There are 3 levels of networking effectiveness – at which level are you networking?
Much like we regularly take stock of our personal finances, our health and well-being, our personal development, our career or our business plans, we need to also regularly take stock of the effectiveness of how we are networking.
You may be part of a network group or two, have a list of contacts and a stack of connections across various social media platforms but how many of these contacts do you really know? How many truly know you and what you are trying to achieve this year? How many of your contacts honestly care about you and your success? Are you collaborating with the right partners to drive mutual success? Are you transforming and inspiring each other to leverage your impact?
Or are your connections shallow, superficial and ineffective? Has it all become very transactional and your networking isn’t getting you anywhere? That’s if you are networking at all.
I believe there are 3 stages of networking effectiveness. Where are you at right now?
STAGE 1: INEFFECTIVE NETWORKING
‘I’m nervous about making connections…I’m shy…I’m an introvert.’ These are among the common excuses shared by those sitting at the bottom, at Stage 1- Ineffective Networking.
If this is you then you’re standing on the outside looking in. You probably think you don’t have anyone you trust. Or maybe you are a perfectionist who can’t relinquish control of small tasks so you’re trying to do everything yourself. You may feel like you have maxed out your mental credit limit, and exhausted all of your resources just getting through the day to day. You want to expand your network, grow your business, or elevate your career, but even thinking about it is exhausting.
Confining yourself to Stage 1 actually sets you up to become even more disconnected. It’s a place that is inherently anti-growth and anti-change. This is a stage of procrastination or merely dabble at building a network.
And the risks at this stage?
● You get isolated from opportunities
● You go backwards in your career or losing your competitive edge
● you become irrelevant and invisible.
STAGE 2: EFFECTIVE NETWORKING
Are you attending regular networking events already? Do you know people outside of your team, division or office? Do you connect with people on social media? Are you actively building a contact list?
If you answer ‘yes’ to these questions, then like most of us, you are sitting comfortably at Stage 2 – Effective Networking. You’re busy transacting, making contacts and expanding your network.
Unlike the passivity typical at Stage 1, behaviours in the second stage are more active and assertive. Networking has consisted of building contacts who may be able to help you do the job you have, support your immediate personal development needs or help you achieve your current key business goals.
You probably don’t need convincing that networking is a critical part of business growth. You do engage with networking groups, industry events or personal development programs. Most likely you’ve been a part of these so long you know everyone’s name. But continuing to connect only with the same individuals or groups will limit your potential. When you’re comfortable, nothing is really working for you, and eventually, passivity will kick in again and start to work against you.
And the risks at this stage?
● Passivity eventually kicks in as your networking becomes comfortable
● Group think permeates conversations and debate
● Stability and comfort zone prevents challenge and progress
STAGE 3: EXPONENTIAL NETWORKING
At Stage 3 you focus on the quality of the people you know rather than their number.
Building an effective and powerful network is about much more than finding your ‘tribe’. It requires a breadth of contacts and skills so you open yourself up to more possibilities and embrace opportunities you would never find in a homogeneous group. You may not always agree with your tribe, but that’s just why it’s important. Questioning leads to further awareness and knowledge.
Building a network of transformational connections involves embracing differing levels of expertise, age and experience.It is about immersing yourself in a conversation that spans industries and functions, with no limits on the range and depth of discussion. Corporate leaders, creatives, coaches, entrepreneurs and lawyers, for example, solving problems together. It’s about colourful conversations, sharing different perspectives and broader views.
Here networking is about:
- diversifying your connections, seeking out people who challenge your thinking, planning and direction
- finding individuals whose functions differ from yours, who work in other industries or at a different hierarchical level
- accessing other skills and expertise you don’t have
- becoming curious about possibility and opportunity
- connecting in order to develop a deeper understanding of yourself and others
- becoming deliberate and focused in your actions and endeavours
- investing time and effort to engage for your own and others’ success
- embracing the power of reciprocity
- pushing boundaries and you further than you could ever go alone
- building a network where you are smack bang in the centre.
The risk at this stage?
Achieving more than you ever thought was possible
Whether you are at the top of an organisation or just starting out, a leader in your field or a novice, understanding the opportunity that exists when you own your network and act strategically, transformationally, is the key to success.
As networking master Keith Ferrazzi puts it,
“Your network is your destiny…we are the people we interact with.”
Take some time this week to take stock of your networking?
What could you do differently to improve your networking effectiveness?
Until next week.