How to Build, Influence and Leverage Your Network
From Rapport to Credibility
By Molly Wendell, President of Executives Network
Molly Wendell, international relationship expert, led the morning session at the Welocalize LocLeaders Forum 2015 in Berlin, to demonstrate how organizations and localization professionals can develop and use their sphere of influence to help achieve their global business goals. In this blog, Molly summarizes the key points from the session.
Someday, some way, you’re going to need something from someone. And that something might not even be for you. It might be a favor for a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker, or someone’s son or daughter. The more you focus on building relationships, and the more real relationships you have based on that focus, the easier you’ll find it to get things done. Are you ready for that someday?
Most people think networking is only important for salespeople and job seekers. I’m here to tell you the ability to build relationships is a lifelong skill that helps you succeed in anything you do. It also helps make you indispensable.
I had the great opportunity to spend time with the Welocalize team and clients at the LocLeaders Forum 2015 in Berlin, talking about sphere of influence – what is your sphere of influence and what it should be? Most of the people in the room had a network; not necessarily one they’d given much thought to. So that’s where we started. We started with the “Who”. Who do you want in your network?
This question sounds pretty overwhelming and is probably the easiest to answer. Who you want in your network depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. As my sixth-grade teacher used to tell me, To be specific is terrific. To be vague is the plague. This is just as true in networking. Without a specific plan around whom you’re targeting, you may end up with an extensive network, but is it the network you want or need?
How do build a more proactive network?
You can look at building your network and sphere of influence in a number of different ways. It could be based on functional area, like engineering, product development, marketing, sales and the like. It could be based on industry. Most people in a particular industry have contacts in their industry; however, they struggle a bit with contacts in other industries. There’s so much to learn from other industries!
It could be based on business model. Maybe your organization is has a typical supply chain – manufacturer to distributor to reseller/retailer to end user. What lessons could you learn from others with a similar or different business model? Another way to look at your network is from your own ecosystem. How connected are you with your organization’s suppliers, buyers, competitors or substitutes? How much could you benefit by knowing others in your very own supply chain?
The key here is that you need to not only build your network internally, you also need a network externally. Sometimes you might even use a connection outside of your organization to get connected to someone within your organization.
We didn’t stop with the “Who”. Then we talked about the “How”. How do you start the conversation? How do you continue the conversation? As the participants found out very quickly, it’s all about the questions you ask, not the answers you give. It’s all about smart, thoughtful questions – and the ability to get people talking about themselves. Most people won’t naturally just open up, but if prompted in an engaging way, they’ll tell you more than you ever thought you needed to know. Which is great, because who do you already know a lot about. That’s right. You! And how much more time do you need to spend listening to yourself talk? Probably not much!
We then took a look at different ways of presenting information, and how to be conversational and still viewed as more of a thought-leader. With only 5-7 minutes to prepare, it was pretty impressive what they came up with in their presentations. We have a group that is practiced in “selling” the benefits of what they can do for others internally.
We closed with Molly’s Seven Rules of Relationship Building:
- Rule #1 (The Golden Rule): Networking is not about you
- Rule #2: Build the well before you need the water
- Rule #3: Be there and aware
- Rule #4: Be interesting by being interested
- Rule #5: Assume positive intent
- Rule #6: Attitude is everything
- Rule #7: Let them win
Some participants were attending the LocWorld28 conference, held after the LocLeaders event. Some were headed back to the office. Either way, they had the beginnings of a more proactive, focused plan on not only how to build a better network, but how to leverage it appropriately.
Remember, building relationships is about focusing on the other person. It’s an unselfish act of actively listening to the other person. Of figuring out what you can do to help them; what you’re doing to build your value in the relationship. Is it a lead, a contact, an idea? What’s in it for them?
At some point or another, someone always asks me, What’s in it for me, Molly? My answer is always the same: Everything. With the right relationships, you can do anything. The right relationships expand your thinking. The right relationships expand your personal growth. The right relationships open doors. The right relationships expand your opportunities and horizons. So, create them. Develop them. Share them. And enjoy them. And most of all, keep up the networking!
For more information, Molly Wendell has written a book, The Networked Organization – why companies can and should create a culture of networking to increase collaboration and performance.