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. Where should I start?
Jo Miller answers:
Wise advice from your manager! Having a network of strong working relationships across your organization can connect you with hidden information, resources, and opportunities. Having a great network makes it easier to get your job done, influence outcomes, and gain buy-in more easily.
If you spend a lot of time building relationships with an agenda, people will be used to seeing you only when you need something from them. This trains them not to look forward to seeing you. My recommendation is to set aside a couple hours per week, to build relationships with people at times when you don’t need anything from them.
To maximize your time while you expand your network, consider starting first with these five key types of people:
Step 1. The Connector
The connector is a true “people person” who knows — and has great relationships with — everyone. They put others at ease. This person loves to open doors and make introductions. Watch them and learn!
Step 2. The Informational Powerhouse
This person is like a human grapevine. They love to keep a finger on the pulse and stay current on organizational issues. They filter useful information from gossip or noise and know about 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.
Step 3. The Influencer
The influencer is not necessarily a high-level or high profile leader, but they have a natural ability to make things happen. 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.
Step 4. The Senior Leader 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, and new opportunities for growth
Step 5. The Mentor
Need I say more?Many of the senior-level women I coach can trace their career advancement back to a turning point, where a mentor advised them on something they needed to be doing differently.
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.
Jo Miller is CEO of Women’s Leadership Coaching Inc. Through leadership workshops, coaching programs and webinars, Jo helps women create their roadmap into leadership positions in business.