I get asked all the time about how to build a strong network of advocates. Advocates are people with power and influence who can give you important exposure, shield you from negative consequences and criticism, and recommend you for new positions or visible assignments.
If you aren’t paying attention to building these relationships, here are three steps to help you be more strategic about your approach:
1. With whom do you want to cultivate relationships?
In the context of your professional goals, identify the top three people with whom you need to develop stronger relationships. They may be people you don’t know at all or individuals who have had some exposure to you. Often they can be people who already have a positive impression of you, but you haven’t asked them to take any action on your behalf in the past. Be specific about what you would want them to do on your behalf and make it easy for them to do so. Come prepared with the right information.
2. What would success look like for your next conversation with them?
What would you want to have as the outcome of that conversation? How do you want to “show up”? In other words, think about any aspects of your brand that you’d want to focus on or what you would want them to know about you. Think about not only your key strengths, but also experiences and results. For example, if you want to come across as competent, you can do that through the quality and caliber of the questions you ask in addition to the types of examples you share about the work you’ve done. Figure out what approach works best for you.
3. What can you offer them?
Offer them something of value. For example, you might be able to share articles or other resources relevant to their interests or specific challenges they’re facing. You may have contacts with similar interests who might be beneficial for them to know. You may be able to give them exposure by inviting them to speak or be on a panel in a professional association that you participate in. Or you may be able to invite them to an event that would be of interest to them.
One of the most important things to remember is to be consistent. Allocate time to cultivate these relationships each month. It doesn’t have to be time-consuming. The key is to stay top of mind so that when opportunities do arise they will think of you. So, what step will you take this week to put this into play? Remember that small steps can lead to big results.
© 2012 Neena Newberry | All rights reserved.