A recent HBR article (January 2007, p 40-48) focuses on the difference between managers and leaders from a networking point of view. The article talks about the different forms of networking; operational, personal and strategic.
Operational networks are about building strong working relationships with people within the organisation to get the job done. This is core stuff – it should be bread and butter – but it’s only one aspect of networking and too much focus on this form of networking can result in a weakness in dealing with unforeseen challenges (future shocks). Or for devotees of Stafford Beer’s Viable System Model, too much focus on Level 1 and 2 and not considering Level 3 or 4.
Personal networking helps to build personal and professional development and is about broadening external contacts for future referrals, useful for assist people to advance in their careers. These networks are a safe way to expose problems and gain insights into new solutions.
Finally, strategic networking is about figuring out future priorities and challenges and getting stakeholder support for them. It’s about influencing and leveraging people inside and outside the organisation. It requires really good role models, through communities or shared interest areas. It requires giving to the network, allocating time to it and sticking at it in the face of day-to-day operational demands.
From a foresight point of view, strategic networking is critical to understand what is happening in the wider world and being able to influence your world through the actions of others. It’s about giving energy to others so that in return, you can gain insights and leverage on your goals.
Note to self – must get out more …