#review&reflect: Making Connections and Networking for Leaders

#review&reflect: Making Connections and Networking for Leaders

A Model for Networking

This is TheSchoolHouse302 monthly #review&reflect, wrapping up our focus on Connecting with Others to Grow Your Network for continued and greater success.

Skills I need…

Our world grows and is enriched when we connect with other people. The question is, how well do you connect with others to grow yourself and your organization?

Review: This month we focused on connecting with others to specifically grow your network. To do so effectively, we introduced our three-part model, PRC, to illustrate simple, easy, and effective ways to connect with other people. The first part of the model simply states: Plan.

Plantake time to think about who the people are before you decide to reach out.

This list of people you identify to reach out to should coincide with your needs and the needs of your organization. Who you want to reach out to and why you need to connect are critical to consider in making the connection meaningful and worthwhile. We view networking and connection as a way to add value for you and your organization. Whether the benefit is information or specific goods and services, the goal is to grow your network intentionally. Recently, at the 2018 Visible Learning Conference, we had the distinct please of meeting several educators who are achieving wonderful things as speakers and writers. Conferences are a great place for connecting, not only to attend great sessions to learn, but also to meet people who can contribute in some way to you and your work. Knowing the who of your next connection is important but knowing the where and when is imperative as well. That brings us to the next step in the model, which is to Reach Out.

Reach Outbe sure to capitalize on your network by reaching out to others.

Reaching out is the next step and requires action. Once you have the list, be sure to contact the individuals. We’ve found that people are incredibly receptive and willing to connect with others. Most leaders intuitively understand the genuine benefit of strong networks. This is very obvious with social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn where you can connect with people from around the world to share ideas and grow. However, don’t just think about people you don’t know, there are a lot of people from your past and individuals with only a degree of separation between you and them who you can reach out to and connect with. The last part of the model is to actually connect.

Connectuse emotional intelligence to truly connect with yourself and other people.

Connection goes beyond just reaching out and making contact, it delves into the social and emotional side of connecting with others on a different level. Networking allows us to meet so many unique people from varied walks of life who can bring a fullness and understanding to ourselves, to others, and to unique situations we face. Growing your network expands your universe, which broadens perspectives and creates opportunities. In this regard, we think of our network as energy. The bigger the network, the more energy it produces.

The model is straightforward, and, most importantly, it includes a specific call-to-action to bridge worlds. It recognizes the importance of making connections to network–the work behind the curtain of goal setting and goal getting.  

Making Connections

Reflect: Each aspect of the model is critical for overall success and maximum effectiveness. While reviewing and considering each, determine which one you need to focus on to grow your network? For example, you may easily meet individuals, create an immediate connection, but fail to grow the relationship in a beneficial way after that. Each part of the model empowers you to connect and grow with others. We heard from Dr. Mark Brainard on the importance of connection for service-based industries. As the president of Delaware Technical Community College, it is imperative that he meets the needs of multiple stakeholders with the ultimate goal of benefiting the entire community and state through an educated and productive workforce. He reminds us that networking provides insight into every facet of the organization. He emphasized the need to connect with people within the organization and not just outside the company.

As a leader, are you aware of the people who you need to connect with to help you and your organization grow?

How do I learn those skills…

What should I read to continually learn and grow if I want to make new connection and grow my network?

Review: In our #readthisseries we featured the work of authors who embody what it means to make the connections necessary to be an effective leader:

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Everybody Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently by John Maxwell

The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future by Kevin Kelly

You can’t miss our #readthisseries on making connections and networking as the lead learner in your organization. Watch it again here.

Reflect: Do I have a firm grasp on what my organization needs? Do I have clarity around who I want to contact and why? How well do I build relationships? Of the three parts of the model, which one do I need to start today to be more connected? Do I have people in my past who I can reach out to with an intention to reignite a once thriving relationship?

