…But first, an unashamed commercial break. Next Wednesday, October 12th, I’m speaking at York University’s Innovation Centre. I’m talking about building your business through a regular blog, and I’m sure that there are still a few places available. Lunch is at 12’00 followed by the talk – anyone interested should contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Right, that’s used up my thirty seconds allowed for ads – to business. Networking is constantly on everyone’s mind. Am I doing enough? Am I doing too much? Why was that bloke last week so boring…
I’ve been reading a really interesting article in the Harvard Business Review. It’s by two academics, Rob Cross and Robert Thomas and as you might expect, being American it measures the success – or otherwise – of someone’s network rather more scientifically than the anecdotal evidence and gut-feeling that we tend to rely on over here.
So three points to start off with, none of which will come as a surprise to the female readers of this blog:
• Social networks are just as important as business networks for successful executives (and for ‘executives’ read business owners as well)
• Women tend to be better at networking than men – largely because they recognise point number one
• And it’s quality, not quantity, that counts
Let’s look at those points in more detail. Why are social networks just as important as business networks? The main reason is that your social networks challenge you: very often they’re made up of people who don’t necessarily share your views – whereas our tendency with business networks is to seek out people whose views reflect and reinforce our own. So if we’re making mistakes, or not seeing all the angles, it’s our social networks that help us step back and see the bigger picture.
It’s difficult to expand on point number two without giving Dav a stick to beat me with. Oh well, here goes. It does appear that women are far better than men at building diverse groups. We men tend to be simple folk: work – golf – football – pub – rugby (or something similar).
Women are better at both making and keeping deeper relationships – which range across wider interests. Work – friends in different industries – charity work – keep fit – reading group. And that’s before you factor in the school run… These more diverse networks give them a wider perspective in business: if you remember back to a previous blog, it was shown in tests that groups including women consistently produced better business decisions – even in traditionally all-male areas such as engineering.
Finally, it is emphatically quality that counts, not quantity. In fact, the evidence shows that knowing – or trying to know – too many people might be positively harmful. You spread yourself too thinly, and develop too many superficial relationships. Food for thought if you’re determined to reach 500 contacts on LinkedIn – and interestingly, the exact opposite of the advice from a lot of self-help books.
There was another interesting point to emerge from the research. As the old saying goes, ‘Who you know’ is important. But what’s more important is ‘Who they know.’ Despite Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and all their allies – a word of mouth recommendation is still worth its weight in gold.
Cross & Thomas went on from this research to develop a scientific approach to successful networking – I’ll share that with you in a couple of weeks. In the meantime I’d be interested in your views on your current experience of networking, particularly the quantity vs. quality argument.
Have a great weekend. Me? Wednesday looms: I’ve an appointment with PowerPoint…