Thursday, January 01, 2009

How You Connect With Others - Defines Your Success

image by cobrasoft, sxc.hu

Networking With Fellow Human Beings Has Its Benefits

Great friendships have been forged at the water cooler; enduring romances have blossomed at the coffee machine. Whatever the attitude of bosses towards people who hang out at these two great social intersection points in the workplace, they have a great impact on one's sense of wellbeing. Which in turn has a direct impact on work-performance. Bosses do need to think twice before the muscles of their face begin to perk up for the frown at the sight of Joe here or Alice there chit-chatting.

image by omdur, sxc.hu

The age-old adage - "It is not what you know, it is who you know that matters" is indeed true. People with half-baked or no-knowledge have deployed this adage to take the elevator to the top floor of success; while those who are short of this basic insight find themselves huffing and puffing and panting up the staircase. And this has got nothing to do with knowing the person who operates the elevator or holds the elevator keys! Though, interestingly symbolically, it does.

image by vierdrie, sxc.hu

The importance of connecting with others in an organizational or social setting cannot but be emphasized. Besides the obvious warmth of bonding with like-minded fellow human beings, we all know that connecting with others opens doors and opportunities for us for advancements in all spheres of life. There is indeed a positive correlation between the social networks you create and your job performance, your career success, and your overall outlook on life.

image by erwinbacik, sxc.hu

Does this mean that you have to be an extrovert to build your connections? Surprisingly, statistics says no. A survey conducted by researchers from the Institute of Work Psychology, University of Sheffield (here is the paper: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.socnet.2008.04.003) showed that dense and good-quality social networks are created also by people who do not have any dramatic extraversion traits. Although, to the credit of extroverts, possessing an outgoing personality does make a difference. There is a greater energy and enthusiasm in their interactions, they generate excitement about whatever they are doing, and therefore do generally manage to pull networks towards them.

image by barunpatro, sxc.hu

More than extraversion, you require some rugged emotional maturity to build and sustain connections. If you can take in your stride the possibility of your initiative to strike a conversation being rejected by the other party, plus if you are malleable enough to make social adjustments as the circumstances dictate, then at the end of the day you will have some very sound connections with people around you.

image by fotocromo, sxc.hu

Ambition plays a big role, of course. If you are proactive, your inner drives will propel you to develop social networks that increase your influence. Gradually, you maneuver yourself in a position such that authority begins to flow 'through' you, and your words and actions begin to have an impact on the rest of the hoi-polloi. It becomes okay, then, if your performance is occasionally below the average - your networking savvy covers it up for you, if only for some time.

image by lusi, sxc.hu

Are you a maven? Are you considered an expert in your particular area of knowledge? Are you somebody whose advice has value in the eyes of the others? Then blessed you are, for you get to build a social network with very little additional effort - your brain does that for you automatically. Of course, you have to be affable, approachable, and be of warm disposition that radiates outward when people approach you. Without these additional traits, you will be looked upon as grouchy and touchy and people will generally tiptoe past you for fear of the fuse blowing off.

image by d-squared, sxc.hu

It is natural that an organization with large number of personnel placed in a multi-layered hierarchical structure will have several groups and networks that are often closed - so you will have groups of secretaries and of junior managers, teams of programmers and data entry operators within departments, and these groups in turn form loose networks at the same hierarchy spanning the entire organization. Star networkers, known as "connectors" in social science - are those that have connections across all or most of these networks, and are the true movers and shakers. Because of the time they spend networking (read gossiping); it is sometimes a surprise that they are productive at all in the organization, although I have known people who juggle expectations-of-work from them with their social-connectivity without a crease on the forehead.

image by hotblack, sxc.hu

An interesting outcome of the survey was that people in management or team leadership roles do not have a propensity to make "friendships" the way it is commonly defined. Yet, they have a great social network which is built on acquaintances, so they are on "hi, hello" and nodding-the-head-as-you-pass-by-in-the-corridor terms with most of the crowd. They make it a point that, at the least, you know them and they know you - there is the element of familiarity. Which is usually enough for them to get their work done.

image by shrubby, sxc.hu

And managers use social networks to their maximum advantage. If there is any bit of news to be let loose in the organization but without making it formal and official, just whisper it in the ears of certain individuals, and lo and behold! Faster than the speed of light, the entire organization gets to know about it. Depending on its importance, even the canteen contractor and the transporter and all the sundry suppliers and clients will get wind. Are you in line for promotion? Keep your ears to the ground. Somebody, somehow will tell you before the supervisor formally does. That is the importance of having the right connections. Up until now, therefore, if you have always looked down upon the water cooler connections or the coffee machine encounters as waste of time - yes, believe it or not, such people exist! -, it may be time to change your attitudes toward them!

image by asifthebes, sxc.hu

[Talking of our attitude towards relationships, how good are our online relationships? How secure and comfortable do we feel about opening up to unknown strangers? Here is one article that dwells on this thought: "Don't Cry, Shopgirl".]

2 comments:

  1. Great insight to start the New Year off. I'm beginning to enter the online social networks as well to add to my bonds with people. Peace :)

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