and maintaining important network
relationships harder. When leaders try
to network with someone higher or
lower on the organizational chart,
issues of power, access, and agendas
can get in the way. For example, it is
often your boss’s boss who is critical
in defining your agenda and provid-
ing the resources you need, yet he or
she is not always accessible. The
stronger the hierarchy of an organiza-
tion and the more people believe in
following the chain of command, the
more impassable this level difference
Demographic differences. People
more readily and easily make con-
nections with others they view as
similar to themselves. Networking
with people who differ from you in
race, gender, age, country of origin,
and socioeconomic status may
require greater effort. A leader who is
in a demographic minority in the
organization may have to overcome
his or her relative isolation in order to
network. Conversely, a leader who is
in the demographic mainstream must
not mistake familiar networks for
effective networks.
Personal preferences. Personality
and patterns of behavior can make
the process of effective networking
more or less challenging. Leaders
who are outgoing or collaborative
usually network more readily than
leaders who are reserved or inde-
pendent. Networking will be more of
a stretch for someone who is intro-
verted than for someone who is
extroverted and thrives on interaction
with colleagues. This is not to say
that if you fall into the more intro-
verted camp, for instance, you must
change your personality before you
can be an effective leadership net-
worker. It simply means that you will
have to go against the grain some-
what to find, maintain, and effec-
tively use your network.
Lack of clarity on the big picture.
Effective networking may be blocked
by a lack of understanding of your
and others’ role in helping the organi-
zation succeed. Without an under-
standing of the big picture that your
organization is working toward, you
will find it hard to connect with oth-
Perceived lack of time. Already
pressed for time, leaders may see the
investment in networking as too time
Different locations. Working with
colleagues in other locations—often
in different countries or time zones—
can become a barrier to building
effective two-way relationships. Even
seemingly innocuous circumstances,
such as working on a different floor
or in a different building, can con-
tribute to making interactions—and
therefore relationships—more diffi-
Previous relationship history. A
positive experience or relationship is
a boost to building effective net-
works. A negative experience or per-
ception, however, can be difficult to
Organizational changes.
Restructuring, new management, and
shifting work roles can throw a
wrench into well-functioning net-
works and relationships. Such
changes may alter the organization’s
goals—and individuals’ roles in
meeting those goals.
A strong and vibrant leadership net-
work requires time and effort. But the
work and understanding involved
don’t have to overwhelm you. Once
you understand how your present net-
work is structured, who is involved,
and where you can push your net-
work to the next level, you can take
action using the following strategies.
Learn from others. Individuals
who learn by accessing others seek
advice, examples, support, or instruc-
tion from people who have met a
challenge similar to the one they
face, or they learn how to do some-
thing by watching someone else do it.
Who networks well in your organiza-
tion or in your community? What
exactly do they do, and what do they
say? Try similar tactics or
approaches. Ask them to talk to you
about their view of networking and
how they build and use relationships.
Invite others. Bring others into
your world. Invite them to lunch.
Find time for a fifteen- or thirty-
minute conversation to find out what
is happening in their world and to tell
them what you and your group are
doing. Invite others to your meetings
and ask them to contribute their
expertise and their perspective or to
explore possible connections between
their work and yours.
Invite yourself. Ask to sit in on
another group’s meeting or planning
session. Join a committee or group
outside your own area.
Ask for feedback. Seek honest
answers from peers, direct reports,
and superiors to gain a clear picture
of how you and your group function
and what effect you have on others.
Feedback engages others in a con-
structive way by adding depth to
existing relationships.
Work with others. Volunteer for
assignments or projects that give you
an opportunity to work across func-
tions. One of the best ways to build
Networking with people
who differ from you in
race, gender, age, coun-
try of origin, and socio-
economic status may
require greater effort.

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