Early in my new job at a major international retailer, i realised that i wasn’t being invited to meetings that i needed to be at. Part of the problem was that my rough edges and lack of cultural understanding (I was in a very difficult and culturally alien new country), were making my job even more difficult and challenging than it already was.
From my western world view – i might have even been smart and right. But my approach was alienating people. It took a personal sit-down from someone junior in my department (but senior in years, experience and cultural understanding) that made me realise that i could present my ideas in ways that built bridges and allowed people to keep their dignity.
After i learned to form better relationships … opportunities opened for valuable informal dialogues.
As leaders and managers, we are uniquely positioned in the company, in that decisions that we make directly touch and influence others. Firstly we need knowledge from the greater workplace / organisation, and not just what comes through formal channels . Being able to gain context from different business owners gives us a bigger perspective and makes drilling down and connecting the dots in the organisational puzzle a lot more easier.
We need to start taking our insights to different business teams and see if they are seeing the same patterns and experiencing the same things. This will also help us to bridge efforts between teams when we know that their goals are similar.
How to build a internal network:
Start by making a list of all the leaders in your organisation that you can approach without having to go through another leader. You will be surprised by how many there are in your company. Reach out to these individuals to get to know them , through an off-site coffee or lunch You can learn their challenges and how you can help their specific goals.
Be sure to give them something of value in return; otherwise they would just view you as someone who took up their time.
Oh and stop worrying about them taking credit for your ideas. They will be so eager to bring their problems to you, that they wont want to spoil it by taking credit for your ideas.
You can also ask them who they went to with their questions … this way you can discover the people who are really plugged into the organisation. Once you learn this, you can then reach out to those people to become a part of their information network.
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