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Making Your Networks Work for You

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Making Your Networks Work for You

One of the keys to many of the accomplishments that I have been a part of has been being involved with strong networks.

Sometimes I inherited established networks and sometimes I needed to build them up. Through these experiences, I learned a number of approaches to building powerful networks that I would like to share some of these with you.

Approaches to building powerful networks:

  • Casting the net.

When starting to build a network one of the things I do is define the purpose for it. This purpose helps set the direction for whom I will engage and how I will communicate with them. The purpose is also important as this can provide common ground for people that are a part of the network.

Having a shared purpose and some shared values will provide a backbone for the network giving it sustainability and strength.

I then start to identify who I would like to reach out to in order to reinforce existing relationships or to foster new ones. I will often subdivide the list of people and organisations by categories that are relevant to what I want to achieve and then work through these one at a time.

For example, in community work, I may have categories such as government, community centres, clubs, local business and so forth. This approach is adaptable while also providing achievable goals and some initial direction.

  • Creating communication.

Communication is a core part of networks. There are some aspects of communication that are obvious, but I have learned it can be valuable to name them as sometimes it is easy to forget or overlook what is obvious when we get busy and passionate about what is being done.

Good communication is key to fostering new people and maintaining the integrity of the system.

One aspect of communication that I would like to mention is remembering to be respectful of people’s opinions, workloads and organisations. We don’t always know what is going on for others in the background so if something seems not quite right, check it out, they may be experiencing an unforeseen work challenge that suddenly came up for instance.

Also, remember that communication in a network is multi-way. It sucks rocks for everyone if people are telling others in the network exactly what they should be doing and how to do it, this sort of thing can set back or even collapse a network.

Another part of what can make multi-way communication successful is consistent and timely sharing of relevant information. To accompany this, it is also important to develop feedback and decision-making processes if that is the type of network that has been created.

  • Rock your relationships.

Relationship building is also an important part of networks. It really goes hand in hand with communication; however, there are some other aspects of relationship building that are useful.

For networks to succeed, the members need to trust each other.

Part of this gets built through common purpose and values, through an understanding of circumstances and also through accountability. Accountability also flows multi-way as well. Everyone in the network needs to be respectfully accountable to other participants and themselves, basically do the crap you say you are going to do and if you do not get it done take ownership of it.

We also need to be willing to respectfully hold other people accountable for what they said they would do, not to beat them over the head with admonitions, but so that appropriate decisions can be made to progress shared goals.

Having defined roles in a network can assist with avoiding confusion and conflict. It can be helpful to think of roles as being on a series of concentric circles where the most active people are in the centre circle. People will have different levels of involvement but may take on more responsibility and move closer to the centre.

Wrapping up the net.

These are a few of the things that I have learnt that have helped me to build successful networks.

Remember that a good network can be a powerful entity that assists with achieving great goals and they can also be places for learning and growth.

Have fun with your networks and don’t forget to celebrate your successes.

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