The False Choice Reluctant Networkers Must Reject

Posted by: on Mar 12, 2014 | No Comments

(Video from Cluster 2020 Expert Series )

Here are some typical remarks about the importance, or otherwise, of relationships in business:

  • “I have no time for that marketing bullshit. In my day you got work by being good! Mind you, Sir Alan does say that I couldn’t sell a box of matches to a smoker.” (Margaret from The Apprentice, former Partner at leading law firm Herbert Smith, in an interview in The Lawyer magazine).
  • “There are two types of people in any organisation, those who get on by adding value, and those who get on based on who they have curried favour with.” (frustrated senior manager at a global financial institution).
  • “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” (anon.)

All of these assume an either-or choice: succeed based on merit, or based on your contacts. But what if the choice is a false one?

Here are five reasons why we think it is:

1.    In every field, there are talented people who never get anywhere because no-one has heard of them. We have  met many such frustrated and puzzled people, and have often coached them to start having the impact they deserve.

2.    If no-one knows it, then does it matter how good you are? Maybe if you are a monk, but are you up for taking the vow of poverty? A few years ago, the musician and producer Ry Cooder made a film called Buena Vista Social Club about a group of Cuban musicians who had been performing in their home country for decades but who were unknown in the outside world. The film was a huge hit and it opened up all kinds of possibilities for the musicians concerned to perform internationally, work with top musicians around the world, and certainly to improve their standard of living substantially. Without their connection to Ry Cooder, they would have carried on being great in obscurity.

3.    If you genuinely are better than those who are getting on because of their schmoozing, then don’t you owe it to yourself (and everyone else) to get your contribution out there? Most of us have worked in organizations where bad managers have been promoted to positions where they have a damaging effect, just because they knew the right people. If you want good managers in your organization, you need to develop the skills yourself and make sure you get the chance to use them.

4.    How do you come up with anything new if you don’t interact in the marketplace and with colleagues from different disciplines?  If you cut yourself off from the outside world, or just get your news pre-packaged by industry journalists, you will end up in a hall of mirrors. The way to improve is to constantly test ideas by chatting with customers, clients, suppliers, colleagues and as varied a set of opinion-formers as you can find.

5.    To be creative or innovative, you need the best possible dialogue and feedback. Charles Darwin used to have a transatlantic correspondence with Ben Franklin. If these two ‘giants’ thought they benefited from networking, can you dismiss the idea as simply schmoozing?

(Extracted from “Networkability” by Andy Bass and Helga Henry – a work in progress shortly to be published this year!)

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