Navigate Leadership – Make Connections chapter introduction
At the start of a career, the value-add an employee offers is based on their formal education and exposure to the working world. As an individual gains more experience, and their career progresses, the focus moves away from their primary technical knowledge to another set of skills, colloquially known as soft skills. They include the ability to manage and then lead, motivate others, deal with performance issues, negotiate and influence stakeholders, gain buy-in to new initiatives and manage change, to name a few. Those that become successful learn that there is a shift in gear from developing and refining their soft skills to an increased emphasis on whom they know, the ability to build and develop connections with others. These collectively become a network that is actively leveraged at the individual and group-wide levels. These relationships include:Internally above and below, the solid line (direct) and dotted line (indirect) reporting.
- Internally above and below, the solid line (direct) and dotted line (indirect) reporting.
- Externally with key stakeholders such as customers, suppliers and shareholders).
In one global organization I have worked with all new employees are told that successfully progressing their career is directly related to their ability to become successful networker. What do they mean by this? It is not simply a case of increasing the number of entries in the address book. It requires and requires a strategic approach. The goal of forming connections and creating a meaningful network is to form an extensive web of formal and informal relationships that creates value for all. This value add has to be identified and can include a variety of factors such as:
- Knowledge transfer.
- Mutual decision-making.
- Influencing others to gain buy-in into new ideas.
- Marketing the activities of the organization both internally and externally.
- Managing and delivering organizational change.
Operating successfully involves shifting the focus away from the quantity to its quality. The aim being to form relationships with others to create mutual win-win benefits. Forming successful connections can, if used strategically, lead to success, defined by quality relationships shaped by high degrees of trust (see Build Trust). It is qualitative in nature and if undertaken well allows an Executive Leader to deliver their results.
In this chapter, the focus is on the role of the Executive Leader in creating connections that provide access to a wider pool of knowledge and identify new opportunities to pursue. Success is increasingly defined by not what we know but whom we know. There is a focus on the quality, and the efforts required to maintain them, shaped by attention on connecting for mutual benefit.