Importance of Networking as a Leader
As a leader, a lot of your success will depend on the people you know and the relationships you have built. So why is networking so important in a leadership role?
Networking is all about building relationships that are mutually beneficial, with opportunities to help each other. This means meeting new people, learning about their skills and experiences, and sharing your own. When you engage effectively in networking, you create connections that open new doors for you and your team.
Benefits from networking as a leader
Networking can offer new perspectives. Meeting new people will expose you to new ideas and different ways of thinking, and inspiration from other people’s stories or situations which could assist in your own journey. This can help you to become a more effective leader and to make better decisions.
It is not just about new customers or maybe even a new employer. Networking offers the opportunity to build relationships with people who could help you achieve your own goals. Your network could provide access to new suppliers, resources, information or opportunities that you might not otherwise have. Your network could offer access to like-minded people with practical ideas that could help you, or simply be a source of support and encouragement.
There are many ways to network: at formal networking events for your profession or industry, with other people in your area or location, informally through friendship groups, or online through LinkedIn. One thing holds true whatever you do: you need the right mindset, as well as the right skillset, to succeed.
The right mindset
There are right and wrong ways to go about networking. Mindset is everything. Be genuine and show an interest in others. Some people think networking is about selling, first and foremost. They talk about what they do and what they offer, hoping some of it will be relevant. The most successful networkers flip this on its head. They look for opportunities to ask questions, find out about other people and their story, show a real interest in their work and what they have to offer. The right mindset is ‘I’m here to help other people, let’s find out how I can do so’. For most of us, this comes naturally and anything that feels natural will reduce anxiety when you walk into the room.
The right skillset
But the right mindset is not enough on its own, you need skills too, the same employability skills that you demonstrate successfully every day at work and in life. Communication and listening, initiative and creativity for problem solving, self-management to make the most of your energy and time, just to name a few.
Strong communication and listening skills are key. Have a few open questions ready to get a conversation started. Ask open questions about the other person’s work, interests and situation. Then listen well. Show that you are genuinely interested in what they have to say. That comes naturally to most of us and a more natural exchange will develop trust.
Have your story ready for when they ask about you and your work. Be clear about the impact you make and not just what you do, the why as well as the what!
Remember that it is the quality of your relationships that matters, not the number. Follow up promptly after your first meeting, especially if there is a mutual opportunity for you both. Connect with them on LinkedIn (with a friendly message to support your connection request). Ask for a one-to-one meeting in the next week or two if you feel you can be of help to them, or vice versa.
Networking is an essential activity for leaders, one that demands a positive attitude and refined skills. It’s fun too and rewarding personally, as well as professionally. It takes time and effort to network, but by building relationships you will create new opportunities to achieve more as a leader.