People often overlook their relationships and networks’ importance in achieving positive outcomes.
Stop wasting time thinking you must do it yourself, and start making the time to invest in your relationships with peers, partners, and stakeholders. Not only will it enrich your experience and give you tailwinds, but many things you’re driving hinge on your ability to influence others — especially any change management or transformation work.
Here are four ways to expand your network and organizational influence:
1: Create connections that go beyond the basics.
Leverage 1:1s to understand partners’ and stakeholders’ visions, goals, and mindsets.
Find out what’s essential and drives them. Share what you’re doing and how you want to partner to reach those goals together. Think through a plan to get there. Take a similar approach with your boss (and their boss and peers) as you build your relationship.
Create forums or small groups to go deeper on topics and create an environment to share ideas, input, and feedback.
Many times, larger meetings aren’t the place for deep discussions. Create a space where you can have them with groups of 3–5 people. Ask for and share feedback once you’ve established a repertoire.
This step is a litmus of how well you’ve created an environment of openness and learning.
Align on shared outcomes that you work towards together. Instead of staying heads down in your world, spend time collaborating with partners and peers. Align your goals with what’s essential to the business — move the metrics that matter.
Cross the finish line together and continuously nurture these relationships.
2: Bring your systems thinking and enterprise mindset to the table.
Having a point of view within your area of expertise will be natural, which is required to gain credibility as an expert at what you do.
But where real enterprise operators are a cut above is when you lean into conversations outside your wheelhouse. Have a point of view on business topics and adjacent spaces that aren’t your discipline. Demonstrate across and up that you are thinking about the business and understand how functions come together across the enterprise to deliver value.
Make it evident that you are paying attention to the market and trends that could impact the company.
Establishing yourself as a functional expert is one thing, but showing up as an enterprise leader who understands how things connect will get you the street cred required to get included in strategic conversations and sought out for your opinion beyond topics around your discipline. Be prepared for meetings, and make sure you’re contributing.
Take inventory if you find yourself in meetings where you’re not talking.
3: Share thoughts and approaches early and often with others.
Don’t keep everything to yourself until it’s polished, waiting for a grand reveal.
Instead, invite peers and partners to contribute to proposals to make them better or highlight something you’ve overlooked. Strengthen your pitch by getting input and feedback from others. When others contribute and share diverse perspectives, the proposals are more robust and well-rounded, and others view your open and collaborative nature as something to reciprocate.
Socialize ideas before large meetings through 1:1 conversations.
“Warm the room” by having champions for your ideas and proposals before stepping into the [virtual] room. Meet with key stakeholders and showcase that you’ve addressed their concerns so they can provide support. This approach turns what would typically be a high-pressure approval meeting into a discussion of next steps.
It will feel uncomfortable at first — work through that apprehension and do it anyways.
4: Team across the enterprise.
Offer to lead or help on a program that cuts across business groups and is of strategic value for the company.
Use the opportunity to meet people you don’t usually work with and expand your network. Gain visibility on a company priority, and show up as an enterprise leader concerned about outcomes that have an impact. If someone else is on point, be a strong contributor and use that experience to build stronger connections with the people in the core team.
Keep those connections even after program completion, and find ways to broaden your network’s reach continually.