Organizations have embraced teamwork for at least the past two decades. Now comes the importance of recognizing the art of internal and “on purpose” networking. Many people still think networking is an on-the-side, personal activity for career pathing beyond their current positions and organizations, but employee dedication to broadening personal influence and wisdom, while still working within 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, or at least newer, 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 that kept them suspicious and isolated from one another. 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 today.
Entrepreneurs are terrific networkers. So what do you call employees that demonstrate entrepreneurial vision and spirit who wish to apply these artful qualities and skills inside their organizations? Author Gifford Pinchot (Intrapreneuring: Why you don’t have to leave your corporation to become an entrepreneur) calls them… Intrapreneurs!
If you wish to develop these skills and qualities for yourself, or if you’re in a position of official leadership and wish to inspire employees to become intrapreneurial networking masters, encourage them to:
- Formally and informally communicating with customers, suppliers, industry experts, and business journalists for diverse perceptions of your company or industry
- Attend trade shows, conventions, and workshops that increase their wisdom and connections in their field (and share that wisdom with internal colleagues)
- Read and listen to cds/ on subjects in their field; and share that acquired wisdom with internal colleagues
- Ask information-seeking questions about their colleagues’ needs and wants; help solve, lead the way ahead or put them in touch with what they need
- Know 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)
- Realize 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.)
- Realize, though, that positional power often sees a project through; remind them to keep networking with those in positional power too
- Use/update their good ole Rolodex (or whatever more modern, electronic people/connection tracking system works fro them)
- Identify key people, within the organization, that are not yet part of their network; decide and act on how to bring them into their network
- Create 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 that now stock organizational acronym, T.E.A.M…Together Everyone Achieves More! The larger the organization, the greater the potential for invisibility. Internal networking elevates the savvy and ambitious employee’s professional visibility, and that helps both the individuals and whole organizations be more influential and effective in realizing their visions and reaching their goals