Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Networking Inside Your Firm

When most people think of networking they look toward the outside world. People often confuse networking with sales, and thus think it is only important for the sales professionals and c-level executives. Even those with the outward focused jobs will make this mistake, and only include customers, prospects and referral sources in their networking efforts. While networking will lead to client development success, if you only look at it in this manner, then you are missing the boat.

You need to invest the time to get to know the people inside your firm with the same gusto that you look to build relationships in the external business community. Those who work with you can be amazing resources. You never know who in your life will be the person who can provide you with the next opportunity.

There are many ways you can get to know those in your company, and there is no right or wrong methods. The point is to invest the time to make, grow and keep your business relationships, and this can only happen when you make the other people a priority.

*Ask questions of those you work with to discover both personal and professional information. People want to feel important, and when you inquire about them, it shows that you are concerned with them. Many professionals get so wrapped up in their own lives that they fail to notice the people in their office unless they need them for something. Taking a few minutes on Monday to ask the receptionist about her weekend will not impact you productivity. If you really have an inflated view of your own self importance that you believe that a few moments of conversation with your co-workers is a waste of time, then YIKES!!! Get over yourself!!!

*Plan or attend office events. I know, the emails about "Cake In The Break Room To Celebrate Mary's Birthday" might seem like they are intrusive, but Mary's birthday is important...to Mary!!! Joining a group to occasionally goes for happy hour is also a chance to bond with others. The summer family picnic may not be how your spouse wants to spend a Saturday afternoon, but too bad....you have to go! If you always fail to participate with your co-workers, you can rest assured that they will notice and feel separate from you at some level. Take the time to engage in activities with those at the office. It will come back to help you in the future.

*Assist others in their jobs. Find ways to lighten the load of others if you can. Each of us has times in our jobs when we are overwhelmed. It is not fun to feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. When you see someone is swamped, ask them how you can help. In most cases just the acknowledgement that you recognize how hard they are working on a project will strengthen your relationship.

*Share information. Too often people see their co-workers as competition. WRONG, you are all on the same team. If you discover some industry information or other valuable knowledge that can help them excel, forward it to them or take the time to otherwise educate the rest of your office. Create and build deal teams from different practice areas to better understand the issues facing a range of clients and how you can address them together. Why get one piece of business from a customer when you can get it all!

*Be approachable. Many people put off a vibe of superiority. Co-workers fear having to go into their office or running into them in the elevator. Don't be like this. Be open to getting to know those in your company and drop the facade that you are so tough. Unless you like being a jerk (oh, I know some of these people!), then find ways to make it delightful for others to interact with you, even when dealing with difficult situations.

*Have lunch with colleagues. You have to eat anyway, if you do not have plans with clients or prospects, invite a co-worker to grab a sandwich with you or eat with them in the break room. If you find yourself eating at your desk or alone at a restaurant more than once a month, you should make it a priority to change that habit. Meals are a great time to get to know people at a deeper level. One associate that I worked with made a point of scheduling lunches with the rainmakers in his firm as a 2nd year associate. This lead to being invited on client development calls with the rainmakers and starting to build their own book of business.

The advantage to building stronger relationships within your firm is that people will look out for you. Those who are distanced from co-workers often find them trying to undermine them. Offices where people have cultivated real friendships are more productive, have less office politics, and have less turn over. All good things.

If interested in learning more about how a plan can help you set up an effective network contact me at: Andrew Wilcox, (850) 893-8984, Andrew@Wilcox-legal.com