Ask Jo: Five Key People You Need in Your Network

To maximize your time while you expand your network, consider starting with The Five Key People You Need in Your Network.

Question: As a program manager, I rely heavily on influencing without authority to get my job done. As part of my development plan, my manager suggested I expand my network among our internal business partners so I can be more influential; however, I don’t want to be seen spending too much time unnecessarily schmoozing.

Answer: Without positional authority, you no doubt rely a lot on interpersonal influence to get your job done. Your manager is wise to advise you to expand your network because when people get to know you, you can stop having to ask yourself “How do I influence this person?” After you’ve gained their trust, you can enlist them as collaborators. Persuading and cajoling cease to be necessary.

So it all starts with networking. The problem then becomes: Where should you start?

Having a network of strong working relationships across your organization can connect you with hidden information, resources, and opportunities to help strengthen your network. Having a great network also makes it easier to get your job done, influence outcomes, and gain buy-in more easily, three critical skills every emerging leader should possess.

Who, then, do you look for when it comes time to network? To maximize your time while you expand your network, consider starting with The Five Key People You Need in Your Network:

1.) The Connector
The connector is a true “people person,” one who seems to know — and have great relationships with — just about everyone. They put others at ease. What’s more, this type of person loves to open doors and make introductions.

So add a connector or two to your network, and they’ll help you grow that network. It’s what they love to do. Watch them and learn how to move with access and ease through a powerful network of strong supporters!

2.) The Informational Powerhouse
This person is like a human grapevine. They love to keep a finger on the pulse of what’s going on and stay current on organizational issues. Like hoarders of data, they filter useful information from gossip – or just “noise” – and generally seem to know about important changes before they occur.

Seek them out when you need to know about new trends, ideas, projects, opportunities, and so on, before they become official. Also, become a “data” hoarder yourself so that you’re not just listening, but offering news and updates of your own, and using it to help yourself and others make better business decisions.

3.) The Influencer
The Influencer is not necessarily a high-level or high profile leader, but they somehow have a natural ability to make things happen just the same. They get people on board with ideas and initiatives, gain agreement and collaboration from teams, and they have a voice with senior leadership. Their early support can guarantee the success of your initiatives and their advocacy can get you noticed in a meaningful and pro-active way.

4.) The Mentor
Many of the senior-level women leaders I speak with can trace their career advancement back to a single turning point, where a mentor advised them on something they needed to be doing differently. Never underestimate the power of a personal mentor in your network.

I often observe men using their mentors differently than women do — they are more proactive about asking their mentor to sponsor them. Consider asking your mentor to actively open doors and connect you with opportunities.

5.) The Sponsor
These are your manager’s peers (and those ranked above them) and they have the power to dramatically accelerate your career. Interacting with them frequently can help you align your work effort with your organization’s strategic goals. They have the ability to single you out for recognition and connect you to special projects, task forces and committees, creating new career opportunities.

The Takeaway
If you spend a lot of time building relationships with an obvious agenda, people will be used to seeing you only when you need something from them. Unfortunately, this trains them to not look forward to seeing you — not exactly optimal conditions when building a solid network of supporters and collaborators.

Instead, my recommendation is to set aside an hour or two per week solely dedicated to building relationships with people at times when you don’t need anything from them. Ultimately, building a network requires finesse, diplomacy and a willingness to give as much as you get.

Jo Miller

A leading authority on women’s leadership, Jo Miller is a sought-after, dynamic, and engaging speaker, delivering more than 70 speaking presentations annually to audiences of up to 1,200 women. Her expertise lies in helping women lead, climb, and thrive in their corporate careers. Jo has traveled widely in Europe, North America, Asia Pacific, and the Middle East to deliver keynotes and teach workshops for women’s leadership conferences, women’s professional associations, and Fortune 1000 corporate women’s initiatives. Jo is CEO of leadership development, consulting and research firm Be Leaderly. Learn more about her speaking engagements at www.JoMiller.net and follow @Jo_Miller on Twitter.

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