Organizations have embraced teamwork for the last decade. Now comes the importance of recognizing the art of internal and “on purpose” networking. Many people think networking is an on-the-side, personal activity for career pathing beyond their current organization, but employee dedication to broadening personal influence and wisdom, while still with their company, is essential for organizational health.
Networking “on the inside” is not new (just think of how long the term “Old Boys Club” has been around). What is new, is the conscious choice to raise the form of networking from one of backroom favours, manipulations and hidden agendas, to one of smart business sense, focused on win/win solutions.
As organizations stop ramming employees into static job descriptions (which, in many cases, haven’t been updated for years) and start redefining their services with each new project, the importance of internal networking increases.
Historically, departments and branches have felt a competitiveness which kept them suspicious and isolated from each other. Partnering rarely happened as a means to a common end. When it did happen, it was usually someone else’s idea. This isolationist thinking between branches still dangerously exists in many companies.
Entrepreneurs are terrific networkers. So what do you call employees with a entrepreneurial vision they wish to apply inside their organizations? Author Gifford Pinchot (Intrapreneuring: Why you don’t have to leave your Corporation to become an Entrepreneur) calls them… Intrapreneurs!
Encourage employees to become intrapreneurial networking masters by:
- Formally and informally communicating with customers, suppliers, industry experts, and business journalists for diverse perceptions of your company or industry
- Attending trade shows, conventions, and workshops which increase their wisdom and connections in their field (and share that wisdom with internal colleagues)
- Reading and listening to audio tapes on subjects in their field; share the wisdom with internal colleagues
- Asking information seeking questions about their colleagues’ needs and wants; help solve, lead the way ahead or put them in touch with what they need
- Knowing the interests and hobbies of key colleagues and sharing information in those areas (a sense of relationship beyond the work tasks often leads to heightened trust)
- Realizing they don’t have to have positional power to internally network (often effective internal networking works better without the “official” title because colleagues may be less likely to suspect such a person of hidden agenda.)
- Realizing, though, that positional power often sees a project through; remind them to keep networking with those in positional power too
- Using/updating their Rolodex (or whatever tracking system works)
- Identifying key people, within the organization, that are not yet part of their network; deciding and acting on how to bring them into their network
- Creating case studies where team members finish sentences such as, “Who would you go to, to get this information? Who would you call? Who would you ask? What would you do?”
Internal Networking is Systems Thinking! Internal Networking is another name for “TEAM”……Together Everyone Achieves More! The larger the organization, the greater the potential for invisibility. Internal Networking elevates visibility, which helps individuals and whole organizations be more influential and effective in reaching their goals.