In 2010, when we were writing Social Gravity, Joe and I did some research assisted by Quantum Workplace to understand employee perceptions of the importance of having a network of relationships at work. We collected responses from 979 employees at a diverse set of companies from across the U.S. Here’s a snapshot of what we learned:
- 70% of respondents agreed that it is important to have a strong network at work. Only 3% disagreed.
- 62% agreed that an employee’s skill at networking is valuable to both the employee and the organization. Yet, only 38% said that an employee’s network of relationships at work should be considered in promotional decisions.
- 88% agreed that knowing the right people is critical to getting promoted in their organizations, but a whopping 64% said it is unfair when someone gets promoted because of who they know at work.
It is clear that employees understand the importance and value of a powerful network. Yet, despite that, they aren’t comfortable when an employee gains an advantage because of that network. At first, these seem to be conflicting findings until you dig below the surface.
It turns out, the reason for this disconnect is rooted in “know how.” Employees feel it’s unfair when relationships affect a decision at work because they feel they are at a disadvantage. They don’t recognize how to create these relationships to benefit themselves. They don’t understand relationship building as a skill or as something you must work at. And, even if they do, they haven’t been given the training or coaching in how to actually do it.
This is in large part why we wrote a book about how to build quality relationships that create a powerful network. We wanted to demystify the process for these employees and give them some practical guidance for how to do it regardless of whether you are an extrovert or introvert.t’s common to get questions about what is MOST important or what the secret to all of this truly is. If someone wants to fuel success in their personal and professional lives with a powerful network, what should you really focus on?
As you might expect, we are often asked for the silver bullet–what is the single MOST important thing to do to end up with a powerful network?
The answer, of course, is to go to as many networking events as possible.
Just kidding. You don’t actually have to go to a single networking event to build a great network.
The real secret to building a powerful network is time and commitment. It’s to recognize that relationship building is part of how we do our work. It’s not something we do in addition to our work or something we do when we have time. It is the work. Great networkers are always building relationships and they seek out opportunities to do so every day.
Much like knowing the physical fitness is important but never doing any exercise, knowing that relationship building is important is of little value unless you take intentional action to build great relationships. This means committing time and energy every day and every week to invest in relationships. It might mean setting aside time for a coffee or lunch every week to use for getting to know a colleague better. Or, it might mean spending time each week on LinkedIn sending notes to people who you haven’t seen in a while.
There is no short cut. Just like getting in shape, if you commit the time and energy to working at it every day, the results will follow. Without doing the work, there can be no progress.
The actions will look different for each of us based on our individual goals and styles. Once you commit yourself to investing in growing your network, you’ll find the path and approaches that make the most sense for you. There’s no shortage of content out there if you are motivated to find it.
Building relationships is a fun and rewarding activity. You just have to commitment yourself to making it part of what you do and who you are. Once you start, you will begin to notice the benefits almost immediately.