Networking is a critical aspect of influencing skill. In our workshops, we find all manner of excuses thrown up, but having a vibrant network is vital to success in the long term (and the short term). Yet despite all the noise on the subject, in the press, in training programmes and on the bookshelves, I think something is missing — the focus on motivating people to want to do it!
Research (from our Influencing Skills 360°) shows that people think the individuals they are scoring are pretty relaxed and effective at networking events. They even believe that those people are quite strategic about the way they do things. However, self-rating shows a different story. Most people feel uncomfortable, ineffective and that being strategic is almost a non-starter. Indeed, these items show the biggest perceptual difference out of all 42 skills we assess!
Having talked to lots of people on their networking skills, it seems as if they are there under protest. “I don’t have time for this, it’s got to be done, let’s get it over with and look as if I’m enjoying myself!” At least they’ve done their networking and can forget about it for another month (or quarter). Sound familiar?
What’s missing is the genuine motivation to engage fully with this important activity. Most books on the subject, at best, pay only cursory attention to this aspect, which I think is missing a trick. Indeed, high levels of motivation can often make up for a huge lack of skill! Actually, once you realise this, it isn’t too difficult to remedy. When I’m working with clients on this, I usually start with their longer-term goals and then work backwards — ah yes, backwards! This is another trick missed by many —so if that’s what you want to achieve, what sort of people do you need in your network? Then you start to get focused and save precious time, and take another big leap in your motivation — and, dare I say it, start enjoying the time you spend networking.