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March 21, 2011

How Leaders Create and Use Networks

by jparker

“Networking” is a term that gets abused, misused, and is often misunderstood.  But, networking, when done right and with purpose, can be a key business skill.  “How Leaders Create and Use Networks” is a good piece on this from Harvard Business Review.  In this article, three types of networking are identified – Operational, Personal, and Strategic.  There were a couple of lines in there that I really liked…first, in regards to personal networking:

“We observed that once aspring leaders..awaken to the dangers of of an excessively internal focus, they begin to seek kindred spirits outside their organizations.  Simultaneously, they become aware of the limitations of their social skills, such as a lack of knowledge about professional domains beyond their own, which makes it difficult for them to find common ground with people outside their usual circles.”

“Many of the managers we study question why they should spend precious time on an activity so indirectly related to the work at hand.  Why widen one’s circle of casual acquantances when there isn’t time even for urgent tasks?  The answer is that these contacts provide important referrals, information, and, often, development support such as coaching and mentoring.”

Second, in regards to the mindset of many managers:

“..we often hear, ‘That’s all well and good, but I already have a day job.’  Others..consider working through networks a way to rely on ‘whom you know’ rather than ‘what you know’ – a hypocritical, even unethical way to get things done.  Whatever the reason, when aspiring leaders do not believe that networking is one of the most important requirements of their new jobs, they will not allocate enough time and effort to see it pay off.”

How do you view networking?  Is it a “dirty word” or an essential business skill?

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