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Networking: Some bosses get it, others don’t

As an independent business owner with big aspirations for building a strong network, you have a lot of decisions to make. But, fortunately, you’re the one who gets to make them. Increasing your networking activity when you’re employed by a company means that, to a large extent, someone else gets to call the shots on how you spend your time. This can present its own set of challenges if your goal is to build your own ultimate network.

In my experience, there are three kinds of bosses when it comes to their approach to networking:

• Those who get it.
• Those who don’t.
• Those who want the networking glory all for themselves.

Strong comment, yes, but I’ve experienced all three and hopefully can shed some light on how to deal with all of the above.

It’s my hope for you that you have a boss who understands the value of networking. The good fortune of working for someone who gets the long-term implications of you raising your profile in the community and getting connected is invaluable.

When I look back on my journey, it was my boss Margaret Young at the Salvation Army and her boss Larry Jaremko who enabled me to build my network.

Between the two of them, their empowering attitude made it easy for me to build my network. In return, we were able to introduce some new donors to the organization and raised the profile with initiatives that were successful. Those particular revenues most likely wouldn’t have happened without the investment into the relationships.

These types of leaders are few and far between.

Then there is the second type of boss: the ones who just don’t get it. They don’t see the long-term value in spending time and money to be away from the office networking. If you are in this situation and find yourself debating the merits of networking, it’s likely a lost cause unless you can show proof of value.

Here are a few strategies that can work in this scenario.

• Try to do as much networking as possible outside of office hours to build a foundation that shows value for your efforts. As they say, the proof is in the pudding.

• Keep the discussions about networking results-focused. Ask for specific benchmarks that would make your networking benefit the company. You need to be sure you have the company’s success in mind and are not just out there for your own career.

• Consider why your boss has a negative attitude toward networking. Has she had a bad experience with an employee who spent countless hours outside of the office under the guise of networking when really the employee didn’t accomplish anything? Does he have a difficult time networking himself and therefore can’t see how you could make it work? Is he afraid that you will get another job through your new contacts and he’ll be left having to find your replacement? By understanding the motivation behind the resistance, you will be better able to negotiate positive networking terms.

For insights on dealing with the third type of boss, the one who wants all the networking glory, visit my blog at blogs.canoe.ca/gettingconnected.

— Allison Graham is a business networking speaker and author of Business Cards to Business Relationships: Building the Ultimate Network. To submit a question, comment on the article or to contact Allison, visit her blog at blogs.canoe.ca/gettingconnected or her website, www.elevatebiz.ca.

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