The following is an interview with Lynne Waymon, one of the authors of Strategic Connections: The New Face of Networking in a Collaborative World, discussing networking as the key, not only to career advancement, but also to organizational success.
Networking has been around a long time. What’s new about networking?
As authors of seven previous books on networking over the past 25 years, we have helped networking grow from a narrow job-hunting, careering, and sales skillset to an enterprise-wide professional competency. Organizations are struggling as they move from the outworn command and control mode of management to the connected and collaborative workplace of the future. This book gives organizations – and their employees – the map to take them from the old way of working to the new way.
What is The Network-Oriented Workplace?
It’s the next big advance in the evolutions of organizations. Yes, communications technologies have connected employees. But why then are leaders still unhappy with the level of collaboration they’ve been able to achieve? The missing link is trust. That’s the foundation of collaboration. When employees learn the skills for building trust-based relationships and when organizations tear down the barriers that have prevented networking and build up the infrastructure that supports it, then the Network-Oriented Workplace can flourish. And true collaboration will speed execution, spark innovation, ensure engagement, and spur competition.
How do un-connected employees hurt the bottom line?
Our research indicates that only 20 percent of employees are networking at anywhere near their potential. That means 80 percent lack skills and hold beliefs that keep them from creating and using networks that can help them get the job done and contribute to the goals of their organization. An Australian bank executive told us that an audit had revealed that wasteful duplication due to lack of collaboration had cost the bank $35 million! An HR manager had been trying to get some data from IT for months; his colleague called his networking contact in IT and got it in five minutes. These are only two examples showing how networking’s impact on the bottom line can be significant.
Why is networking now considered a “must-have” professional competency now?
Whether you’re an employee in a huge corporation or an associate in a professional services firm, you need to build relationships to assure your own success and the success of your organization. These relationships build the capacity to collaborate. A huge study of CEOs found that collaboration was the number one thing they’d like more of from their employees.
Can introverts learn networking skills to be better team players, managers, and business developers?
Sure. Introverts make up slightly more than half the population. Often they find interacting over stimulating and energy-draining. But they have the edge when it comes to planning and listening – two activities that are very important in networking. They especially appreciate the detailed, step-by-step instructions we give for each skill. If, as an introvert you feel worn out after 30 or 40 minutes of talking with people, take a break. Take a walk down the hall. Or find a private place to stretch, breathe, and gather your thoughts. Recall what’s on your agenda – so you’re ready to talk about a topic you’re interested in. Then rejoin the group with renewed focus and energy.
Why does your book focus mostly on face-to-face networking when you can use all the communication technologies for reaching out?
There’s no question that, thanks to technology, your ability to connect is a given. But just having a phone doesn’t mean that you have connections that count. Remember that relationships are based in trust. Make judicious use of electronic technologies for connecting – but realize their limitations. Having the ability to access fellow employees’ profiles on LinkedIn, for example, is useful, but having a list of someone’s interest and expertise is not the same as having a relationship. One Harvard researcher says that people with extensive face-to-face networks are roughly twice as productive as people who only communicate over email. Face-to-face encounters boost job satisfaction. Emailing doesn’t.
Lynne Waymon is a co-founder and principal at Contacts Count LLC, the international training firm that specializes in teaching business and professional networking skills. She and business partner Anne Baber are co-authors of AMACOM’s Make Your Contacts Count.
Strategic Connections: The New Face of Networking in a Collaborative World is co-authored by Lynne Waymon, Anne Baber, Andre Alphonso, and Jim Wylde.