“You are no bigger in your industry than your rolodex”

Of all the quotes in my lifetime, that is one that I took to heart and will never forget.  That quote came from a seminar leader at my first outside development event after college.  When I think about my connections in my field of Human Resources/Talent Management, it is evident that I took this to heart.  I know folk that do what I do throughout the world. 

This past week I was profiled at the top London HR site.  A few months back I traveled to India to deliver at the World HRD Congress.  Last month, I was conference chair as a very prestigious HR event in Austin, Texas.

So If I could contact that consultant again, I am sure that he would give me a passing grade, probably with honors.

This came into focus for me on last week as I attended an event at the Harvard Club in New York City.  The speaker was Linda A. Hill.  Linda Hill is the Wallace Brett Donham Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School. She is also the faculty chair of the Leadership Initiative and has chaired numerous HBS Executive Education programs.  She is also the author of Being the Boss.  In the book she calls out that in order to be a great boss and leader, there are three imperatives:

  • managing yourself
  • managing your network
  • managing your team

Managing your internal network

Managing your network resonated with me because it took me back to the first statement in this post.  While she spoke about the importance of building a network of peers and bosses that is internal, that could also and should include your external network.

Her book was written from the perspective of the organization and not specifically for the social networking phenomenon. 

Managing the network internally is about managing the political dynamics within.  In other words, “who am I dependent on to get this project done?”  This may not seem large when you are a new manager but the higher you go up within an organization the more data points you will have and are dependent on.

If you think about your internal network in that context, who are you dependent upon to complete an assignment.  Here are some key questions to ask

  • Do they really “trust me”?   
  • Do we have mutual expectations?
  • Can I influence them?
  • Can they influence me?

If the answers are no to those questions, then you have not built the right kind of relationships.  In other words, it is about managing those relationships to get the job done.

Do we have the right people onboard and do we have the right relationship.  A misstep in this area is at the core of many unsuccessful projects.  Managing your internal network is not about “sucking up.”  It is about collaboration and your success, the team’s success and in many cases your career.

Managing your external network

All that being said, the external network is important for your career.  The big question is how many people do I “know” that do the same thing that I do.  How many people that I know are doing the same thing at competitor companies?  How many people could I pick up the phone and call and that would return my call by end of day.

Often we neglect to cultivate relationships especially business ones.  We spend a great deal of time on personal relationships, yet its business relationships that pay the bills.  Now you tell me which one is important.

I learned my lesson right out of college and it has been a screaming success.  So get with it and start building.

[Tip: If you are on LinkedIn, there is a feature that will analyze your network it is called LinkedIn Maps.  Try it and see how your network looks.]




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