Herminia Ibarra, author and INSEAD professor, describes a lazy (and narcissistic) network as one where we limit “our networking to people with whom we naturally ‘click,’ and this produces networks that are too homogeneous.” It’s the easy way out because those relationships happen naturally, you really don’t have to make much of an effort. We simply choose people who are like us, (or they choose us). So, what are some ways to disrupt this slacker network?
1. Break out. Take a look at the people in your closest network. If you’ve lived in a city or town for a number of years are your friends the ones that you’ve had for life? While these are important friendships to maintain, perhaps it’s time to invite some outsiders into your group—people who have come from somewhere else. Your network might behave kind of ‘high school’ when someone new is invited into a tight group, but be undaunted!
2. Mix it up. How ethnically diverse is your network? Make an effort to meet people who have had different life experiences. Even at work you can facilitate that cultural mashup in non-awkward ways. For example: have a day of the week that’s a potluck lunch and you’ll find people bringing their different cuisines. (Hey, if you get lucky, maybe their moms or dads will have made it! ) Trying different foods is a great way to start a dialogue. Everyone is OK with sharing recipes.
3. It’s just a number and try one that’s not near yours. When you look at your work network are people primarily your age and at your level in the organization? If so, make an effort to talk to everyone. Start by saying good morning to everyone in the elevator!
If you were wondering “Why We’re All So Awkward in Elevators” listen to @Slack Variety Pack podcast https://soundcloud.com/slackvarietypack/why-were-all-so-awkward-in-elevators
Mentor someone younger than you, and they’ll be your new best buddy when you want to see if Whatsapp and Snapchat are things you should be using. If you are younger, be bold and engage in conversations with those higher up the food chain. If you see a senior person in your firm (and that person is not in the midst of a multitasking frenzy) introduce yourself. Be confident and tell them that you love your job and why. (In later conversations you can share some tweaks that would make life at work more awesome). Tell them what you are working on, be specific because they might appreciate your insight. They will also be more likely to remember you when your role or that project is mentioned. Step up your game and give her or him your business card (that’s why you should have them on you at all times).
4. The obvious gap? Are there more of your own gender in your network? Make an effort to add the opposite sex to your network. The obvious way is to work on building a balanced network –create your own quota. Is it 50/50 40/60 or 30/70? This takes work–no Lazy Network badge for you! Team sports outside of work where everyone is invited to the sandlot (softball, golf, etc.) is another good way. If you are a woman, don’t devote all of your networking time to women’s networks; mix it up. If you do belong to a woman’s network, see if you can bring some men into The Clubhouse too. If you are a man, commit to bringing more women into your network. Look for commonalities even though it may be somewhat harder to find than with your male colleagues. Perhaps you both have kids and you are involved in parent associations at school, both your families take ski trips, or you both are college football fanatics. The goal is to start by building rapport and then gaining ‘trust’.
5. Join a new group. This is an simple way to widen your network. Join a new organization, perhaps not with any industry or business affiliation. Instead try a community venture. Can you get involved in fundraising for a new hospital wing, start your path with the United Way or your local Children’s Hospital Foundation, YMCA, YWCA or other important civic organizations? This is a long-term commitment, you have to do the work before you are invited to sit on these high-level boards. But you can join a committee, volunteer your time, your expertise and meet some very interesting people.
-Written by Gayle Hallgren-Rezac, Judy Thomson and Darcy Rezac, business networking speakers and authors of Work The Pond! Shepa Learning Company
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