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Network Your Way to Success

Leadership concerns itself with the big picture and, in any organization, things change fast. Your internal network is one of the best ways to stay on top of what’s happening from moment to moment.

Eight Assumptions You Cannot Make
To be an effective internal networker, you have to know the rules. Do NOT assume:
1. People you work with are automatically in your network. You must create and nurture relationships.
2. Everyone is an equally good networking contact. Seek out the experts and people who will give back. As you talk with people in your network, agree to respond quickly to their requests.
3. You can ask for information or help without giving first. Listen actively to your contact. Does this person need something you can supply? If you can’t discover anything, ask, “How can I help you?”
4. You can access anyone. The best contacts are busy people. Use referrals, references and introductions by a third party. And, become known for the people you connect with.
5. You can't get by without doing your homework. Don’t waste your contact’s time. When you ask for something, do as much study or prior research as you can. Jot down what you’ve found out, note any blind alleys you have discovered and plan your questions carefully. It’s best if you can link your questions or need to something of interest to your contact. If there’s not an obvious payoff for your contact, be sure you volunteer your future services—and follow through.
6. Your request is so important that your contact will drop everything to answer it immediately. Give your contact enough time. If you need something, don’t procrastinate. Ask before you become desperate.
7. When you receive information, the interaction is over. Get back in touch to tell your contact what use you made of what she gave you.
8. Muttering “thanks” is not enough. Say thank you with style. Send a handwritten note. Take your contact to lunch. Send a funny card. Send an e-card. Write a note to your contact’s boss. Take every opportunity to give credit publicly.

How Strong Is Your Internal Network?¹

Growing Your Internal Network
To plan your networking campaign, start by doing the following:
1. List those people at work with whom you regularly interact.
2. List those people with whom you think you should interact. That is, whom else should you get to know in order to get things done? (If you don’t know the person’s name, list his or her title).
3. Write + next to those with whom you have a positive relationship.
4. Write – next to those with whom you have a negative, unproductive or unpleasant relationship.
5. Place 0 next to those with whom you have no relationship or a neutral one.

Next Steps:
1. Begin with the + people. Consider steps you can take to confirm your relationships.
2. Then move on to the 0 people on your list. Choose someone on the list, and find a reason to get together.
3. Finally, ask yourself about the – people. Consider why a relationship went wrong and what you can do to improve it going forward.

Remember, networking is an ongoing enterprise. You have to nurture and maintain your relationships every day. Also understand that networking is a two-way street. If you expect others to cooperate with and help you, you must be willing to do the same for them.

© American Management Association. Adapted from AMA’s seminar Stepping Up to Leadership: A Course for Administrative Professionals

¹Excerpted from Make Your Contacts Count, by Anne Baber and Lynn Wayman by permission of the publisher, AMACOM, a division of American Management Association. All rights reserved.