A recent study in the Harvard Business Review by Hermina Ibarra and Mark Hunter identified that true leaders appear to possess a set of ‘strategic’ networking skills that non leaders rarely possess.

The authors of the study found that there are three types of networking:

  • Operational networking.This focuses on efficient working and most contacts are internal and related to current needs. In other words they are relationships that are built with others who can help them do their jobs. Often these relationships are not chosen but prescribed by the task and the organisation.
  • Change the way you think about networking. Like anything, if you do not assign enough importance to it you will not do it.
  • Develop your social skills and confidence. Get feedback from others on how you come across. Are you open and friendly? What does your body language say about you? Can you speak clearly and confidently about a subject?
  • Learn to ask questions with comfort, sincerity and interest. Have a series of ‘stock’ questions prepared in your mind before you meet people for the first time.
  • Become a better listener. Ask a question and then be quiet until you hear the answer.
  • Practice by talking to people you don’t know everywhere you go. Try it out a local meetings, parties or weddings. But don’t forget they are just the tip of the iceberg; don’t forget about airplanes, trains, taxis, supermarkets, sporting events, festivals, and so on.
  • Once you have started a relationship – keep it going. Use every opportunity, however small to strengthen it.
  • Finally, don’t forget the truism – the way people behave towards you will be dictated by the way you behave towards them. If you build supportive networks with others, they will support you in return.