Networking at Work vs. Kissing A**
Recently I was discussing with a colleague the importance of developing and maintaining a network at work. While she said she agreed, her body language said otherwise. After a moment, she confided that others had told her that networking was just “kissing a**” [imagine bleep out tone here] and they would have no part of it.
If you think networking is just for getting yourself ahead or sucking up to others and being smarmy or worse both of these things, then don’t do it. You will be transparent, seen as insincere, selfish and yes, you’ll be puckering up just as my colleague warned.
But this is not networking at work, at least not the way I recommend you approach it.
Let me share a story.
Once while standing near a well, Leonardo da Vinci saw a pebble strike the water. At that very same moment, a bell rang in a nearby church tower. As da Vinci watched the concentric circles travel outward from where the pebble had hit the water, the ringing sound of the bell echoed in the valley. At that moment, Leonardo’s mind connected the unconnected as Michael Michalko describes in his book Cracking Creativity, The Secrets of Creative Genius, and discovered that sound travels in waves just like the ripples on the water.
In similar fashion, Joannes Gutenburg connected the unconnected back in the 1400s by combining the mechanisms from wine pressing and punching coins to create movable type ushering in the printing press.
Like da Vinci and Gutenburg, countless others have made novel combinations connecting divergent concepts resulting in incredible innovations. Had da Vinci not seen the rock splash into the water at the same time the bell rang or Guteburg not experienced both wine pressing and coin punching, would they have still have had their insights? It is impossible to know, but certainly these experiences served as catalysts for their discoveries.
What does this have to do with networking at work?
Connecting the Unconnected
Networking is your way to create catalysts for connecting the unconnected. Not to benefit yourself, but to benefit others and your business.
For example, I was in a meeting a few weeks ago where the presenter was discussing how their team had revolutionized the way we manage our websites. They described how what had previously taken months to get new sites up and running now took days with both higher quality and less money. The remaining issue they faced was finding a way to quickly translate these new sites to serve our global audience in an efficient and cost effective manner. I happen to know from another group I work with that creates our international technical manuals that this translation problem had already been solved. By bringing these two teams together we were able to solve the website teams’ remaining issue.
This is a simple example, but you can appreciate the potential impact you can make by being the one to connect the unconnected.
When you spend time networking, you meet with a divergent set of people throughout your organization.
Your job is not to sell them on you.
Your job is to take the time to understand them, their work, their frustrations, and their goals. The hope is that at some point you might be able to help some of the people in your network with their goals either directly or by connecting them with others in the organization.
As she mentions in her book Business Dating: Applying Relationship Rules in Business for Ultimate Success, author Honoree Corder’s number one rule for networking is “Give, give, give. Rinse. Repeat.”
To do networking the right way, it is about creating relationships at work where your focus is on giving and providing value to others.
Honoree describes in her book how to view your network as you would any other relationship. You are not simply creating a one-time transactional interaction (e.g., a one night stand!) but a long term relationship built on trust. You will connect more or less frequently with different people in your network depending on the circumstances.
How do you decide what type and frequency of interaction is right?
Fortunately, Honoree has the answer. Even better, it is free!
Her trade marked 12×12 system for managing your network can be found at http://honoreecorder.com/resources/. This is a step by step system that walks you through how to identify, organize, discover, and connect with your network. It is written as if you are running a business but the principles and the tool are equally effective for establishing and nurturing your network at work.
6 Hours and the 33% Rule
The Referral Institute conducted research analyzing data from over 12,000 entrepreneurs and found the most successful of them spent 6.3 hours per week networking. Furthermore, 47% of their subsequent business came from this networking.
Wow – half of their success was from networking.
For your network at work, I recommend not 6 hours per week, but 6 network connections per month.
Also, your network should follow the 33% rule. That is, 33% of your network should be in with your peer group, 33% should be with those that work for you (if you are a manager) or are ‘lower’ in your company hierarchy, and the final 33% should be with those colleagues at higher levels in the organization. You will then be connecting with two people in each of the three groups each month.
Do this each month, time and time again, and watch your network grow.
If you view networking at work as connecting the unconnected, treat your network as a set of long term relationships, and devote time to developing, maintaining and finding ways to give to your network, you will be amazed at the impact you will have.