An emerging trend in corporate leadership centers on building relationships. Much of that emphasis stems from the fact that the world’s global economy demands an adaptive leadership corps. Without a solid network of support and knowledge, corporate executives can’t build those relationships and help their companies succeed.
Just as relationships can be learned, so can the skills needed to strengthen your network. All are developed based on the concept that executives at any level must change the way they lead others by growing relationships.
A solid network is only 6 steps away:
- Any relationship involves learning from other people and listening to what they have to offer. Effective managers seek advice and input — especially tips on how they expand their own personal corporate network. A concrete way to work on this skill is to keep a network notebook for a week. Write down what you observe about how others interact. Note connections that seem to work and ones that misfire. Who seems isolated and why? By week’s end, check and see where your networking skills stack up against your observations.
- Don’t be the odd executive out. Remember the person in the networking notebook who seemed isolated? Don’t let that be you. Invite others into your realm, whether it’s by asking them out to lunch or making time for a brief conversation. Invite others to your meetings and let them know their input is important to you. Need more tangible ways to get connected? Arrange at least one invitation a week. It might be lunch; it might be a quick talk after or before a meeting. Don’t be so regimented that people in the office know when it’s “their turn,” but do be consistent with your own planning.
- When you ask for feedback, use it. Asking for feedback is critical in building a network. If other team members feel as though you don’t care to hear their thoughts, then they won’t offer input when you really need their expertise. Seek honest answers from your peers. Ask for earnest, straightforward feedback from your superiors. Again, however, those conversations come only by building a good relationship. To keep track of how you’re doing, set that feedback talk up on a regular basis. They don’t have to be formal conversations, but make a note of how often you take the corporate temperature.
- By building those relationships, executives create the sense that they can and will work well with others. That means volunteering for assignments and getting out of the comfort zone. The only way to do that is to raise your hand for the next project or assignment that involves people from outside your work group. Knowledge grows when relationships build, and it leads to influence.
- Influential people are the ones who know what’s going on. Successful managers are resources about people, processes, facts, and history of a company or project. By becoming an information hub, those managers become people everyone wants in their network. Find out what you know and what you need to improve on by cataloging some of your information assets. Once you see your strengths, make sure you can find a way to let others incorporate your skills into their work habits. You’ll become a resource and possibly even a mentor seen as a valuable element in the company.
- Any network needs regular maintenance. Keep yours vibrant by finding other people who recognize the challenges in staying connected. It might be someone who’s been working with you for some time, or it might be a counterpart in another department. Look for someone who can teach you how to become better at what you do. A specific activity might involve interviewing respected, influential peers on how they relate to others. Some behaviors can be borrowed; others might be adapted to your department.
The point is to nurture that network and make it a regular part of the workplace culture.