OUTsight/ Build Your Network


Ubud, 20 September 2017 — Are the people in your network like you? Then building a network to help you grow will need more work. Here is how to start.

Most of the leaders I work with find it a challenge how to invest in building their social networks. It is perhaps ironic that in an age where we enjoy unprecedented technologies to connect, we are still facing challenges to build strong networks to support us in our developing our career, our leadership, and our life.

If building a network is also a challenge for you, then the good news is that there are resources available to help you. In this post, I will share three.

What network to build?

When you start by considering what network to build, a good place to look for advice is in How Leaders Create and Use Networks by Ibarra and Hunter, published a decade ago in the Harvard Business Review.

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Ibarra and Hunter offer the important distinction between social networks that are operational, personal and strategic. The figure shows key aspects to be considered.

I found that many leaders are failing to develop a strong strategic network that will support them in their further career development. If that applies to you also, then building a strategic network will be something to invest in.

It's who you know

The second resource I would like to share here is Janine Garner’s 2017 book It’s Who You Know. In her book, she points out that all it takes to start building a strong network is four people.

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Those ‘core four’ should, however, be selected carefully, one in each of the networking quadrants set out in the book.

What we need, according to Garner, are promoters, pit crew, teachers and butt kickers. Her advice is to make sure that we have at least one person in each of those four quadrants, hence the ‘core four.’ 

Janine Garner’s website gives further detail on the method, and she also offers a handy tool to start reviewing your network now.

What to do

Personally, I have learned valuable lessons from the two resources mentioned above, and I recommend that you check them out. More importantly, get started to work with them.

Ibarra and Hunter helpfully point out that "the word “work” is part of networking, and it is not easy work, because it involves reaching outside the borders of [your] comfort zone.” Just do it, is their advice.

Networking is, obviously, about building strong relationships. In that regard, I would like to contribute three tips to get you started as you reach out to the people you want to network with.

First, whenever you communicate, I suggest that you share something about what you are doing, and why you are doing it. This helps to fill in information gaps that the other person may have about you, and it points to your purpose and values, which are important facilitators for building a relationship. 

Second, I recommend that you ask questions about the other person’s work and experience. This shows your positive and inquiring attitude, as well as your curiosity and interest.

Third, you can build on the earlier two practices to explore collaboration with the other person, share what you can contribute, and aim for a specific result. The prospect of an early result will then become a motivator for more. 

In summary, networking is work, and it is the quality of the network you build that matters most. Using the resources mentioned here will get you off to a good start. In the end, it comes down to ‘just doing it’ and that’s where the three tips to build strong relationships will come in handy.  

Networking is not easy work, because it involves reaching outside the borders of [your] comfort zone.
— Herminia Ibarra and Mark Lee Hunter