Take the next step in your leadership journey: Into your community.
Leadership truly is a journey! First, from developing the skills it takes to lead yourself, then leading others through a new paradigm of adaptive and authentic leadership. Many stop there. Yet, the next natural step is to apply this knowledge to help develop the community, contribute to your industry and to the country in which you live and work. Leaders are ambassadors and their role doesn’t stop at the doors of their organization. In today’s context, this can only be done efficiently by adopting an authentic networking style.
Authentic networking builds the emotional intelligence that it takes to notice – and then to deliver – on the needs of those in your circle. This is more than a recreational or bonus activity for leaders; networking effectively is essential to modern leadership.
As an introvert, I had to shift my beliefs and preconceived ideas about networking to define a new way to network. My way. In an authentic way so that I could adhere to it. Through practice and testing, I then became much more effective – and empowered – to network effectively and confidently. Now? Networking is absolutely one of my favorite business activities! I catch myself networking with anyone all the time. I absolutely love it.
The day I understood what authentic networking would bring me and what it would bring to others changed my entire perspective. It started to make sense and feel aligned with my values and purpose. I recognized that networking is all about building connections, exchanging ideas, learning, and being curious. It was a revelation.
This new approach allowed me to greet people with my true self, make long-term connections, inspire others and get inspired.
Networking can be learned as any skill, and today, this is not a nice-to-have; it’s a must for any leader, entrepreneur, or corporate manager.
Either you learn to surf on networking, or you might miss out on the big wave!
Why Networking is a Key Leadership Skill
Many people looking to make a career change or find a new role turn to networking to make it happen, but don’t underestimate the power of networking as you are looking for new business partners, seeking innovative solutions, and new ideas, communicating with investors, growing your client base, and so much more.
In one study by Standford University, researchers found that professionals who have a diverse network of contacts are more creative and innovative in their work. Leaders who have strong networks are more effective in managing change, building coalitions, and achieving strategic goals.
When leaders focus on developing their “people-management,” including coordinating with others, building emotional intelligence, and orienting their actions toward service – all skills that are enhanced through authentic networking – the results are astounding.
Networking isn’t using people for your own benefit and massing as many contacts as you can.
Networking is building relationships and connections on trust and creating mutually beneficial relationships.
What’s the best way to network? Authentically.
When I coach my clients to network effectively, the first thing we work on is being genuine and authentic while building long-lasting relationships.
The approach is simple. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Don’t pretend to have connections or be interested in something you’re not. People can usually tell when you’re being insincere, and this can be a major turn-off and lead to mistrust. When is the last time you recommended someone in your network whom you didn’t trust?
One case study conducted by the Harvard Business Review found that professionals who are perceived as authentic are more likely to be trusted, respected, and valued by their colleagues and clients, and that trust can even repair relationships that have soured due to inauthenticity or a lack of transparency.
Being authentic and genuine can help build trust, establish meaningful connections, and ultimately lead to career success. Networking with authenticity can help individuals differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace and build a strong personal brand that is valued by colleagues, customers, and stakeholders.
Be proactive and network beyond the business card.
Those that sit and wait for opportunities to come their way will be waiting a long time! Instead, commit to being proactive in your networking efforts to meet new people and make meaningful connections to stay ahead of the curve and take advantage of all the new social capital you’re creating.
Proactively place yourself in communities that share your values, goals, and mindset. You might find industry events, conferences, or even local networking meetups in your field that help you connect with others as you gain momentum in your relationships.
One study by the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School found that proactive networking can lead to increased job satisfaction and career success. When you feel connected to other people in your field, you build a strong network of contacts and resources, better preparing you to weather the storm of change and navigate career transitions.
Think you’re limited in your networking abilities because you’re an introvert? Think again.
If you identify as an introvert, it’s time to own your networking superpowers! And if you’re more extroverted, you can absolutely learn the skills that follow – and learn from your introverted friends.
When you attend industry events, do you find yourself doing more talking or more listening? When networking for authentic and mutually beneficial connections, it’s essential to listen more than you talk. You are not there to sell; you are there to connect, and connection requires listening.
- Focus on what the other person is saying.
- Ask thoughtful questions.
- Show a genuine interest in others.
- Look for ways in which you can help the person with whom you’re connecting.
Take your time.
Introverts are often thoughtful and reflective, taking more time to process information and reflect on experiences, which may lead to deeper insights and a more nuanced understanding of others. Because introverts are often more comfortable with one-on-one conversations or small-group discussions, introverts can focus more closely on individuals’ needs and build stronger, more meaningful relationships with people over time.
Be choosy when selecting networking events.
People with a social timeframe that burns out quickly and requires more time between social interactions know the power of being focused and strategic when choosing which events to attend. Introverts may choose to focus on just a few key events or networking opportunities that align most closely with their goals and interests.
“The currency of real networking is not greed but generosity.”Keith Ferrazzi
The best and fastest way to build your social capital is by giving. Building your network based on relationships, norms, and trust that rely upon abundance and sharing works wonders in supporting everyone in the community to achieve their goals.
One highly effective way to give back through networking is by making introductions between your contacts. This builds goodwill and strengthens relationships, based on trust and reciprocity.
Professor and popular science author Adam Grant, who specializes in organizational psychology, has found that givers are far more successful in their careers than takers. They know that the value of networking lies in the long-term effects of their actions, not in the short-term game of sales-forward thinking.
Speaking of perspective… Network with the long-term view in mind.
You attended the event. You’re back in the hotel room, taking off your shoes and getting ready to relax before heading home. And before you know it, you’re back in the daily grind of work, with the list of new networking contacts tucked neatly into your briefcase.
Our suggestion: Every time you meet someone new, follow up with a thank-you email or phone call right away. This will help to solidify your connection and keep your relationship working toward both of your long-term goals.
Focusing your efforts on long-term relationships ensures that you stay connected to new contacts in your industry who may have innovations, insights, and inspirations for you in the future.
“You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want.”
When you are generous with your time, knowledge, and resources, consistently looking for ways to help others, you’re looking at networking as a two-way street. Remember: It’s not just about what you can get from others, but more importantly, about what you can give.
Networking can be a key component of creating a personal and professional life that aligns with your values and pays you back in spades. At Point North International, we work with leaders, entrepreneurs, and career transitioners to build this very life. Reach out to schedule a discovery session to find out how authentic networking can lead the way.