Read part 1 of this series here.
Your Network Should Change as You Move Up the Org Chart
Our research has shown that leaders face distinct network challenges as they move through the organizational hierarchy, and thus leaders should have different types of networks.
The Middle Network Challenge
For example, we know that when leading from the middle one of the biggest network derailment factors is failing to build strategic relationships. Why? Because middle leaders are busy executing the vision of the organization and coordinating resources and people to do it. They don’t have time to waste in building relationships that may or may not be useful in the future; they need people right now to help them execute and coordinate their goals.
But if you’re in the middle and you don’t build strategic relationships you’re unlikely to be promoted, given more responsibility, and you’re often unable to accomplish tasks that need matrix or cross organizational alignment (some great insights on strategic relationships come from Ibarra & Hunter’s HBR article)
Different Change Initiatives Require Different Types of Networks
So how do you use this knowledge to drive change inside your organization?
A recent HBR article, The Network Secrets of Great Change Agents, tackled this challenge. Here’s a brief summary:
Different changes require different types of network structures (just like different org levels).
For divergent changes (or shifts that require large behavior changes – think new accounting system) an open network is the best suited to influence the people you need to accomplish the change initiative.
For incremental changes (small shifts in behavior change – think updates to expense report processes) a more cohesive network is most effective.
You may not have the right type of network structure to achieve the change you are trying for (so go out and find the person who does and get them on your side).
Your ability to influence without authority is directly tied to your network mindset (check out our white paper) – are you building the right networks at the right time for the right problems?