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Harnessing the power of your network: 5 strategies to succeed fast in a new role

Written by Lenny Sluyts on 2 August 2020 for Tech Professionals

People nowadays tend to switch roles a lot more frequently than previous generations ever did. Millennials and Gen Z’ers will have on average twelve different jobs throughout their lives. Internal moves are also increasingly common. But those transitions aren’t easy, even if you move to a new role within the same company. A Gartner survey indicates that 49% of people promoted within their own companies are underperforming up to 18 months after the change. That’s surprising, isn’t it? After all, these people know the company, they have the right skills and experience and they’ve been vetted for cultural fit. So why are they performing so poorly?

The secret to success, lies in the effective use of a carefully crafted internal network. Especially in today’s hyper-collaborative workspaces where we no longer work in silos but engage in agile, cross-departmental collaborations to achieve optimal results.

 

Harvard Business Review recently published an article by Rob Cross, Greg Pryor and David Sylvester. Their research, for which they analysed transitioning employees in 100 diverse companies, suggests that the people who got up to speed and excelled most quickly in their new roles—the ‘fast movers’ as they call them—are the ones who know how to use their internal networks effectively. They use five strategies for building a strategic network, all of which we’ll disclose for you in this article.

Strategy #1: Surge rapidly into a broad network

Fast movers act as quickly as possible to discover the informal organisational chart of opinion leaders who are able and willing to help them get things done. They understand that it’s important to create connections to and relationships with not only key stakeholders, but also with others that might be deemed less important, such as deputies of formal leaders, who can give you information on the schedule of leaders so you can make efficient use of their time, colleagues in functional and support roles, who can help you get things done more quickly, and peers, who can be sounding boards and sources of information.

Strategy #2: Generate pull

People who attract like-minded colleagues and make their network work in their favour, not only benefit themselves but also the organisation at large. Once you’ve made the connections, the idea is that people come to you with advice or ideas, or bring you into new projects.

To generate pull, it’s not enough merely to connect with people in your network. Goodwill comes from more than knowing someone’s name or engaging in sporadic conversation. To get people to work for you, you must foster a relationship that shows you’re sincerely interested in the person and what you can do for them, not just what they can do for you. You do this by engaging in conversations where you’re not looking for anything more than just getting to know the person. Ask them questions about their work, their lives, their personal interests and look for points of commonality.

Also, understand the value of modesty. Where you might be tempted to oversell yourself and focus on your skills and experience to get others to take you seriously, it’s actually better to show your value instead of talking about it. Modesty also means offering help to others, or asking others for help to cocreate a joint narrative of success.

 

Strategy #3: Identify how you add value, where you fall short, and who can fill the gaps

Whenever you transition to a new role, there will be skills you can fall back on, and skills that you don’t yet possess. Many of us would be tempted to bluff our way through when there’s stuff we don’t know or understand. Fake it till you make it, say you can do something and figure out later how to do it. It’s not a bad strategy – sometimes it can incite a steep learning curve – but there’s also a good chance that you’ll fall flat on your face.

A better strategy is to first get clarity on where you add value, and then identify the areas where you fall short. You can fill in the gaps by working to improve your skills and/or knowledge in these areas, and by asking for help from people who already know how to do it. That’s the best way to ensure good results, and also a really good way to learn.

Strategy #4: Create scale

We have a saying at Exellys: if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together. But in the case of transitioning to and quickly succeeding in a new role, it’s always better to go together, as it will be faster, too. Fast movers get big things done quickly by harnessing the power of their network. They rely on the people they know for both ideation and implementation. They seek help from people who can offer novel solutions to pressing problems, and turn to people with pull in the company – corporate influencers, if you like – to help spread and sell the idea.

There are four types of corporate influencers you can connect with to achieve scale:

  • Central connectors. They’re the ones with big, informal networks that can help socialize ideas and gain support from specific groups
  • Boundary spanners. They have ties across different groups within the company and can act as a bridge between silos
  • Energizers. They can create enthusiasm and engage the broader organisation
  • Resisters. They’re sceptical of your ideas and you need to take their viewpoints into consideration early on, so you can improve your idea and get them on board

 

 

Strategy #5: Shape your network to maximize personal and professional well-being

Fast movers make a point out of prioritizing their physical and mental health, to better cope with the stress of moving to a new role and all the networking they need to do. They don’t get caught up in the pitfall of saying yes to everyone just to get more people on their sides. They prefer a carefully crafted, smaller network of helpful people over a broad network of mainly useless contacts. It’s important to find people you have a good connection with, who understand what you’re doing and why, who energize you and give you fresh ideas and who are willing to help you just like you’re willing to help them. Having this network can actually shield you from some of the pressures that come with a new role.

This article about energy management will help you to maximize your personal and professional well-being.

Conclusion

When transitioning to a new role, don’t forget the people around you. People who switch roles, either within the same company or by moving to a new employer, often have a hard time finding their bearings. Surveys indicate that up to 49% of them underperform. Analysis of transitioning employees in 100 diverse companies suggests that the ones who know how to use their internal network effectively are the ones who excel most quickly. These ‘fast movers’ follow 5 strategies to harness the power of their network:

  1. They surge rapidly into a broad network;
  2. They generate pull by engaging new connections;
  3. They identify their added value, where they fall short, and who can help them skills gaps;
  4. They expand their impact by using their network effectively;
  5. They prioritise relationships that make their workplace experience better.

Good luck!

About Exellys

Exellys is a Tech Talent Incubator. We match ambitious companies with the finest tech talent. Are you ready to drive the innovations of tomorrow? Ready to make an impact and become a future-fit digital leader?

Whether you are a graduate or (young) professional, Exellys will unlock your full potential by guiding you to a challenging work environment that perfectly matches your personality, expectations and ambitions.

On top of that, you are enrolled in one of our very own training and coaching programs (based on your personal and professional ambition and experience). This means that, while working as an Exellys consultant, we are helping you to bridge your ambition to excellence.

Through intensive training and coaching, you’ll gain the essential skills, competencies and knowledge necessary to become the highly effective professional you aim to be. Become an Exellyst and get in touch with us today!