Strategic Networking: Your Path to Influence in the First 100 Days
A networking strategy systematically accelerates your credibility and influence in your first 100 days in a new role. It is an essential but often overlooked preboarding activity. This article explores why you need a networking strategy and how to create one.
Leadership requires a network. Establishing your network is the foundation of your effectiveness as a leader, so it deserves special attention. Different connections can help you gain access to valuable information, skills, and resources and open up opportunities to advance your career. But networking is not just about what you can get but also about what you can give—the choices of when, where, and whom you meet are the basis of your networking strategy.
How you prioritise your introductions speaks volumes about your professional objectives, with implications for your reputation and influence. This is particularly true for executives in the organisational minority who must navigate their first 100 days under enhanced scrutiny and hypervisibility.
The key is to acknowledge that everyone will have something to say, and you will be the one who decides what that is.
Armed with your networking strategy, when it's time to cultivate relationships you are ready to approach each interaction with intention and authenticity.
1. Set Your Goals
Outline your networking objectives. Whether it's gaining visibility, understanding the culture, securing allies, or building your knowledge, be specific and establish short-term and mid-term milestones.
OKRs are a great framework for breaking objectives into strategic steps.
2. Map Your Connections
Identify influencers, decision-makers, and potential allies within and outside your organisation. Broaden your horizons and include customers, suppliers, investors, ERGs (Employee Resource Groups), and competitors.
The order in which you meet with individuals and groups is a sign to the organisation of how important these people are to you.
3. Set Your Stage
You might invite people to your office. If so, how you set that stage will impact their perception of the meeting. One-on-one chats can help people feel valued, or a less formal group environment can create a sense of camaraderie, openness and trust.
How and where you meet people says something about who you are and how you like to build relationships.
4. Leverage Digital Tools
Plan how to use digital tools and platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and internal forums to expand your reach and find new connections. Prepare content to establish your presence and values.
In organisations with a global footprint, it may be years before you get to meet someone in person. Digital channels short-change the rumour mill.
5. Prepare to Share
Every introduction is a mini-interview. Just as you would prepare examples for an interview, you should prepare stories for your introductions. Align these stories with your personal brand and be prepared to tell them again and again and again... Consistency builds trust.
Your favourite anecdotes, quotes and stories are what people will say about you when you aren't in the room.
6. Embrace Opportunities
Networking can be formal or informal. Create space in your schedule to attend events, walk the floor and loiter in breakout areas. Actively participate in online discussions.
People will remember what you said when standing beside the coffee machine much more clearly than what they heard you say from a stage.
Finally, remember that networking is an ongoing process. Your networking strategy is a living document that should be updated and refined as the lay of the land becomes clear.
Consistently engage with your connections, even after you've reached your initial goals. You'll nurture those relationships by staying active in your network, creating a solid foundation for future success.