Five Ways to Develop a Strong Network at Work
The job market is hot. In February, the U.S. added 678,000 new jobs, which include 95,000 in professional and business services and 64,000 in healthcare. This, compounded with workers moving around and opting for jobs with higher salaries, bigger bonuses, and flexible hours, means we have a lot of people in leadership roles navigating new cultures and internal politics in new roles at new companies.
It’s natural for leaders to want to contribute quickly in their new roles. One of the most important – and often overlooked – pathways to success is building key relationships with peers and higher level stakeholders. The tenured employee in the next office will have great insights about the executive management team, the company culture, and how to navigate internal politics. On the other hand, stakeholders who make up the executive team or corporate board of directors could hold the keys to exert influence across the enterprise and beyond.
Additionally, stakeholders and peers can have a significant impact on the short-term goals and long-term career mobility of the new leader. (In addition to supporting your new career, they can also derail it if they get the wrong impression about you or make faulty assumptions, but that’s for a blog on a different day.)
Here are 5 strategies for building strong connections at work.
- Remember that first impressions matter. In the early days of any new relationship, people are making assessments and judgments about each other. It is helpful to be both selfish and selfless at the same time. Seek what you need to be successful, while offering your time and resources to help others succeed. This approach contributes to developing collaborative, trusting relationships.
- Be humble and open to learning. Being open to learning and new experiences allows others to help you learn. Be willing to listen and learn and show your appreciation for stakeholder and peer contributions.
- Develop trust as a top priority. Trust is crucial to forging connections that are vital to building relationships. Don’t gossip or disclose confidences (unless, of course, someone’s wellbeing is at stake). Follow through on promises and commitments.
- Know who garners influence in the organization. There are different types of power, and not all of them come with title and position. You have the strategic leaders, who clearly articulate and influence corporate vision. Individuals who have a strong network of advocates know how to cultivate relationships. Influencers are persuasive and full of purpose and passion. People known for strong execution and follow through understand that talent is defined by consistent performance. All of these types of people could be great allies in your new organization.
- Recognize that relationships at work take effort. Model a strong character, communicate openly and act with integrity. Support and develop others, as you look for support and development from them. We all have something to share. Be a servant leader, and act in the best interests of others. And model transparency – embrace your imperfections and seek feedback to grow.
The relationships you develop early in your new role could very well be the ones that help you get to the next promotion. Focusing attention on developing a network of relationships not only makes work more rewarding, but it could be strategic to your future.
For more information, download the Developing a High-Performing Executive Team brochure.
This blog is loosely based on chapter 5 of The Ascending Leader by Diane Egbers and Karen Schenck.