networking skills

Often, young managers and leaders get confused by what networking skills really mean and why these skills are so crucial. Let’s begin to explain this with a hypothetical but extremely representative example.

Chris had no intention of expanding his network when he was hired as the production manager of a newly acquired e-commerce company. The main issue he faced was a lack of time: where would he find the time to lead his team through a substantial overhaul of the supply chain process and then consider strategic matters like a corporate expansion?

He had no choice but to shut himself in his office to carve out time and yet get home to his family at a reasonable hour. Meanwhile, he dealt with day-to-day concerns, such as a repeated feud with his sales director over special orders that harmed delivery efficiency.

improve networking skills

Chris’s situation isn’t uncommon. Managers go through the leadership transition, a turning point in their careers that forces them to reconsider themselves and their responsibilities. In the process, experts have discovered that networking skills — the process of establishing a web of personal relationships that can provide support, feedback, insight, resources, and information — are both a self-evident and a dreaded growth obstacle for aspiring leaders.

What Are Networking Skills?

A large majority of managers believe networking is either dishonest or manipulative — at best, an elegant means of putting people to work. Not surprisingly, we encounter numerous managers who struggle to overcome this fundamental barrier for every manager who instinctively builds and maintains a beneficial network. However, the alternative to networking is a failure — either in pursuing or achieving a leadership position.

What’s the Importance of Networking Skills?

Leadership networking skills are all about building and utilizing your networks in a way that helps your organization’s work and goals by strengthening relationships and fortifying partnerships. In today’s workplace, the ability to influence others in non-hierarchical ways, rather than merely through positional/hierarchical power, is critical.

What Are The 3 Types of Leadership Networking Skills?

networking skills

Operational, personal, and strategic networking are three independent but interdependent types of networking. The first aids in managing present internal obligations, the second promotes personal growth, and the third opens eyes to new business directions and the stakeholders that leaders will need to engage in.

1. Operational Networking

All managers must establish positive working relationships with those who can assist them in completing their tasks. The number and diversity of people involved here can be impressive. Operational networking includes direct reports and superiors and involves peers within an operational unit, additional internal players with the power to halt or support a project, and key stakeholders such as suppliers, distributors, and customers.

This type of networking is specifically built to boost coordination and cooperation among people who must know and trust one another to complete their current jobs.

2. Personal Networking

Personal networks are mostly external, consisting of unspoken connections to others with whom we share interests. As a result, the referral potential of a personal network is huge. And this is what makes it so effective. Our personal contacts are valuable to the extent that they enable us to contact the far-off person who has the knowledge we require with as few connections as feasible.

It helps individuals gain a better awareness of themselves and their surroundings. On the other hand, personal networking will not assist a manager in navigating the leadership transition until they learn how to apply those ties to organizational strategy.

3. Strategic Networking

Managers making the delicate move from functional manager to company leader must begin to think about big strategic concerns. Relationships with other functional and business unit managers — all persons who aren’t directly under their control — become a lifeline for finding out how their own contributions fit into the big picture.

As a result, strategic networking connects the aspiring leader to a network of people and information sources that represent the power to achieve personal and organizational objectives.

Read More: 12 Business Skills Your Workforce Needs and How to Improve Them

How Can Leaders Use Networking Skills?

leadership networking skills

1. Identifying Potential Careers

Many business leaders use their professional networks and connections to find new job possibilities. If you want to move up in your company or into a new industry, you need to know who is hiring — preferably before everyone else does.

It’s possible to gain a competitive edge by developing professional relationships with people who work in a variety of organizations and industries, as well as personal connections that can help you get your foot in the door, by building professional relationships with people who work in a variety of organizations and industries. Whether you’re just starting in your job or have been a leader in your area for decades, this is true.

2. Strengthening Teams

Business executives don’t just use their networks to transition from one career or job to the next; they also use them to get advantages in their current roles. One of the essential ways they do this is by using their networks to find talent for crucial positions inside their company and team.

When it comes to recruiting season, a well-developed professional network filled with highly talented individuals in their fields of specialty provides a pool of talent that business executives can tap into. This is especially useful when an organization doesn’t have the time or resources to go through its normal recruitment process.

3. Planning for Strategic Changes

Building new contacts outside of your organization should not be the main focus of strategic networking. External connections are important, no doubt. However, professionals must also cultivate strong ties within their firms.

According to HBS Professor Anthony Mayo in the online course Leadership Principles. “Your internal and external networks are important leadership assets. They’re how you gain access to resources like information, know-how, and funding that are crucial in enabling you to help those you’re leading. Networks also foster your learning by connecting you to people in organizations with different skills, perspectives, and contexts than your own.”

Leaders can accomplish several objectives by developing a strong internal network. Strong ties with important stakeholders might make it easier to get a project approved or raise one’s status if a promotion opportunity arises. Similarly, by cultivating relationships with key decision-makers within the company, you may maintain open lines of communication and stay informed about strategic changes that may affect your work.

4. Gauging the Company’s Progress

A professional network may be a valuable source of new ideas and information for executives who want to stay on top of their sector and the rest of the world.

