Many people will tell you that to be successful as a manager you have to build up a network and spend much of your time maintaining this network.
I disagree with this notion and believe that networking for the most part is a waste of your time!
Instead of spending hours and hours at business lunches, informal meetings, pre-meetings or even drinking coffee with co-workers, managers and people completely unrelated to your position -you should just work.
You will get so much more work done than the managers who spend half their time networking. This real work will shine through when it comes to reviewing your performance and contribution.
Networking can replace hard work at the beginning of your career. It is easy to move up in the organization as long as your relative responsibility is low. As soon as your contribution to the organization becomes visible however, networking will not help you to get ahead. You will be judged by your work and not your “friend status”.
And while we are at it – social networking based on popular services like Facebook or Twitter are as much a waste of your time as real life networking. Just don’t do it!
Some of these social networking tools might be helpful to organize your contacts or aggregate relevant industry news – but make sure that this is how you are using them. If you start sharing your favorite YouTube videos, funny presentations and other unnecessary status updates you are wasting your time and don’t get anything in return.
Use a more professional oriented service like LinkedIn or Plaxo for organizing your contacts and use Twitter as a news aggregator by following the news outlets that are important to your current job role (this never ever includes the “Joke of the Day”).
Use these tools only when necessary – if you have found a better system for contacts and news aggregation, use that system.
Remember that whatever you publish on any of these services is by definition public. It will be read by your team members, your manager, your future employer and everybody else.
All this said I believe it is important not to confuse networking with healthy relationship building.
Remember at work, you should strengthen the relationships with these three important groups:
- Your manager
- Your direct reports
- Your top performers
These are the people that will get you ahead because they either support you with their own hard work or because they directly judge your performance.
Make sure you take some time out of your busy schedule and ensure that you are on the same page with these three important groups of people at work. They must understand your motivation and your goals so that they are able to follow you (remember they also want to follow the rule: “Do that other thing” – this they can only do, when they understand what you expect of them).
Don’t go to any social events at work if you can avoid it. Go to the ones that you organize yourself for your team, but leave early. Go if your boss invites you, but leave early. Whenever you have an all hands event and you don’t have to give a speech or presentation – don’t go. Spend your social time with the important people in your life (your family, your friends) and keep a professional relationship with your co-workers and employees.
Don’t network – just work!