The Power of Networking

Great Leaders know how to network and utilize their connections to solve problems and create opportunities for themselves and others. The goal of this page is to help you develop your network in a way that builds relationships and strengthens alliances, for yourself and others.

Curt Grayson, author of Leadership Networking: Connect, Collaborate, Create says networking “goes beyond knowing or linking to lots of different people. It’s about being able to use those connections wisely to solve problems and create opportunities.”

Based on research conducted by Harvard University, The Carnegie Foundation, and The Standard Research Institute is a summary of effective leadership networking tips:

1. Arrive Early. It is easier to approach others and begin conversations at the beginning of an event, rather than getting there late when most are already engaged in conversations. Plus, it shows respect for the event and the person or company sponsoring it when you arrive on time.

2. Never rush into the room. Take your time making an entrance. Everyone watches the entrance. It is your first opportunity to make a good impression. Enter the room, move to the right so that you are not blocking the entrance, and stand there for a few minutes. It will also give you time to spot key persons you have planned to meet.

3. Dress appropriately and be well groomed. If you do not look like someone who knows  how to dress appropriately for a business function, you may not even be given the opportunity to show how brilliant you are.

4. Make a great impression with a smile, handshake, and eye contact, and erect posture. All are considered your presence power points and essential to making a good first impression. Direct eye contact and a firm handshake, along with a smile and good posture, conveys to others that you are confident and comfortable in social situations.

5. Come prepared with a compelling and easy to understand self-introduction. “Hello, I am Derek Johnson; I write code for NASA.” It is compelling in one sense, but what does “write code” mean to the average person?

6. Know how to make and respond to introductions. Knowing how to properly introduce others will be noticed and make you stand out as a socially savvy individual. Responding to introductions requires more than a “Hey,” or “Hi” in the professional world. “Hello, Dan” is the correct, more professional way to respond.

7.  Always be prepared for a handshake by knowing how to handle your cocktail utensils. Carry your beverage and/or cocktail plate, along with a napkin in your left hand. Make sure that you wipe your finger tips on your napkin before shaking hands.

8. Master the art of small talk and making people feel comfortable.  Making small talk is not only essential for networking, but it is considered an important executive skill. The more you practice, the more proficient you will become at it.

9. Know how to gracefully enter and exit conversations. Approaching one person who is not already engaged in a conversation is ideal. Approaching two people who are conversing is not a good idea because they will more than likely be engaged in a more intimate or intense conversation. Approaching a group may seem to challenging to you, but if you take plunge, it will be worth the effort.  Simply extend your hand, and say, “Hello, I am Wendy Sullivan. May I join you?” Be sure to shake hands with everyone in the group so that no one feels left out.

10.  Follow up with people. If you exchange cards with a person who seems genuinely interested in helping you, or if you have promised to help someone, be sure to follow up in a timely manner. It shows that you are someone who can be counted on to do what he says. Being trustworthy is a highly valued trait in the business world.

A strong leadership network will serve you and your organization well, but it can also extend beyond the job.

The key to being a natural networker is to find the groups you resonate with and join them, whether online or in person. When you are relaxed and can be yourself, you’ll connect with the right people. Try too hard and you’ll come across as needy, desperate or annoying.