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Omphaloskepsis Blog

A Smarter Way to Network

Jul 24, 2011

Network.jpgRecently I came across a podcast on Harvard Business Review called Getting Networking Right, about networking. Since I’ve been focusing on rounding out and improving my business skills, and networking is one of the areas of that focus, this caught my attention. Sarah Green interviewed Rob Cross, professor at University of Virginia, author of Hidden Power of Social Networks: Understanding How Work Really Gets Done in Organizations.

Cross and Thomas co-authored an article in HBR called Managing Yourself: A Smarter Way to Network. 2

Cross makes some points in his interview that prove interesting, although I have to wonder if its true also in the digital realm.

According to Cross, smart networking is more than just knowing a lot of people and that it’s a trap to become over-networked. Smart networking is bridging ties in different areas. It’s crossing functional (opportunities and exposure to different ideas), hierarchical (engaging down, followership, being an energizer-pulls people to them), physical distance, and expertise capability areas. 1

High performers are the top 20%. They get in and stay in. They give before expecting to receive.

You should both build and prune a network. But, Cross doesn’t advise you dump a best friend.

Where collaborative time is being absorbed to create a vibrant network is a consistently stronger predictor of an effective leader.

You need good energizers in your network not bad energizers. The earmark of good energizers is enthusiasm – who is creating energy for whom? Energizers inspire us and get us engaged. Energizers are fully present. They’re interested in the importance of what you’re up to. Energizers are 4x as important.

On the other hand, de-energizers have 2x the impact. 5% of people account for 90% of the misery. De-energizers are doing a few things wrong and a few cultural shifts can alleviate this problem.

According to Cross, there are 9 specific energizer behaviors that can be taught and cultivated. However, according to his research paper, Charged Up:
Managing the Energy that Drives Innovation, there are a lucky 13 of them.

Set challenging targets. Striving bonds motivates people.
Pose a clear, simple vision. rallies people quickly and easily.
Identify a threat or crisis. galvanizes people to action.
Collaborate. People get energy from working together
Listen. Listening to others encourages and acknowledges them.
Cultivate optimism. Seeing the upside attracts others to new possibilities. 3

Create opportunities to break new ground.
Leverage diverse perspectives.
Practice constructive dissatisfaction. Continuously trawl for opportunities, big and small, to improve the way things work.
License out rejected ideas. Adopt the discipline of offering rejected ideas to others. 3

Focus on outcomes. Describe the end-state and let team members figure out how to reach it.
Cultivate a problem-solving attitude. Most new things don’t work the first time. Instead of asking “Can this work?” ask the team “How can this work?”
Use the network. Reach broadly into the informal network to find expertise, get early feedback, head off problems and build support.3

The bottom line is that you have to be the kind of person that people want to network with. You have to have integrity. You have to be trustworthy. You have to have reach and you have to have pull.


1. Harvard Business Review. Getting Networking Right, Sarah Green interviews Rob Cross. July 2011

2. Harvard Business Review. Managing Yourself: A Smarter Way to Network. Rob Cross and Robert Thomas. July-August 2011.

Charged Up: Managing the Energy that Drives Innovation. Rob Cross. MacIntire School of Commerce, University of Virginia. March, 2006.

Image credit: came from the article
Networking: The Why and How-To for Three Types of Female Entrepreneurs , August 23.

Category: Art Business

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