How effectively do you promote your ongoing visibility across your own organization so that what you do and stand for is apparent to those that matter?
Whether you are an employee, or if you are in a long term contract working within an organisation, how visible are you within that organisation? How well do people outside of your immediate team or group know who you are and what you do? How well are you able to find out who they are, what they do and above all how you can help each other achieve your goals and objectives? Do you passively wait for opportunities to tell people or find out from people? Or do you (pro)actively go out and promote yourself and find out who the “movers and shakers” are?
Today I want to talk about networking from an internal perspective. Many “internal” or “back office” people ask me why they should bother with networking – often asking: “isn’t that something that sales people need to worry about”?
I have learned that exposure and Visibility have become key components of most business successes, whether in internal or external roles and that internal networking has become just as important as external networking.
Internal networking isn’t about “playing politics”, albeit it can often be viewed quite negatively in this light. To me it is about exposure. About being Interested or Interesting? and getting out of your immediate office or team and getting “out there” to find out what others do. And to allow others thereby to get to know what you do and where the synergies lie through which you can help each other.
Many an organisation works really well because of the informal networking that prevails. Many a problem or obstacle is resolved or obviated through good personal contacts between departments and individuals. I worked in a global multinational of some 450,000 staff operating in over 200 countries and learned that in organizations of that magnitude, formal organisation structures simply don’t suffice to make such behemoth’s work efficiently without being supported by myriads of informal networks.
What’s going on?
I urge my clients make it their business to find out what is going on in their company. Who counts? Who can you rely on as an ally? Who supports what you are doing? Who “gets in the way”? Who can help you find the right answers to a problem? Who do people look to for answers? Who holds the “silent power”? Remember what I wrote about in Presence?
It is just as important to know what other departments or functions in the organisation do. Firstly from the perspective of how they could assist or complement yours and secondly how you could assist or complement theirs so that you, they and the company wins. Once you have found out more about them, one way to support that is through what I wrote in Edification, that is to “talk them up” when you can. This often results in them doing the same for you. Wouldn’t you?
Cross functional activities
How many of you have been a member of a “cross functional team”, that is a team called into life with members from many different departments or functions across an organisation to bring about a business improvement project outcome? Was it a valuable experience for you, or was it a disaster? If it was the former, would you agree with me that the understanding and appreciation of what others do that emanated from such an internal project are worth pursuing for everyone’s benefit? If so, this is exactly what I consider internal networking to do for you too, but without the formal structure of a project. I’m not suggesting you’d want to allow this to interfere with your responsibilities, but why not “create your own” and keep approaching your work from this perspective?
I suggest you make a point of getting to know those around you. If there is a staff restaurant, make a point of sitting with someone else at lunch each day and find out what they do, where they fit in, how you can help them or they you.
Another tactic is to “spend time with the smokers” from time to time. They are known to be in touch with what’s happening because in the time it takes to have a smoke they are away from their desk talking to someone – often from other departments.
Might I quickly add however, that you are aware of not getting involved in any “ negative gossip”?
I believe that reputations need to be lived up to. However, they first need to be created. Results on their own are no longer sufficient to do that. They need to be complemented by additional exposure and this is often achieved by “being out there” to be seen and also to be heard, as in you first creating interest in who you are and what you do and then being able to share your track record with interested parties.
In my performance management grooming and training I differentiate performance facts and evidence from anecdotal evidence from opinion and teach my clients to strive for the right ratio of these. The result of “being out there” is that peers and others across the organisation can “speak for you” when asked, and so your boss would be able to avail themselves of this information (if they were any good as leaders).
If you are in a service provider department like IT or HR or Finance etc, be sure to find out what others do in the company, how they rely on your department’s services and recognizing an opportunity you could fulfill or how you can leverage providing them a better service. Often you can meet or bump into stakeholders informally and use that opportunity to hear what they expect or think and influence them to hear or see your perspective.
The same applies to your vendors. Find out more about them and who does what so you can leverage that into better service for yourself and your department or indeed to cutting through layers or levels to get problems resolved more quickly and easily.
Even if you are in an “internal” role, I strongly urge you, if you can, to get involved in external networking opportunities. Whilst this may often be through your vendors, we can also find numerous networking opportunities through associations, training courses, functions etc.
Of course to do all this you need to get pro-active and be interested. Get known to be interested and get known as a “connector”. What goes around, comes around is just as valid and important within an organisation.
Do it now
I was in a corporate executive role which, as the CIO was mainly internally focused and not in the “front office”. I was mainly sourcing and buying technology, solutions and services, so my “external” partners were mainly vendors, rather than customers. So it was in that space that I focused on building my business network, knowing that if and when I ever wanted to go out into my own business that I would need a strong network to support me. So long before I needed it, I started to learn and practice networking first internally and then externally. When it came time to leave that organization (remember that I was practicing Who is driving your bus?, I would want to be able to “take those contacts” of my network with me, and so I did.
Conflict of interest
Please allow me a qualification. These and the “external networking” pointers I will share in the next blog are universal. They work equally well whether you apply them for the benefit of your employer or for your own benefit. I strongly recommend that you never confuse those two. I would urge you to be most aware of any potential conflicts of interest and always err on the side of caution.
So if you are employed, you owe it to your employer to network for their benefit in your work associations. However, the relationships you build should outlive any employment contract, provided there isn’t any conflict of interests through restraint of trade etc.
So, having spent some time discussing some “internal” networking perspectives, have I raised your awareness of the opportunities this important practice can open up for you? Have you recognized that avoiding this could impede your personal organizational growth?
Almost every one of my clients agrees with me how important networking is (also internal networking) and that they are guilty of not doing enough about it. Why? Because it is one of those things we can just “put off” until next week or when I have more time, isn’t it?
With this awareness, what goals could you set for the coming month so that you use them as a catalyst to help raise your exposure? What could you start doing differently on Monday? What might change for you if you did?
What if you could?