As a result, most leaders don’t merely connect with people they plan to work with one day. Instead, they interact with industry thought leaders to bring as many diverse perspectives as possible together and allow the free flow of ideas.

Read More: What is Microlearning | A Complete Guide for the Progressive Learning Leaders

What Are the Elements of Effective Networking?

effective networking

1. Sincerity

Networking isn’t a ruse to achieve what you want. Your networks will shut down if you have a reputation for taking but not giving, for using information irresponsibly, or for breaking trust.

2. Resource Pooling

Giving and taking resources such as knowledge, services, and access will help you expand your leadership network. Reciprocity is crucial. Develop resource bartering skills, as well as a thorough understanding of your assets and how to share them correctly. This is an important aspect of cross-border collaboration.

3. Proper Usage of Power

The ability to accomplish goals is referred to as power. To establish your network, you’ll need three sources of power: your reputation, your alliances, and your position. Be the type of leader who gets things done, can be held accountable, and has relationships with key decision-makers. Understand the importance of power in good leadership and how to use it effectively.

4. Skillful Communication

Leaders must be able to communicate effectively. Communicate in a way that makes your needs and assets more visible. Your networking efforts will be useless if you cannot make others aware of what you have to give and what you require to achieve your objectives.

5. Smart Negotiation

Effective negotiators know when to press aggressively and when to back off, when to give information and when to keep it to themselves, when to swap resources and when to sacrifice short-term gains for a long-term aim. Avoid being perceived as a pushover by not playing hardball.

6. Effective Conflict Resolution

Learn conflict resolution techniques when there’s a disagreement in your network, and attempt to see things from the other side. Look for areas where you can agree. Express your viewpoint in a way that aids in the resolution of the issue.

Read More: Soft Skills Training: Why Is It A Critical Component of Workplace Learning

How to Improve Networking Skills of Leaders and Managers?

professional networking

1. Begin With Your Own Firm

Taking the effort to create connections within your company, whether you’re a current or aspiring leader, can open the door to many opportunities.

Attending meetings, whether or not they directly affect your department or objectives, can be an effective method of exhibiting your interest in other people’s work. Finding a mentor inside your organization who has previously held your job, lending your knowledge to a member of a different team who appears to be suffering, or simply going out to lunch with colleagues instead of dining at your desk are all options.

2. Use Professional Associations, Conferences, and Events to Your Advantage

Professionals have various options to interact with individuals in their sector when creating a strong network of external connections. Professional organizations, for example, hold luncheons and other events where members are encouraged to mix regularly. Similarly, attending business conferences or trade events can be a good way to meet new individuals.

Consider giving a presentation or engaging in a roundtable discussion. In addition to allowing you to meet new people, it will allow you to establish yourself as a resource — a subject matter expert — to whom others will be drawn.

3. Take Up a Mentorship Role

Many people are aware of the importance of mentorship. A mentee can learn from their mentor’s past failures, triumphs, and experiences and apply those lessons to their own career in mentoring.

Mentors might gain from their relationships with mentees as well. To begin, mentorship necessitates the mentor reflecting on their own career to guide the mentee — good practice for people who aren’t used to doing so. Second, if the mentee comes from within the company, the mentor gains directly from the mentee’s better performance.

The mentor-mentee relationship is a powerful one that can last for decades if properly nurtured. Individuals do not often stay at the same company for their entire careers these days. This means that a mentor may train and develop relationships with many people who later go on to work in a variety of roles at various organizations, resulting in a large network of ambassadors who represent the mentor’s brand.

4. Focus on Training

‘How to boost networking skills?’ — this should form a vital component of any leadership development program. Your firm can develop a comprehensive online learning program dedicated to enhancing the networking skills of your leaders. The curriculum can be inclusive of:

  • The characteristics of a successful networker, as well as how to avoid common traps.
  • Networking frequency is important for building a strong network and maintaining beneficial ties.
  • Knowing how to set a networking goal, research events, and choose who to speak with.
  • Knowing how to emotionally and physically prepare for a networking event.
  • Knowing how to approach people, introduce yourself, and confidently begin a discussion.
  • Knowing how to maintain a conversation and put it to a close.
  • Understanding the significance of good listening skills, body language, and questioning.
  • Knowing how to use and store business cards successfully.
  • Knowing how to follow up on existing network relationships, keep in touch with them, and re-approach them.
  • Recognize how social media can assist you in building a successful network.

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A good leader recognizes the importance of networking. As a result, any leadership development plan should include creating, maintaining, and connecting with your professional network. Your professional network is one of the most effective tools at your disposal as a leader since it can help you find career prospects, develop a successful team, anticipate organizational changes, and keep on top of industry trends.

If you wish to know more about how to improve your firm’s leadership networking skills, we are just a call away!

Ad: PlayAblo’s Enterprise-Grade Micro-Learning platform is built for the corporate learner. Micro-Learning, along with assessments and gamification features, ensures learning outcome measurement along with sustained engagement.
Find out more and request a custom demo!

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