It is always surprise me, every time I give an internal networking training within an organization or a company to find out how much people do not know much about their colleagues.
Many people think, mistakenly, that since they do not have to go outside the company walls to do their job, than they do not need to network. During my corporate career, both with large as well as small companies, I learned that internal and external networks are both worth your investment of time. Even if your job rarely requires you to interact with other people outside your company, you still need to know how to interact and network internally with your colleagues. This is nothing to do with the scope of your job and your responsibilities, and it is actually a must behavior within organizations, small of large.
I dearly believe that your ability to network internally will make your working environment much more pleasant and will influence dramatically the teamwork spirit within the organization and your career. Moreover, internal networking means creating value, caring and giving authentic attention to others.
In many of my blog posts I discuss the tools to use while networking. Although I refer most of the times to external networking (networking with people outside your company), many of the same tools apply also to internal networking. In this article I want to explore some unique ways that apply specifically to internal networking.
Why is Internal Networking important for your company?
Are you tired from the internal politics within your company? Do you want to be away from all the artificial connection seekers within your organization? It is time to understand what internal networking is all about. If you will learn to be an effective internal networker, you will create more opportunities for teamwork within your company; you will bond more closely with other colleagues; you will be involved in more projects within your company; and you will definitely get advance in your career faster than other colleagues.
During the last decade I am a witness to an increasing number of companies that are turning to a different kind of social network, an internal one, with the aim of accomplishing a different set of goals. I was involved already in helping several organizations to facilitate an internal network to establish a secure forum for open and honest discourse and to foster communication between employees. Internal networks play an important part in helping people make the connections and have the conversations they need.
I collected some ideas from my own experience and long corporate career that I trust will help you get a truly fresh look at internal networking.
Here are my 7 simple ways to boost your internal networking skills:
1. Never eat alone
Lunch is a great opportunity to try your internal networking skills. Make a plan to everyday you in the office during lunchtime to have lunch together with another colleague. This short time can be very valuable in building strong relationships with your colleagues, discover what are they busy with, add value to them and try to help solve their needs. Try not to eat lunch with the same people each day. I guarantee you that if you sincerely be interested in your colleague stories, you will often find these lunch meetings the most enjoyable and interesting part of your week. If lunchtime can’t work, do not try to find excuses, schedule a coffee/tea break together with your colleague.
2. Participate in internal and external trainings and events
Try to participate in any training programs and events that the company or your firm offers. In case of a large company this training is usually a great opportunity to meet colleagues from other departments, divisions or geographies. I made some valuable connections, during my working period in one of the largest banks in Europe, at both live and online programs offered by my employer.
In case your company is small and no internal programs are offered. I consider joining with other colleague to an external event or training also as internal networking. During the intense days of participation in the event, you will see your colleague much more often than in the office and you will interact with him also on a personal level. This will help you to learn much more about your colleague and it definitely part of the internal networking process.
3. Become a project leader
Many people do not embrace the golden opportunity given to them by their employer and develop a unique project within their company.
Start your own project within the company and involve as many colleagues as you can to support you and take leading roles. In first instance it seems like a time consuming activity with no immediate benefits. But this kind of volunteering has many benefits to you and the organization. For me, as far as I remember, I developed new projects in every company I ever worked. I made each project global, and tried to include in it colleagues from different department and expertise. Thus, I got to learn more of my colleagues and was much more appreciated by my colleagues as well as my employer.
4. Be a supporter
Some of your colleagues have other activities outside of the office, e.g. volunteering in a non-profit organization; helping special institutes etc. You should try to find it out and support your colleagues good causes by attending, volunteering or donating to the other nonprofit organizations. This behavior surely shows commitment and real interest to build relationship with your colleague.
5. Be a connector
An easy and rewarding way to practice networking internally is to act as internal connector. As you know, I always believe that contacts you share you do not own. Take every chance to introduce people across your firm. You can also introduce your colleagues to your external network and vice versa. It’s amazing how many relationships will deepen once you have helped people to connect.
I want you to understand that these connections do not need to have a direct link to your company or job. For example, you may introduce your colleague to a great doctor to take care of her health problem; you may help your colleague’s son land an interview for a job. Your connecting efforts will be highly valued and surely remembered!
6. Be the first during moments of joy and sadness
Celebrate with your colleagues their moments of joy! And be with them in moments of sadness. When your colleague is promoted, receive an award, got a new child or got married, send congratulations. While on the other hand, if your colleague experiences a very sad moment in his life, be there for them. I mean physically, in real life (not only via social networks). A quick hand written card to someone (even if you don’t know them well) will go a long way towards showing that you care, you are paying attention
7. Praise others
How many people in your organization talk about other people’s accomplishments? Most of the people talk naturally about their own achievements. But what if you start to praise other colleagues’ achievements and really mean it? As a matter of fact, if you turn it into your habit your will create yourself a name as a real team player and every body would seek your company. Learn not to be afraid to share credit.
Remember – your internal network and the authentic relationships you build within your company will go with you forever! You will probably develop a different sort of relationship with them than with external parties. If you keep others’ interests in mind, you will be seen as genuine relationship builder; an authentic attention giver; someone who’s willing to lend a hand. The well-connected person creates value for all.
Many of my ex-colleagues are still a great source of continuing friendship and inspiration. These are relationships that I will cherish forever.
What other great ways can you think of to network internally?
Let me help you to develop a special internal networking environment within your organization. Contact me to find out!