Q I'm fairly new to my management role and want to develop into a successful leader. Do you have any suggestions?
There are a variety of skills that make a manager successful, but one seldom addressed is the art of networking—“the exchange of information or services among individuals, groups, or institutions; specifically, the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.”1 The types of networking can be divided into three categories: operational, personal, and strategic.2
Operational networking focuses on getting things done and building relationships with internal organizational contacts; basically, your new peer group. After attending meetings and observing your peers in action, invite a few for coffee or lunch. Select those who possess skills you lack to help get your job done. For example, you observe a manager who references your hospital's budgeting system when addressing staffing issues. This is a good person to network with because you have limited knowledge of the system.
Personal networking focuses on your personal development with contacts outside of your organization. External contacts may be difficult if you aren't comfortable with “imposing” on others. If you experience this feeling, try web-based social network sites such as LinkedIn that can offer a starting point. LinkedIn allows you to connect with people you already know and then suggests others based on your existing network. Another way to connect with people outside of your normal circle is by joining a professional organization, such as the American Organization of Nurse Executives. A benefit of being a member of a professional organization is that you can ask your known contacts to introduce you to their contacts. You can also consider attending conferences, such as Nursing Management Congress, which typically have time in the agenda for networking, including longer breaks, sit-down meals, and after-hours activities.
Strategic networking occurs at higher organizational levels and focuses on future priorities leveraging both your internal and external contacts. Using this form of networking is broader because you're working through internal and external groups to accomplish goals.
Think of networking as relationship building to achieve goals; it isn't just about meeting people. Systematically categorizing your contacts by the type of relationship will help you use them in the future: connectors, mentors, peers, and experts.3 Remember not to ignore: “connector” relationships—these are people who have a great deal of acquaintances and get you another connection to meet your needs.
Whether you're starting your networking venture or well on your way, here are some simple tips:
- Carry business cards with you at all times because it's the easiest way to exchange contact information.
- Remember to smile.
- Ask for introductions if your contact is speaking with someone you don't know; also don't be afraid to introduce yourself.
- Listen and ask open-ended questions to assist you with engaging in conversation.
- Provide others with help in addition to asking for help.
- Follow up and touch base with your contacts.4
Networking is a technique of building relationships that will assist you in being a successful nurse leader. Break the ice and get started today!
1. Merriam-Webster. Networking. merriam-webster.com/dictionary/networking.
2. Ibarra H, Hunter ML. How leaders create and use networks. https://hbr.org/2007/01/how-leaders-create-and-use-networks
3. Miller M. Strategic networking playbook—who, how, and when! https://careerpivot.com/2017/strategic-networking-playbook