Strengthen Your Network!
Why is your network of contacts and relationships so important? Without it – you are putting yourself at a huge disadvantage.
Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In” talks about how women who directly self-promote tend to not get the same response as men. She states that people expect men to be assertive, dominant, and to be self-confident. She also points out that such behavior in women tends to create poor perceptions of women in the workplace. So the question is – how can you promote your accomplishments and strengths inside your organization as well as men, without getting the negative emotions associated with stepping out of your gender role?
Sheryl says you need you have other people advocate for you in the company. Women who have others in the workplace that speak highly of them is a very effective way of getting others in the organization to recognize their strengths and contributions. This eliminates the negative impression women get from direct self-promotion.
Identify Your Network:
1) Write down everyone you interact with on a fairly regular basis. Include people from different departments or teams in addition to your own. Include people above and below you.
2) Rate your current relationship with each person on scale of 1-5 (5 being the most likely) on the following key items: a) If someone asked about you, they would only say good things; b) Because you have helped them in the past, they would help you if asked; c) They would defend you if you weren’t in the room
3) If you have any person with a 3 or lower on any one of the areas; you need to take action to improve your relationship.
Strengthen Your Network:
You need to have a good enough relationship with each person that they will communicate good things about you to others naturally – not just if you ask them.
Stephen Covey is fond of the imagery around a bank account. When you do something to build a relationship or trust; you make a deposit. When you do something to remove trust or tear down a relationship – you make a withdrawal. In his book “Speed of Trust“, Covey states that withdrawals are usually much greater with each action that makes a deposit. In other words, you have to do a lot to build it up – but one action can drain the whole account.
1) Identify the people that you have a bad relationship with – or lack trust. Think about some previous interactions where the other person may have perceived your actions in a way that violated trust. Start with these people first by clearing the air. Be humble, listen a lot, and don’t ever try to justify your actions, just listen. Then ask to start over with them. This is very effective if you are sincere with a majority of people.
2) Under promise and over deliver. The best way to build trust to say you are going to do something and then get it done; faster or more than you promised. People believe actions and results; not words.
3) Be credible. Are you seen as having results/training in order to back your opinions or suggestions? If not, start focusing on how you can deliver the results or have the training in order to back your claims. Be prepared to have facts, figures, and data to support your ideas in a clear way. Take additional training classes or work with others in your organization to strengthen your technical/industry specific knowledge or skills.
4) Be generous. This doesn’t mean give to charities and tell everyone about it. It is about seeing people struggling and offering help where you can and where it makes sense. You see the warehouse guy struggling to get a box in the backdoor, go over and open it with a smile. Give your time, give your advice (when asked), listen to others with patience, and help others be successful.
5) Avoid bad behavior. Don’t engage in office gossip (talking about a person or about a situation you/they cannot control or impact); don’t complain (talking about a problem with no focus on the solution), don’t whine (talking about what was done to you or what isn’t fair), and don’t be rude or snarky to others.
6) Be really polite and kind. This doesn’t mean to not stand up for yourself – it means to not take advantage of others. Smile at people, say “Hi” to everyone you see in the morning, ask about people’s kids, remember other’s names, care about others in what you do – these people – ALL of them – impact how others see you. They are all important.
7) When you did this exercise did you notice that you lacked contacts outside your department or work group? If so – make a conscience effort to meet and interact with them so you can add them to your network by this time next year.
8) Advocate for others where appropriate. Defend people who aren’t there in meetings, when appropriate. Talk about good things people have done in the organization. Promote others and their accomplishments.
Watch Your Position Improve:
When you have a strong internal network of people that you have helped be successful, that you have defended in meetings in which they were not present, your behavior is good, and you are credible and provide results – you are naturally the person people turn to for the next big assignment.
Need a partner to help you assess where you are at and work with you to develop your next steps to strengthen your network? A personal career coach can be the most effective way to quickly to move the needle.
~Stephanie Simmons, Associate Certified Coach