If you’re rating the strength of your network by the number of Facebook friends you have, it’s time for a lesson in leadership networking.
Leadership networking is about developing and using your networks in a way that builds relationships and strengthens alliances in service of your organization’s work and goals.
“A robust leadership network helps provide access to people, information, and resources,” says Curt Grayson, author of Leadership Networking: Connect, Collaborate, Create. “It goes beyond knowing or linking to lots of different people. It’s about being able to use those connections wisely to solve problems and create opportunities.”
Grayson offers 6 rules for effective leadership networking:
- Be sincere. Networking isn’t a ploy for getting your way. If you earn a reputation as someone who takes but doesn’t give, who uses information inappropriately, or who breaks confidences, your networks will shut down.
- Share resources. Having resources such as information, services, and access will build your leadership network through give and take. Reciprocity is important. Become skilled at resource bartering, know your assets, and share them appropriately.
- Use power thoughtfully. Power is the ability to get things done. You’ll need 3 sources of power to build your network: your reputation, your alliances, and your position. Be the leader who gets results, can be held accountable, and has connections with key influencers or decision-makers. Use your power wisely.
- Communicate skillfully. Communicate in a way that builds awareness of your needs and your assets. If you can’t make others aware of what you can offer and what you need in order to accomplish goals, your networking strategies will be ineffective.
- Be a savvy negotiator. Effective negotiators know when to push hard and when to back off, when to share information and when to hold back, when to swap resources, and when to trade short-term outcomes for a long-term goal. Avoid playing hardball and avoid being viewed as a pushover.
- Learn to manage conflict. Learn skills for resolving conflict. When conflict occurs within your network, try to appreciate the opposing view. Look for points of mutual agreement. Express your position in a way that’s helpful to resolving the conflict.
A strong leadership network will serve you and your organization well, but it can also extend beyond the job.
“If you have a great reputation within your network, you have the advantage of having a solid group of contacts who can be resources if you start a job search or look to extend your professional reach,” Grayson adds.