6 Rules For Networking At Work

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Networking has become a basic skill requirement. The old adage “it isn’t what you know but who you know”, definitely applies to our world today. I don’t think anyone is interested in networking for the sake of networking. That’s a time-sink and a distraction.

Your contacts are like a deposit in the bank.  It can grow in value over time.  So my advice is to stay connected to your connections.  Be discerning when adding someone to your LinkedIn network.  I never add anyone to my contact list that sends the generic message “I’d like to add you to my contact list”.  Personalize your message and explain why you feel you should connect.  I also think that it is good to clean house once per quarter and eliminate people from your network that you no longer interact with or can’t remember how you are connected.  This periodic “house cleaning” keeps your contact list current and relevant enough to maintain value.  When I add someone to my social network, I ask myself these 3 questions:

  1. Are they connected to an industry or a company that I have interest in?
  2. Is this someone I can help?  Can I connect them to someone else in my network?
  3. Is this person someone that networks for the mutual benefit of others or just themselves?  What is their credibility and character?

The rules listed below are based on chapter six of Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Create Unity, and Reap Big Results by Morten Hansen.

Following these rules will help you become more collaborative without wasting your time. Teaching them to others will create organization-wide results.  The most important lesson to remember  in networking is this:  To HAVE a friend, you have to BE a friend.

Here are the 6 rules of networking:

Rule 1. Build outward, not inward. The first four rules will help you get better at identifying effective networking opportunities. Start by remembering that the point of collaborative networking is to connect people who wouldn’t ordinarily work together. Don’t waste your time deepening connections with people you already know. Balance these connections by staying in touch with people on other teams or in other business units.

Rule 2: Go for diversity, not size. A bloated Rolodex used to signal a skilled networker. Let’s hope that idea soon goes the way of the Rolodex itself. Rather than aiming for a massive network, focus on building an efficient one. This requires knowing people with different skills and viewpoints. They should be different from you, of course, but also different from one another.

Rule 3: Build weak ties, not strong ones. This might seem counterintuitive. After all, wouldn’t your closest friends – your strongest ties – help you the most? But remember, strong ties are the people you already know well and talk to frequently. A strong tie is probably someone who knows a lot of the same people you do, whereas a weak tie forms a bridge to a world you don’t walk in. And to keep a weak tie, you only need to touch base a couple of times a month.

Rule 4: Use hubs, not familiar faces. When facing a problem at work, most of us will ask a close contact for help. But because we tend to befriend people at our own level, our closest contacts are unlikely to know more than we do. Instead, identify the “hubs” in your company — the people who are already great organizational networkers — and ask them to connect you to someone who knows more. Hubs tend to be long-tenured people who’ve worked on a variety of teams and projects. If you’re in a leadership role, consider it part of your job to help develop more hubs.

Rule 5: Swarm the target. This rule, and the next, will help you capture value. Say you’ve built a diverse network of weak ties. Using the help of a hub, you’ve identified someone who can help you: a target. Before you approach that person, you need to enlist the help of your network to increase the odds that she will come through. Ask a shared contact to reach out to the target person. Ask your boss to talk to your target’s boss. Invoke your shared goal (after all, you do work for the same company) and remember reciprocity: offer to help in return.

Rule 6: If people aren’t pulling together, strengthen ties. “Team building” has become something of a punchline, but there are times when it’s necessary. If you’re managing a project that requires crossing organizational silos, and following the previous rules has not provided results, it’s worth investing the time and resources to build stronger connections. Help the team get to know each other better. You will start to see results.

Create collaboration with discipline.

The above article is based on chapter six of Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Create Unity, and Reap Big Results by Morten Hansen.

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