Influencing

by Don Morley

Tap into your network

The best performers in organisations are often the best connected, with a network of contacts both inside and outside the organisation. This may have come about more by luck than judgement. However, it is no longer wise to leave such a vital component of influence to chance.

The benefits of having a network

If you remain on the sidelines, you cannot expect to be well informed and well connected. More importantly, when it comes to influencing outcomes and getting things done, the assistance or cooperation of others is often essential. To influence situations effectively often takes time; a broad network will assist in achieving a fast start.

Quality rather than quantity

Quantity is not everything. It is possible to have so many in your network that you don’t have a meaningful relationship with any of them. Or perhaps you know a lot of people – but not necessarily the right ones! Only you can determine who is right in your case, but don’t think short term. That potentially difficult cross-functional project in next year’s plan will be eased if you have already forged connections in those areas.

How do you go about it?

Networking undoubtedly comes more easily to some than others. It certainly takes time and needs to be worked at. Some people find this artificial, uncomfortable, even underhand. However, if it is thought of in the context of lobbying, gaining support, seeking advice and information gathering, then it is no more than any professional person should be doing to carry out their role effectively.

Exercise

Take a large piece of paper and make a list of your contacts. Put yourself in the middle and extend spokes to the different categories of contact you have – put in names of key individuals, including contacts inside the workplace and outside.

When you have finished, check out the following:

  • Are there any important omissions?
  • Is there an appropriate balance between where you work and external connections through professional institutes, business school and so on? In other words, do you have a broad enough base?
  • Is it so large that you are in danger of neglecting many contacts?
  • Is there an orientation to who you like rather than who you need?
  • Are you giving as well as receiving?

Example of network diagram

If you wish to know how you measure up as a networker, the following diagnostic might provide you with some insights.

Networker diagnostic

Exercise

Networker diagnostic exercise

The nearer your score is to 50, the more likely you are to find that networking comes easily to you. If your score was relatively low, take heart. Some of us have to work harder than others in this area, but now that your awareness has been raised rest assured you can improve your skills.

Go back and think again about those unticked statements numbered on the score sheet. What could you do to move yourself towards having a valid tick in these boxes in future? If these particular actions don’t appeal, what else might you do that would have the same benefit in making useful connections?

The important thing is that you network because you see how important it could be in facilitating your influencing efforts – and that you do it in a way that is consistent with your own personality and values.