Build a connection, gain a perspective
Earlier this year, I suggested that there are very few female voices on leadership. In response, I received tips on numerous impressive women to research. One of those women, Herminia Ibarra, has a remarkable resume.Thinkers 50 recognized her as the eighth most influential management thinkers. I uncovered a list I had not thought to cross reference in my earlier research. She is a feminine voice on leadership.
In Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader she introduces a principle called Outsight. She believes that we can only learn what you need to know about your job and about yourself by doing it. We cannot extract the same benefit by just thinking about it. I agree in learning by doing and believe clarity on where to step into action comes from reflection. Action is a catalyst for a shift in thinking. When I challenge my coaching clients to take radical action, the result is twofold:
- The client moves forward
- The client has a shift in mindset.
The latter is just as important, if not more so than the former.
Networking is one of the principles highlighted in her book — an external tool used as a guide for an internal shift. Inside Out’s leadership incubatorexplores this topic further.
If nothing else, building your network is an opportunity to gain perspective.
During the first snowfall as a freshmen on the campus of CU Boulder, I gained new perspective. As a Minnesota native, I experienced the snow as “just another snow in a different location.” As part of a massive snowball fight on the field behind my dorm, I realized my perspective was one of many. For students from Texas, their perspective was remarkably different. They had never seen snow. I think of networking is an opportunity to find people who will help you see snow for the first time.
We most often spend time with people who are similar to us — limiting our perspectives. Ibarra named this tendency as the narcissistic principle of relationship formation. Without common ground, it takes time and effort to get to know people — a hurdle for a species that is inherently lazy.
Think about the communities in which you belong
- How do you meet and develop friendships in college? From your dorm floor?
- Who did you spend your weekend with? Was it the result of a shared hobby?
- When have you added new friends? Was it the result of needing people who could relate to a transition?
- Have you ever been to a party that included mostly people in your industry?
Leadership, however, requires broad perspective. Expanding our networks develops our perspective. From those new perspectives come new opportunities.
Many of us avoid networking because we have inner programming that tends to hold us back . Studies show that building a network is even harder for younger people. Convinced they have less to contribute, they fear falling short in reciprocity. All take, no give. You might find yourself surprised.
Audit your network. Who you have been in contact with about important work matters over the last quarter. Identify 5 to 10 people. Look at the list and ask yourself:
- What are 3 strengths of this network?
- What are 3 weaknesses of this network?
- What is one action you can take to address the weaknesses?
2017 was a transition year for me. I moved from being an employee to being a successful entrepreneur and business owner. It didn’t happen overnight. The factor that contributed most directly to my success was developing new relationships with people who could see me in a new light as opposed to through the lens of my old position. I held my relationships with increased intentionality.
My new network showed me snow for the first time. I close the year holding that gift in gratitude.