How to Manage Your Network
Linda A. Hill is the Wallace Brett Donham Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School. She is the faculty chair of the Leadership Initiative and a former faculty chair of the Organizational Behavior unit at Harvard Business School. She is the author of Being the Boss: The 3 Imperatives of Becoming a Great Leader and Becoming a Manager: How New Managers Master the Challenges of Leadership.
Professor Hill has a book forthcoming in 2011 from Harvard Business Press on leadership for innovation, which focuses on exceptional leaders from information technology to law to design, from the US and Europe to the Middle East and Asia.
Linda Hill: What do I mean by managing your network? I don’t mean spend time necessarily on LinkedIn or other kinds of social networking pieces of the puzzle. What I mean by that are a couple of things. First off, organizations are inherently political entities, and really managing your network is about managing the political dynamics associated with all organizational life. And for sure, one very specific piece of that puzzle is what you want to do is think about, “Who am I dependent on to get my job done?” The higher up you go in an organization, the more dependencies you have. You always want to over-estimate your dependencies. So think about who you’re dependent on to get your job done. And then you have to ask yourself, have I built the right relationships with those people? Do they really “trust me”? Right? Do we have mutual expectations, can I influence them, can they influence me? If the answers are no to those questions, then you have not built the right kind of relationships.
One of the things I’ve seen in my own experience is that we always talk about how power corrupts, but powerlessness corrupts also. So indeed, unless you have thought about who you’re dependent on and you have figured out ways that you can build that mutual influence with the network piece that really refers to your peers and your bosses, or people outside the organization over whom you don’t have formal authority but who in fact you need them to do things for you in order for you to be successful, or your team to be successful, you’ve got to make sure you’ve spent the time managing those relationships.
So you can’t kind of ignore that, though, and say, “I don’t just have time for it.” What you need to do is periodically make a picture or make a list: these are the dependencies, these are the critical relationships. Do I have any relationship with these people? Have I cultivated those relationships? And you need to be honest about what the state of affairs is. It depends on the job, but some proportion of your time should be spent on managing those relationships. And if you’re not spending time on that, then your team cannot be successful no matter how wonderful the culture of that team and how much time you sort of worked to get that right, because your team won’t have the right resources to get done what it needs to get done
Are you cultivating the critical relationships at work?
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