What's a senior executive's biggest asset? Most would say it's their network. Not their social network, their real network. Ten thousand Twitter followers or Facebook fans aren't worth ten solid network relationships to an executive.
Not that social media isn't one way to make those contacts, but they're only effective if and when they become real relationships. That means someone you can call, email, or get together with when you need to, and vice versa.
Vistage International is an organization of senior executives and business leaders with over 14,000 members, worldwide. One of the top reasons people sign up? The network.
I'd even go as far as to say that senior-level executives can't be really successful without a robust network. Sure, they may pull in a decent paycheck, but they won't rise to the top. If this is news to you and you aspire to be a successful manager or executive, then it's time to take your head out of the sand and start networking. Here's what you stand to gain from the effort:
10 Reasons Why Your Network is Your Biggest Asset:
- Introductions. Whether you're an entrepreneur in need of venture capital or a marketing VP looking for the best PR firm, you're more likely to find it through your network than by any other means.
- Opportunities. Over a 30-year career, most of my major career and business opportunities came from my network. Business associates, friends of friends, casual conversations, business meetings, social events, whatever. But you've got to pay attention.
- Sorting out thorny problems. Anyone who thinks they've never met a work problem they can't resolve has never been a CEO. The problem with problems is that they keep getting escalated until there's nowhere left to go. The buck has to stop somewhere. And getting a fellow exec to help sort out a monster problem is a big plus.
- Recruiting. Perhaps the most critical job of any manager is to hire talented people, and the best place to find them is through your network. And not just for direct reports, but also for recommendations on peers, key employees, board members, you name it.
- Ideas. I don't know about you, but most of my best ideas come from bouncing them around with like-minded people.
- Competitive intelligence. It's a big, hairy global market and smart executives dig for competitive intelligence. Much of that info comes from sales and marketing, but where do you think they get it from? That's right, their network.
- Sensitive issues. Top executives often face sensitive issues they can't discuss with others at the company. Sometimes they just need an outside perspective from another CEO. For example, some of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison's friends are Apple CEO Steve Jobs and Mark Hurd (when he was CEO of H-P, as well). Makes sense, doesn't it?
- Seeing the big market picture. A huge component of any manager's success is her ability to anticipate significant market changes. While nobody has a crystal ball, if you get enough anecdotal data from enough sources, you can get a pretty good picture of what's going on.
- Moral support. Business is full of tradeoffs. Rarely are critical and complex issues black and white. When top execs wrestle with gray issues, it's nice to be able to pick up the phone for advice and support.
- You don't know what you don't know. While there are exceptions, know-it-alls don't typically get ahead. Smart managers know what they don't know and that means they depend very much on comparing notes with others in their network.
Image CC 2.0 courtesy Flickr user Intersection Consulting