Great leaders understand the power of networking and the immediate impact someone else can have on them. Making time within their day or week to evaluate how someone else can positively impact themselves and their work is a critical first step in acknowledging the power of networking. This month, reflect on how well you build your network. Is this something you actively do? Based on the 3-part model, and using a 5-point scale, 1 being ineffective and 5 being highly effective, rate yourself and your team:


Who should I follow…

What does an expert have to say about networking and connecting with others?

Review: For our #onethingseries, we interviewed Dr. Mark Brainard, President of Delaware Technical and Community College.

Throughout the interview, Dr. Brainard emphasized how leaders must connect with individuals within the organization and learn from every person in every position. He emphasized how leaders are made when no one is watching and the power of emotional intelligence. His thoughts on networking genuinely represent his desire, as President of Del Tech, to provide an incredible education for his students and to ultimately serve the community.

Reflect: Dr. Brainard reminds us of the power of connecting with every person and seeing relationships through a whole new lens, something that benefits everyone.

As a leader, how well do you connect with others and foster positive relationships among those in your organization to create positive results and outcomes?

The definition of leadership is influence, and by making connections, you can expand your influence. By expanding your influence, you can be helpful to more people, and that’s one of the most important characteristics of any great leader–the desire to help others.

That’s our #review&reflect for making connections and networking. Take a look back to take a step forward.

TheSchoolHouse302 is about getting to simple and maximizing effective research-based strategies that empower individuals to lead better and grow faster.

Please let us know how our leadership posts are working for you, what you are reading to improve yourself, and your thoughts on leadership and growth here on our blog and Twitter. Follow our #onethingseries podcast on iTunes and our #readthisseries on YouTube.

Joe & T.J.

#exampleseries with Nathalie Princilus TheSchoolHouse302

Listen to this quick podcast with Nathalie Princilus as an example of setting priorities. She recently graduated from UD’s Principal Preparation Program, and she tells us how she made that happen in 18 months with a life, a family, kids, and a job. #exampleseries from TheSchoolHouse302.com. Tell us what you think by posting a comment.

Reflections from an appliance repairman: Why getting to simple is the best strategy for long term sustainable success.

