Landscape CEOs, more than any other, know the importance of ecosystem health when it comes to the growth of their clients’ properties. What if we applied a similar principle as a growth strategy for leadership?
I’ve built and led several companies: some I fell into accidentally and grew organically; others I approached with a vision in mind. But across my career, one thing became clear: I owe my entrepreneurial success to a healthy ecosystem of diverse relationships.
We all agree that when it comes to competitive advantage, connections are our secret sauce. There’s really no other asset more beneficial than having a group of people, within and outside our organizations, who can help us be better at who we are and what we do. But how do we build a power network and how do we manage it when it seems like we already have too many balls in the air?
Here are seven things I know now I wish I knew back when:
1. One plus one equals three: No business and no CEO operates well in isolation. Effective leaders understand that “we’re better together” means having a network of high-value connections across generations and industries. These connections should also be at different levels and production areas, with people whose insights can help you build bridges, open doors and positively impact the success of your team.
2. Do your homework: Your network will change as your needs change, and quality relationships require nurturing. Define your strategy, research the market, determine what you want from the experience and how you’ll allocate resources to support it.
3. Build a circle of influence: Identify what your employees and your customers expect from you and build a network that can help your business provide solutions others can’t. If your employees or customers benefit from something you don’t offer, having access to a unique outside resource can be competitive advantage.
4. Give more than you take: Become active in your national and state associations and your local business communities. Join and commit to an organization for entrepreneurs, CEO peer groups and community chambers and non-profits, which offer opportunities to get involved and give back.
5. Focus on learning: Invest in professional development activities and build a network that includes exposure to world-class authors, speakers and thought leaders to stay on top of innovations, emerging technologies and economic and market trends.
6. Networking is a brand builder: Everyone from your workers to your suppliers to your customers to your colleagues has a stakeholder role to play in the success of your business. Encourage your employees to join associations that support their expertise and engage with your wider community on social media. Make increasing the capacity and visibility of your business through strategic networking a shared responsibility for your entire company.
7. Bring your people into a sharing mindset: Provide opportunities to help your employees build confidence and knowledge-sharing skills. Invite your team to read or listen to one good book every quarter and discuss takeaways and ideas they can implement. Start with: “Who Not How” by Dan Sullivan, as in, who can help me do this better versus how can I do this myself? Discuss why leveraging the strengths of others increases the strength of one.
We all have mindsets that don’t serve us well. If networking has been a challenge, change your approach.
Go from making connections to advance yourself to creating opportunities where everyone wins.
With the right frame of mind, and an attitude of giving more than you receive, you’ll plant seeds for a community of alliances that will last a lifetime.