Who you know is as important in business as it ever was. But it’s not about cronyism or nepotism.
In Managing Yourself, A Smarter Way to Network, (Harvard Business Review, July 2011), Rob Cross and Robert J Thomas observed that, “The executives who consistently rank in the top 20 per cent of their companies in both performance and well-being have diverse but select networks … made up of high-quality relationships with people who come from several different spheres and from up and down the corporate hierarchy.”
Over the past couple of decades I’ve worked with corporates and entrepreneurs from a wide variety of backgrounds. I’ve had the opportunity to interview master networkers such as Emergent chief executive Holly Ransom, former Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick and seven-time world surfing champion Layne Beachley and I’ve mentored senior executives and CEOs across a multitude of industries.
Every one of the people I have worked with, spoken to or studied attests to the fact that true success lies in surrounding yourself with a small yet strong, trusted and tight network – a network that works with you and for you.
Becoming the master of your personal network and surrounding yourself with the right people, with the right skills, is key to fast-tracking personal success. My research indicates that choosing your network wisely starts with these four key people:
Your own personal cheerleading squad is key. They are with you through thick or thin, never give up on you and always dream big with you.
Promoters pull you toward your future dreams, make noise about possibilities, spend time with you to explore how you’re going to achieve your goals and inspire you. They put fire in your belly and belief in your mind.
According to research from the Centre For Talent Innovation, people with promoters (aka sponsors) are 23 per cent more likely to move up in their career than those without sponsors.
Nick Holzherr, chief executive of Whisk.com in the UK says, “Building a network is about seeking out best practice. I have been very deliberate in building my network. People can offer different things at different times. But this core network, for me, is priceless.”
Holzherr describes one of the key people within his network as an entrepreneur, investor and friend who has significant amount of experience across a broad range of industries. “We bounce ideas off each other, explore options, he shares his insight and this enables me to really look at opportunities and challenges from lots of different angles.”
Climbing the ladder of success can be a lonely task, requiring grit, determination and perseverance. We all experience days of frustration and disappointment, days when we have to face our fears, make tough decisions, push past failures, recalibrate our reality and keep focused on opportunities that lie outside our comfort zone.
Having the right crew to help you overcome these difficulties and keep you mentally tough and balanced, is crucial. Like a Formula One racing car, your pit crew can make or break a race. They add stamina, help to navigate complexities and lift you up after setbacks; they help you learn from mistakes and push you on.
Seek out teachers who will push you. They may have achieved what you want to achieve and will open doors, make introductions and pave the way for your success.
Harvard professor Linda Hill says, “You can’t think of something new unless you are being pushed to think in new directions, and you can’t do that unless you are engaging with people who have a different viewpoint.”
Holly Ransom, chief executive of Emergent, was the youngest person to be named among Australia’s Most Influential Women in 2012. She attributes much of her success to surrounding herself with the best and brightest leaders, game changers and thought leaders including motivational speaker Simon Sinek, former US President Barack Obama and Boost Juice founder Janine Allis.
She says, “It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a whole army to raise a young woman. Growing up as a different sort of kid, I relied on my mentors for encouragement and advice.”
Love them or hate them, we all need butt-kickers. They are the masters of delivery. They listen to your dreams and accelerate your goals, pushing you to do more and holding you accountable for all your actions – and then some. Paula Kensington of Regus, an award winning chief financial officer, says of her network: “A strong network is mission critical if you are concerned about your future. Find the influencers, advisors and advocates who will help you grow and the team that will keep you balanced and grounded.”
Choose your tribe carefully. By strategically aligning yourself with the right people you can fast track your ambitions.
Janine Garner is chief executive of the LBDGroup, a Fortune 500 mentor and author of It’s Who You Know: How a network of 12 key people can fast-track your success (Wiley)