Your network becomes more important and valuable to you when you become a leader in your organization. It often becomes the way that you get things done. As we know, taking on a more senior role oftentimes means that you are assuming more responsibility as well as having greater impact on those within your organization. For these reasons building a network as you grow professionally that supports your success becomes paramount. It becomes not about how you solely get things done or how you give specific direction to make things happen. It becomes about how you are truly working through others to achieve the mission and purpose of your organization and your career. How you are partnering with individuals within your organization inclusive of key internal stakeholders and external partners becomes of great value and meaning to you in which your network plays a major role.
In order to prepare to serve in a position of more influence and impact you should start building your network and networking with the appropriate individuals well before you get to the point that you need such a network. Preparation is key, but many of us wait just before we are about to assume such a role or are actually in the role which is too late. Such delay means that you work extra hard to build your leadership network and run the risk of never having the right network. So the inherent lesson in this is not to wait. The time is to start building your network is as soon as you can see yourself evolving into a leadership role. You do not have to wait until someone in your organization anoints you or communicates this to you as a result of succession planning or a career discussion with you. You should take the initiative and prepare to build a network that will help aide in your success long-term whether you move into a leadership role or not. At a minimum you will signal to your current organization that you view yourself as a future leader. If they are unable to see it, then you know what you need to do. But if you depart, you will have a network that will go with you and even support you in your new role or organization.
So, here are some basic tips to get you started in building your leadership network that I have seen successful individuals do which will hopefully enable your success as well:
Observe How Leaders in Your Organization Navigate and Connect with Other Leaders
Often observing other individuals that are leaders or in leadership positions is the best way to see and learn how they are navigating through your company. You observe and learn what helps them to be successful and what hinders them. It also allows you also to determine what leaders you will hopefully partner with or need to partner with as you develop your network.
Focus Early On the Outcomes That You Want To Achieve As You Build Your Network as a Leader
Many of us spend time on who is in our network, how big is our network or what our network can do for us. It is more important to think about the outcomes you want and finding or building a network comprised of individuals to support you in helping you to achieve those results. Just having a network comprised of connections that serve no purpose except that you know one another does not currently nor will later aide you in your success either professionally or with any business outcomes.
Cultivate Relationships Across Groups and Functions Outside of Yours
Leaders are known for being able to do this. It is expected. Leaders often have to do this because the tasks that they are often given span the need to enroll multiple groups and varied individuals. They have no choice but to mobilize commitment and create shared ownership to achieve a lofty goal. The relationships that they establish and nurture outside their area or function become important and often necessary. Many times if leaders don’t do this, they fail.
Ensure That You Develop and Maintain Different Types of Networks Externally
Savvy leaders know the importance of having multiple networks within as well as outside their organization. One network does not serve all your needs nor will help you achieve your goals as a leader. Understand that it is equally important to have partners and relationships within your organization as well as the same type of professionals, thought leaders and stakeholders outside of your organization for your network. This means belonging to or joining other professional groups or associations where they are. Don’t let building your internal network be your only focus to move you ahead or support you in your career.
Being a leader is a responsibility that requires you to enroll and engage many. No time like the present to develop the right network to do this. So if you see yourself as a future leader in your for-profit, nonprofit or governmental role, then get started! Build a leadership network that works for you.
I am Francine Parham. I publically speak, write and advise individuals about their professional development. I believe and support individuals in making the right connections to achieve their professional and personal goals. Reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Flickr Photo by Jairoagua