I’ve always liked to get to know people and stay connected. My Myers Briggs type is ENTJ and my most extreme preference is extroversion – I know I’m a sociable animal. When you have those preferences it’s easy to under play the value of networks, after all connecting, learning and sharing are second nature to me and it’s how I stretch myself too; making sure I have interesting conversations that make me think. It’s also good fun.
But as leaders in a system where it feels more complex and harder to achieve what we need to do than ever before, networking to share ideas and co-create solutions must be part of the future. Relationships that bridge organisational boundaries and stretch us to acquire new perspectives and look at things in new ways must surely be part of our future?
Networking sometimes has a bad reputation. That funny look people give you when you say you are meeting someone for coffee, a sort of ‘nudge, nudge wink, wink’ and a ‘tapping on the side of the nose’ as if to say – ah you are off for a quick skive or you must be job hunting. That’s not how I see it and how it works for me. I see meeting people and getting to know them part of my knowledge network; it enables me to stop worrying about not knowing so much but knowing others who do, or who think differently, or have different experience to me. My brain sometimes feels full-up and not able to absorb more – I need to share brains through my networks. You know the old AA advert ‘But I know a man who can’.
Networks are also brilliant for finding people to test my madcap ideas on – it sometimes takes someone to say to me – whoa! Hold that thought right there!
You need to nurture and grow your networks, they don’t just arrive, and once you have them they need loving care and attention.
Here are my top 10 tips for developing and growing your networks:
- Always be genuinely interested in people and what they have to say
- Find common ground and share what you know too – it’s not a one way street
- Try to stay connected as much as you can – close connections need more of your energy than loose ones but both need your attention
- Always try to give as much as you take – generous spirits tend to be good networkers
- Only promise what you can deliver
- Build trust and mutual respect and keep at it
- Never, ever, ask for anything that you know is wrong, however good the relationship
- Use social media to connect and share
- Share your connections – you will extend your networks this way
- Enjoy yourself and relax!
I recently had the very great pleasure of meeting Phil Jewitt @philjewitt from Leeds City Council as my NHS Change Day pledge for Leeds Connected Coffee. A great example of networking; we both come from very different professional backgrounds but we found much common ground and I feel sure I will be meeting Phil again and I wouldn’t hesitate to ask his advice on local authority stuff! If we are to connect across systems it is the people who can do this, not sterile organisational structures – so go on, reach out and build your networks!
Finally have a look at this short RSA film about where good ideas come from and spot how networking might play a role here too 🙂 Its a good watch too!