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7: Tapping Organizational Networks

Michael Dulworth Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

If you are well along in your career, are happy with your progress, and see a bright future in the organization where you work, you may think that networking is not important for you professionally. After all, you’re advancing at a good pace and don’t feel the need to seek out opportunities outside your organization—you know where you’re going. You may think the best thing for you would be to keep your head down and focus on your job: if you shine at your job, you’ll get the next promotion that much quicker. Spending time networking would just be a distraction. You might think that, but if you do, you could be heading for a tumble.

The fact is that every organization has networks, often hard to spot, that are separate and distinct from those shown on the official organizational chart. The organizational chart shows you who does what and who reports to whom, but it doesn’t show you who talks to whom, who knows what, and how the work 103actually gets done. Politics also plays a role in the life of every organization and often profoundly affects the decisions that get made—and politics most often flows along networks.

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4: What’s Your Personal Brand?

Michael Dulworth Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Do you know what your personal brand is? Did you even realize that you have a personal brand? Of course, you know companies have brands: Tiffany’s is upscale, with the accent on luxury. Wal-Mart’s is down-to-earth, focused on low prices. Even cities have brands: New York is the Big Apple, while Los Angeles is the entertainment capital of the world. And people have brands too—think Trump, Oprah, and Tiger Woods.

But you don’t have to be a television star to have a brand. You are famous within your own network. People within your network recognize you instantly. And within your network, you have a personal brand. Your brand is, to use an older word, your reputation. It’s how people know you, what they have heard about you, what they think about you.

Your personal brand isn’t how you see yourself; it is how others see you. We can see this most clearly in public figures such as politicians. They work very hard to define themselves, to control the message, their personal brand—but public perceptions win out in the end. The fact is that our brands—our reputations—are rarely the result of the image we try to project but of our actual behavior (which is why people in the public eye often get in so much trouble). Your personal brand isn’t a fake persona or mask you use when you network. It is the real you as others see the real you.

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6: Networking Peer-to-Peer

Michael Dulworth Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

We’re going to shift gears a bit now. We’ve been discussing ways to develop your networking skills and build your network. In the next few chapters, we’re going to focus on different types of networks. The peer-to-peer networks discussed in this particular chapter bridge organizational boundaries. Chapter 7 will focus on internal organization networks, and chapter 8 will discuss communities based on a common concern or passion: communities of practice.

While, by definition, peer-to-peer networks lack an important dimension of diversity (everyone has the same occupation), the trade-off is well worth it. As Jim Bolt, wrote in a recent article in Fast Company, “The central idea behind the effectiveness of peer-to-peer networks is this: We all learn better, trust more, and gravitate to the shared experiences of people at our level and in circumstances similar to ours. And, there is incredible value in being able to tap into the collective experience of a group of trusted peers.”4

When computer techies talk about peer-to-peer networks, they are referring to computer networks with no hierarchical structure: every computer is on the same footing. It’s the same 92when it comes to people: in your peer-to-peer network, you are with your equals. One reason that peer-to-peer networks are so effective is that they create a secure, open environment that helps accelerate learning and development. The network becomes a safe harbor for participants to freely discuss issues and challenges of individual and organizational importance with peers in organizations who have very similar positions and responsibilities.

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Resource B: Online Networking Sites

Michael Dulworth Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

New networking sites are being born every day. Rather than create a list here on paper that will be instantly outdated, I am going to list a few sites you can check out online that can get you started exploring the Internet for networking opportunities. You should also check out my own Web site, which will be updated regularly with networking links: http://www.theconnecteffect.com.

An eclectic mix of online communities, chat rooms, and message boards can be found at the following site:

The following sites provide listings of social networking sites (with some overlap):

Wikipedia provides a large list of social and professional networking sites here:

If you like social action—the environment, women’s issues, human rights, animal activism, and more—check out these two sites:

Professional/business oriented networking sites include the following:

These are just a few ideas to get you started. You can also search for “social networks,” “business networks,” and similar terms on your favorite Internet search engine.

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8: Joining Communities of Practice

Michael Dulworth Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

In 1999, the state of Pennsylvania decided to work more intentionally across agencies to address the issue of transi-tioning children with disabilities from school to work. Rather than creating a “department of transition,” the state convened a community of practice that brought together practitioners involved in transition issues from all the different agencies and departments concerned. By forming a community, these practitioners remained with their agencies, doing the work they did there, but they brought their perspectives together, collaborated across agency silos, and learned with one another. They also started to organize annual conferences to bring together practitioners from across the state who had local “transition councils,” including educators, government workers, and businesspeople, as well as parents.

At the third annual conference in 2004, interagency teams from five other states were invited to visit and learn from the Pennsylvania experience. To this day, the state representatives meet regularly, on the phone and face-to-face, as the national Interagency Transition Community of Practice. This creates a system of heterogeneous communities of practice at various 117levels of scale, from the local councils to the various inter-agency communities in the participating states to the national community of state representatives. The project is part of the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) Partnership, which has a grant from the Education Department to support national communities of practice on various topics related to special education.

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