The narrative goes something like this: “I need to sort this out, this is my problem. I should be able to manage this. Why aren’t I coping? What’s wrong with me? What am I doing wrong? Why is everyone else ok. Oh my God, it’s just me”.
I know I have been here; I know many of my clients have been here too. The most corrosive part of this is the isolation it creates, the belief that we are very much alone and not only should we not ask for help, because that demonstrates failure and weakness, we don’t know who we would go to even if we accepted the concept.
It’s at these times that knowing who you have on your team is vital. We need different things at different times in our lives, and friends and family play a huge role in supporting us with the personal. But we need this same support structure in the workplace, and I want to introduce the idea of crafting this consciously and deliberately, as opposed to trying to fit yourself into a group of people, who happen to be in the same department or hierarchy as you. Create your own team.
How you ask, and is it going to mean time and effort? Because I definitely don’t have time. Brace for disappointment because yes, time and effort required… and worse…networking. Collective shiver.
A mainstay of my annual review feedback was around networking. A word that I had to fight hard not to roll my eyes at; quite frankly I couldn’t see the point of it, and even if I could, I didn’t have the time. I had also decided that because I was an introvert, I wasn’t any good at it, and I didn’t like doing things I wasn’t good at. Networking was for schmoozers, the ones who would do and say anything to get ahead, often the ones who talked a lot and didn’t deliver with the same gusto. These people were not my people, I would rather just dig in and get on with it, on my own, an island.
I’ve changed my mind. Why?
Firstly, recognise my enormous generalisations: networkers: work-shy schmoozers only interested in self promotion and clearly raving extroverts. What generalisations do you make? There is always interesting information about ourselves in our generalisations.
Secondly, people and experiences are our primary sources of growth and connection. So being picky about who we do that with, is logical. If you think about a best friend – do you want a mediocre one, just because they are there? And why should it be any different for your career? Strong growth, meaningful connections – go find the people that inspire you at work – look past just your office.
Sounding boards, mentors and coaches – all available in your organisation. Find those that stimulate, challenge, support and hold you accountable for your development. Demand excellence from these allies and be prepared to offer it back to them.
Exposure. Oh, how I hated this word in my old life. But my God how important it is. Be seen. If progression and growth are on your agenda – be seen. You may well be the hardest worker, the most experienced, the most knowledgeable, but if you aren’t showing that (and that differs from showing off), you are limiting your potential. Unfair – quite probably, but fact.
Having your team in place means you have people that will champion you and your cause internally. They will represent you in all the places you aren’t, whether that’s because you just can’t physically be in all places at all times, or because, let’s be honest, there are some forums where we just aren’t invited. They are there to help you pick it all up when you drop it, and we all drop it at some stage. They are there to guide, to advise, to question and to absorb your rant.
Let me leave you with some questions to start identifying the team at work that you want to create: bit like fantasy football!
Who will tell you what you already know, but don’t want to admit to yourself needs to change?
Who has a skill at providing the big picture for you?
Who has the professional skills and clout to help you up in the organisation (choose the ones you admire)?
Whose got your back, always, gives you the emotional support and asks you thought provoking questions?
It’s game changing stuff. It’s collaboration in pure form. It’s smart, strategic career planning and personal development. And it’s networking.
If you are curious about how I can work with you , you can speak to me directly, you can book a free initial 30 minute coaching session with me here and there's no hassling from me if it's a no thanks after that.