Every day there is an opportunity to learn. Within every situation, and in every new conversation, there’s always a nugget of information to consider. Call it what you will—random learning, organic reflections, take-aways, innovations—regardless, we can learn from almost every moment of our lives. Robert Hunter tells Grateful Dead listeners that “once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right” (in his artful “Scarlet Begonias”). I contend that you can always get shown the light if you’re willing to look at it right. Looking at it “right” means having an open mind in every situation. Call it “the strangest of places” if you wish, but an appliance repairman showed me some light this week. My washing machine broke. The motor wouldn’t turn. Maybe 10 years ago I would have flipped it upside-down and pulled the guts out of it, fixed it myself, but these things are really better left to the professionals. After a quick diagnosis, he realized that he needed to replace the water pump because the motor wouldn’t work without a good pump, and my pump was busted. He said, “I really like this model.” I said, “It’s 10 years old.” He said, “Yeah but it’s a simple, good design. The parts are simple, and it only has the essential pieces of the puzzle.” Intrigued, I listened intently. “Washing machines do one thing, they throw the clothes around inside the drum. They only need three functions: a motor, a water pump, and a drain.” He said, “Dryers are the same. They only have two functions: to heat up and spin. When you add anything more to these machines, you just get more parts that can break. Keeps me busy.” Then he chuckled for a minute. I asked him if he worked on other appliances. “Yup, everything…fridges, microwaves, ovens. Whatever you need.” He paused and then continued, “The machines are all the same, though. Same deal. You want them to function for their purpose. Most manufacturers have lost their integrity, which makes it even more important that you get the models without the bells and whistles. Keep it simple. Touch screens, digitalized faceplates, features that don’t matter…keep away from all that. That stuff just breaks. And, not only does it break, but it makes it harder to fix this stuff. More expensive too.” I listened. “What about the best brand?” I asked. “They’re basically all the same” he said, made in the same factories and everything. If you really want something good, get a Viking.” He looked at me. I asked, “Why?” as I typically do with everything. His response: “They keep it simple. They make great stuff, solid as a tank, rarely breaks, and doesn’t have a ton of features that aren’t directly aligned with the primary function of the machine.” That’s when I realized that there was more to his philosophy than his work on appliances, important as it is. He was finished the job in less than an hour, he kept his work area clean, and he packed up and moved on to his next appointment. I paid a fair price for the work, but I got much more than a repaired washer. Here’s what I learned in a reflection from the appliance repairman: Keep it Simple Why is it that in our organizations we do so much that isn’t directly aligned to our purpose? Initiative after program after new idea, we keep piling it on, rarely taking anything off of the agenda and even more rarely evaluating the success or failure of our practices. It’s easy to be the shiny new model with the bells and whistles. It’s easy to add features that seem to be important on the surface. But, that’s the stuff that breaks first. What we really want is to be a Viking, solid as a tank and simple. What to do? Make a list of the aspects of your organization that are most important. Then list everything that your organization has going on. Now, cross off items from the second list that aren’t aligned to the first list. That’s getting to simple. That should identify the essential working parts of your organization. Working Parts Once you’ve identified the essential working parts, you need to ensure that the parts work. That’s the difference between inefficiency and efficiency—having too many parts that don’t matter or reducing your focus to the essential parts that keep your organization working well. The next step is to delegate. Who takes the lead on each of the working parts? Having leadership at every level of the organizational flowchart is critical for the success of the working parts, to keep the parts working. Workflow within an organization can’t be top down for the speed needed in today’s marketplace. To keep up, John Kotter (2014) tells readers that they need a right-hand flowchart that’s hierarchical and a left hand-flowchart that’s more of a web. On the right, the structure is clear in terms of who has what level of authority over decisions. On the left, leaders emerge from every level to spearhead various aspects of the organization. The right side keeps the organization in check, the left side keeps the organization productive. The left side is a distributed leadership model whereby everyone in the organization takes ownership over the working parts, the essentials. 3 Essentials to Consider: 1. Vision/principles that matter. Great organizations have principles at the center of everything they do. These are the pillars that you lean on when things get unstable. Every single person in the organization should be able to state the purpose or recite the main principles. They aren’t goals and they aren’t initiatives. These are the primary written and communicated values that drive the organization. a. What are your organization’s principles or values? b. Are they clear? c. Can everyone in the organization recount them on queue? 2. Focus. Great organizations have a clear focus of the week, month, or year. This should be simple, singular. This year our goal is to increase productivity. This year our goal is to develop a stronger client base. This month our goal is to create a new product line. Again, the focus should permeate the entire organization so everyone from the custodial night staff to the executives can state the focus at any given moment. And, you don’t add a new focus until the old one has been fulfilled. The focus is more like a goal than the principles. a. What is the focus of your organization right now? 3. Monitoring system. Don’t forget about sustainability. Vision statements, principles, and a clear focus are nice to have but nothing will get done if it’s not monitored. This should be clear too. The monitoring system can be weekly check-in meetings for reporting on progress. The system could be a series of observations. The system could be a review of important data at the end of the day, week, or month. We recommend that the system be as frequent as the organization can tolerate. a. What system does your organization use to frequently monitor the progress of the goals or identified focus for any given department? Conclusion My washing machine repairman reminded me that frills aren’t what they’re cracked up to be. It might look nice to have a flat panel television built into the front of your refrigerator but that doesn’t help to keep the food at a safe temperature for storage. A digital touchscreen on your dryer might seem like a nice feature on the surface, but it won’t dry the clothes inside. The essential working parts are all that really matter to serve the purpose of the appliance. Our organizations are no different. Getting to simple is the best strategy for long term sustainable success. Need help? Let us know. We also want to hear your thoughts on this blog. @tjvari @josephjonessr Kotter, John. (2014). Accelerate: Building strategic agility for a faster moving world. Harvard Business School Publishing: Boston.