wise advice from your manager! Having a network of
strong working relationships across your organization can connect you with
hidden information, resources and opportunities. Having a great network makes
it easier to get your job done, influence outcomes and gain buy-in more easily.
If you spend a lot of time building relationships
with an agenda, people will be used to seeing you only when you need something
from them. This trains them not to look forward to seeing you. My
recommendation is to set aside a couple hours per week to build relationships
with people at times when you don’t need anything from them.
To expand your network effectively and efficiently,
consider starting first with these five people:
- The Connector.
A connector is a true "people person” who knows — and has great relationships
with — everyone. Connectors put others at ease, and they love to open doors and
make introductions. Watch them and learn!
Informational Powerhouse. You can count on an informational powerhouse to
be current on personnel and organizational issues. This person filters useful
information from gossip or noise and knows about changes before they occur.
Seek out an informational powerhouse when you need to know about new trends,
ideas, projects, opportunities and so on — before they become official.
Influencer. An influencer is not necessarily a high-level or high-profile
leader, but has a natural ability to make things happen. Influencers get people
on board with ideas and initiatives, gain agreement and collaboration from
teams, and have a voice with senior leadership. Their early support can
guarantee the success of your initiatives and their advocacy can get you
- The Sponsor.
Senior leader sponsors are your manager’s peers (and those ranked above them)
and they have the power to accelerate your career dramatically. Interacting
with them frequently can help you align your work effort with your
organization’s strategic goals. Senior leader sponsors have the ability to
single you out for recognition and connect you to special projects, task forces
and committees and new opportunities for growth.
- The Mentor.
The mentor is a special category of senior leader sponsor. While most women
rely on their mentors to advise them on how to navigate situations at work,
consider asking your mentor to critique and give you honest feedback on how you
are doing and how you come across. Many of the senior-level women I coach can
trace their career advancement back to a turning point, where a mentor advised
them on something they needed to be doing differently. I often observe men using
their mentors differently than women do. They are more proactive about asking
their mentors to sponsor them. Consider asking your mentor to actively open
doors and connect you with opportunities.
If you are just beginning to develop yourself as a
leader, I can’t think of a better place to start than expanding your network.
But be strategic. Draw a quick sketch of your org chart, with yourself in the
middle. Now draw heavier lines connecting you to those individuals with whom
you have built solid relationships with. Do the lines extend in all directions?
Do they include each of the five key types of people? Where are the gaps in
your network? Create a plan to fill the gaps. Your plan could be as simple as
listing names and an action to take to make a connection.
As your network grows, you’ll find you are
building a cadre of collaborators, supporters and advocates who are there to
support you in your career and leadership objectives. Your ability to lead and
influence will expand effortlessly.
Jo Miller, CEO
of Women’s Leadership Coaching Inc., facilitates the NEW
Leadership Academy webinars designed to help Network of
Executive Women members build core skills and prepare for top management roles
in their organizations.
Views expressed in signed blogs and user comments are
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