In my work with arts leaders, I emphasize the importance of networking and therefore consider networking to be an essential leadership skill.
My definition of networking is very simple:
Connect + Share + Remain Relevant
This boils down to the art of creating successful relationships in a mutually-supportive community that can help you both personally and professionally, as well as benefit those in your network.
Why does networking help leaders?
Successful networkers create trusting relationships with people who can provide access to relevant information and resources, which can help leaders to solve problems and come up with more effective and creative solutions that have the buy-in from major stakeholders. In addition, studies show that successful networkers experience greater career satisfaction.
Leaders who network effectively enjoy benefits both for themselves, as well as their organizations.
Let’s take a closer look at the ways that networking can help your development as a leader. I will then share my top 10 tips to help you build an effective network.
Benefits of Networking to Leaders
- Internal networking:
with people in your organization so that you can do your job more effectively
- Professional Development:
with your peers in your field to provide a broader view, understand the key strategic issues facing your industry and with people in other industries so that you can see the bigger picture
- Leadership Development:
with those inside and outside your organization to form a group of trusted advisors who can provide information and resources that will help you make better and faster decisions that have wider support.
with more senior leaders who can serve the role or mentor or sponsor within your organization.
- Career Development:
with people either inside or outside of the organization who might hire you for your next or eventual job.
Benefits of Networking to Your Organization
- Access to stakeholders
For arts leaders, networking is a great way to create relationships with essential stakeholders of the organization, including:
- Board Members
- Artistic collaborators
- Community Leaders
- Leveraging knowledge and ideas
The more successful you are as a leader, the better you think, the better solutions you come up with, the more your organization benefits. Leadership expert and Insead Business School professor Herminia Ibarra has studied the impact of networking on emerging leaders and found that networking enables leaders to link contacts outside the organization with people inside the organization to leverage knowledge and ideas. As she observed:
These are the networks that make a huge different in leadership. This is where strategic ideas come into play. This is what allows people to line up stakeholders…
3 Types of Networking for Leaders
Ibarra has identified 3 types of networking that emerging leaders need to master:
- Operational Networking:
To build good relationships with those who can help you to do your job, focused primarily on people within the organization and on current issues
- Personal Networking:
To enhance your personal and professional development with people primarily outside your organization and oriented to both current interests and future issues
- Strategic Networking:
To figure out future priorities and challenges and gaining support from stakeholders with those both within and outside of the organization, with an orientation towards the future.
Based on her study of emerging leaders, Ibarra found that successful leaders leverage all three types of networking.
Networking is a challenge when you are busy with your day job. However, given the importance of networking to leadership, networking is critical to your success so be sure to make time to network. Think of networking as an activity that is important to you and your future, even if it is not urgent. In that respect, networking is a “Quadrant 2” activity in the model developed by Steven Covey, author of the iconic book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989) where he instructs leaders to structure their time into 4 quadrants based on what is important and not important and what is urgent or not urgent.
A Leader’s Guide to Networking: Top 10 Tips to Building a Supportive Network
Here are my top 10 tips to help leaders network effectively.
- Be strategic
- Decide with whom you want to network
- Figure out where to find the people with whom you want to connect
- Think about the type of information and resources that are important to you
- Be prepared
- Create a goal and a plan for achieving your networking goal
- Have an Elevator Pitch that describes who you are and what you do that benefits your listener, with a goal to keeping in touch.
- Be proactive
Don’t sit back and wait for people to contact you. Be on the lookout for the right opportunities to meet the people and acquire the information that you need to succeed.
- Be positive
Be sure to embrace a positive and confident attitude when networking. It helps to play to your strengths while networking. If you are blessed with good people skills, networking is a lot of fun! If you like to think and strategize, networking is an opportunity to use those skills as well. If you love to learn, networking creates myriad opportunities for acquiring new information and learning from others.
Remember to tap into your Flow self and to share your passions since passion is infectious!
- Be yourself
Present yourself authentically when networking. People can sense if you are not being genuine so don’t pretend to be something that you are not.
In addition, seek out the situations where you feel most comfortable networking. If you are intimidated by big crowds, try networking one-on-one or in small groups.
And don’t fall back on the excuse that you are an introvert! Introversion simply means that you derive energy from being alone and that you need to recharge yourself after being around people. In fact, many introverts enjoy warm, close relationships. So if that is your style, aim your networking to smaller groups.
- Be of service
Successful networking is a two-way street so when you are networking remember to
- Share resources
- Be generous
- Reciprocate with others
- Be emotionally intelligent
Here are some of the top EQ tools that you can use to become a skilled networker:
- Be trustworthy
Networking is about creating quality relationships and building trust. Therefore, be sure to make appropriate use of the information you have received from your contacts, including respecting the confidentiality of information if so instructed.
- Be relevant
Once you have made contact with someone whom you would like to make part of your network, keep in touch. If the person has shared resources or information, be sure to thank the person and let him or her know how things turned out, especially when the was particularly helpful.
You can also:
- Send holiday greetings to people in your network.
- Forward information of interest to your contacts.
- Be patient
Developing a successful network takes time so think of networking as a long-term investment. In the meantime, enjoy the experience of meeting new people and developing quality relationships!
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