How to Build a Network that Will Help You SucceedBy Lou Solomon
Imagine traveling through life with a network of smart, enthusiastic peers who are completely engaged in living a large, successful and happy life—never settling for less—and always showing you the way to stretch and go for it. What would happen?
You would live a large, successful and happy life.
What I learned about networking from B-school students
Ultra-busy people who struggle for solo success worry more about their business network of investors and prospects than their circle of peers. Yet our success is much more a function of our peer network than we’d like to believe.
We have stacks of evidence from distinguished scholars like Warren Bennis and many others that high-performance teams help drive the success of an organization. No one-off super hero ever achieves alone what he or she can do when collaborating with others.
People involved with a network of positive and prolific peers are more productive and creative. Research from MIT shows they are also happier, more resilient and more satisfied.
While teaching at the McColl School of Business at Queens University in Charlotte, North Carolina, I notice that the successful MBA students have built cohesive networks of support for one another.
- They are current on one another’s career situation and personal challenges
- They show each other the way to take risks to be happy
- Many of the students refer to the peer group experience as transformational and go on to make courageous, life-changing decisions
Five steps to building a strong network of peers
What’s surprising is that while there is so much talk about teams, there is so little real action. If you want to build a peer group that will help show you the way to success, here are five basic steps:
- Prioritize and be Intentional. Consciously work at having a close, exceptional network of peers and teammates, helping you grow and adopt effective habits. In and outside of work, elicit the advice of people you want to be like. Collaborate with people who are engaged. Disengaged people will pull you down.
- Pursue positivity—it is underrated. If you spend time with people who are happy and optimistic, you will become more positive and excited, because moods are contagious. The EMBA Class of 2015 at McColl School is led by people like La-Z-Boy Furniture Galleries executive Martha Brown. She cheerleads for fellow classmates when they are presenting to the class and leads applause for guests who visit the class.
- Seek honest feedback. If you want to take quantum leaps, you don’t need people who pour pink paint on their feedback. Friends and family members who will shoot you straight and communicate with candor are priceless. What I notice about the best of the best leaders who come to Interact Studio is that they are eager to receive authentic feedback.
- Develop habits of influence. Be a connector. Learn to ask smart questions, draw others out and listen with commitment. Share with others what you are learning. You don’t have to be a turbo-extrovert to be socially aware. Regardless of your style, you can help create cohesion and trust within a peer group or team.
- Stay a Student and Stretch. If you know everything, you have become finite. If you’re open to learning, forever a student, the possibilities are endless. Self-select into programs that stretch and deepen your experience. For example, most major cities have leadership organizations that bring forward-thinking people together from all walks to become informed about issues and create solutions for their city. Participants emerge with a network of engaged peers. This is just one idea among many to find great people seeking excellence.
It’s an old idea but still an interesting one—a successful peer group or high performance team can make smarter decisions that any single person.
Ken Blanchard said it best, “None of us is as smart as all of us.”