written by Lynne Waymon
Old ideas have a sneaky way of hanging on. You may hear people around you give voice to one or more of the 7 talent development fallacies of business networking below. But, you know, to stay in the game your company needs to adopt new business strategies.
Be on the lookout for these misconceptions at your organization and be ready to take a stand. Teach the people you work with that in this new environment people need skills to help them connect, converse, and collaborate. That’s the way things get done, innovation happens, and firms stay competitive.
Fallacy #1: “Our people already know how to network.”
Really? I wouldn’t be so sure. When 549 people from all walks of life took our Networking Competency Assessment, their employers were shocked. Only 32% said, “I know exactly who I need to have in my network.” Only 39% said, “I know the next step to take to make any relationship more useful.” Only 39% said, “I know questions to ask that will move the relationship forward.” And a paltry 41% said, “I tell stories that teach about my team’s or my organization’s capabilities.”
Fallacy #2: “Nobody can learn how to network. You either have it or you don’t.”
Not so. Networkers are made, not born. Contacts Count’s client research shows that only about 20% of people are “natural networkers.” About 10% will resist forever saying, “No way!” The other 70% can learn the skills identified in 8 competencies if given the chance.
Fallacy #3: “Everyone’s connected. Look at all the money we’ve spent on social media!”
Good! But, that’s like saying, “I have a phone, so I have lots of friends.” Having the ability to connect electronically is not the same as knowing how to build trust-based relationships that spark innovation and get things done. Even in this electronic age, training programs need to focus on the value of face-to-face contact whenever possible.
Fallacy #4: “Networking is an expensive time waster. All that socializing brings very little real value.”
Not so. Alex Pentland, a researcher at MIT reports that at one company employees who had good digital networks were 7% more productive. But those who had deep and wide face-to-face networks were 32% more productive. Imagine what can happen when people are actually taught how to make conversations even more productive and profitable.
Fallacy #5: “Collaboration and networking are the same thing.”
Not quite. Networking skills are the tools and strategies people need to build the kind of trust that leads to collaboration. When someone trusts you, it means they’ve decided there’s very little risk and a lot of advantage in working with you.
Fallacy #6: “We’ve told all of our people to get out there and network.”
Sorry! It’s takes more than a decree from above to create a collaborative culture. Savvy organizations get rid of the disincentives and roadblocks. And they put into place the systems, policies, procedures that develop, encourage, and support everyone to be good at leaping silos and busting up bureaucratic bottlenecks.
Fallacy #7: “You can’t expect our senior technical professionals (or name just about any other group!) to develop business. That’s why we have a marketing department.”
Time to give up that outdated idea! In this competitive world, business development is everybody’s business, no matter what their function or level within the company. We’ve identified 8 Networking Competencies that outline specific skills such as answering “What do you do?” in a way that shows your character and competence and starts a conversation; remembering names; and telling casual conversational stories designed to teach people what to send your way and what you’re good at – without bragging!