It’s true that “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” (Though I want to believe that what you know is also very important!)
Therefore, making sure that you have an effective network is very important to your productivity and long term success. Research reported in Harvard Business Review* states that highly satisfied, high performers have a collection of people in their networks whom:
*Offer new information/expertise and share best practices
*Have formal power in their organization and provide mentoring/political support
*Provide developmental feedback, challenge their decisions, push them to be better
*Provide personal support; e.g., help them get back on track if they are having a bad day
*Add a sense of worth and purpose to their work
*Promote work/life balance
The authors suggest that a strong network represents people from six categories: information, political support, personal development, personal support and energy, a sense of purpose, and work/life balance. How do you create such a network? Here are their suggestions:
Analyze. List the people in your current network and evaluate the quality of the relationship. How energizing is the relationship? What are the benefits of it?
De-layer. Stop investing time with people who are negative or promote unhealthy behaviors. Look at the categories your network falls into and choose the best from each. You should not be over represented in too many categories while lagging in others.
Diversify. Add positive, energetic, self-less people to your network. Write down three work related goals and think of people who could help you achieve them if you were better connected to them. Make sure you have at least one or two people per category.
Capitalize. Cultivate the quality of relationships in your network and work to expand the role different people have in it. Maybe their initial contribution is providing information, but maybe they can also assist with personal development – for example.
Of course, this takes time. But research that the authors have done suggest that this will maximize the power of your network over time and make you even more effective. Begin powering up your network today!
*Cross, R & Thomas, R., A Smarter Way to Network, Harvard Business Review, July – August 2011, pp. 149 – 153.