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Networking is recognized as a major influence on one’s ability to achieve great success. The most successful people in the world possess the capability to influence and shape the opinions of others. However, there is a greater emphasis on the type of network one participates in.
Much has been written about successful executives and leaders and how they participate in formal networks, but very little is known about the substantial amount of time they spend within their informal networks.
What is known is that the impact is vast. It is imprudent for you to underestimate the power of informal networks by saying they are merely “nice-to-have.” These types of networks are increasingly having a major impact on organizational effectiveness.
More importantly, these types of networks provide major business advantages for the participants and thus, are known to advance many careers.
The main difference between informal and formal networks is the effort of the individuals to create and maintain them. The formal network often has an organizational culture attached to it, such as a formal philosophy, mission, structure, leadership, membership, eligibility and funding.
These networks are easily identifiable board of directors, economic clubs, affinity groups setup by corporations, executive talent pools, online discussion groups, management groups, professional conferences and associations.
Informal networks are based on the objective of achieving a reciprocal exchange of information and favors – no rules – share advice freely, expand the network at will, inspire each other, achieve personal goals and help each other obtain business and career advantages. The “old boys network” is based on the informal network system, hence the phrase, “it’s a man’s world.” Again, the emphasis is on a one-to-one networking effort, as opposed to an organizational system that characterizes the formal network.
The informal network may be a group of industry colleagues with a common interest or a shared philosophy getting together for a casual gathering away from the office. Other networks may be created through people you meet while traveling, attending church functions or simply completing errands.
The most effective informal network contains high-functioning people who are extremely skilled, knowledgeable, powerful, and who have strong personal networks. Research indicates that extroverts are the element who drive a successful network. People who are friendly, courteous, tolerant of differences and respectful of cultures and different perspectives achieve the most success. The informal network without the hierarchy and bureaucracy encourages the most interaction and achieves the most positive results.
On the other hand, there are many skills one must possess before being invited to an informal network. The most important skill to acquire is not to treat everyone like a mass market, a machine or a cold call. The success of this most prized network depends on respecting the commonality among one another and to help each other achieve their goals.
Networking has always been an essential social skill founded on the interdependence of people. We all rely on the support and cooperation of others to achieve our goals. Informal networking involves bonding, sharing expertise, and investing time and effort into others.
People have always had the need to build and maintain a network that involves trust and respect for others; the informal network connects people who perhaps otherwise would not have met. Informal networks are hidden and filled with rich resources to drive you to your next destination.
About the Author:
Michele Wierzgac is a leadership expert, keynote speaker and author of the forthcoming book, Ass Kicking Women: How They Leverage Their Informal Networks for Success. With her high-energy presentations, Michele conveys sound leadership solutions and promotes audience engagement and on-your-feet participation. Michele is also a certified Business Enterprise through the LGBT Chamber of Commerce. She promises her audience that they will leave her solution-driven keynotes and workshops with at least one passionate, life transforming leadership tool. For more info, visit: micheleandco.com.
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