Strategically building and leveraging personal networks is one of the most important actions people can take during a transition into a new role.
But most of us go about it the wrong way.
Our research found that it typically takes 3-5 years to replicate the kinds of connections that distinguish high performers in a given organization—not good news in these days of frequent role transitions and job changes. But we also identified a group of “Fast Movers,” who accomplish this in 9-12 months.
Clearly, helping others engage in transitions in the same way our Fast Movers did would be good for both companies and individuals.
To learn the subtle but powerful actions differentiating the Fast Movers, I interviewed 160 high-performing leaders (80 men and 80 women) across 20 organizations in financial services, software, consumer products, retail, professional services, manufacturing and life sciences.
This helped me to identify 12 practices that people used to avoid common pitfalls, scale early results, reduce collaborative overload and tee-up future wins. The practices fall into 3 categories—initiating, engaging and refining networks.
INITIATE: Jump-start productivity and inclusion by cultivating relationships critical to success.
Early in a new role, some people prioritize visibility or access to formal stakeholders and gaining political support. Others believe they must hit the ground running and choose to focus only on doing work with their immediate team. Still others may prioritize meeting a lot of people.
At the time, these steps may seem like wise choices, but our research shows these patterns are, in fact, network missteps that can have significant consequences.
New hires and newcomers need to intentionally build networks proven to contribute to performance. By connecting with these people and groups, they can invest their time well and position their efforts in ways that yield success. To do this, newcomers need to:
- Surge early with proactive outreach to a broad, cross-boundary network.
- Seek key connections to supplement gaps in awareness, skill or expertise.
- Identify and build relationships with network opinion leaders inside and outside their unit.
- Rely on select advisors and confidants for feedback and support.
ENGAGE: Create pull into networks by building energy, credibility and reciprocity.
How new hires and newcomers engage people in their networks is just as important as who they connect with during role transitions. Early on, they can either shut down or open up valued networks by the way they present themselves and interact with others.
Unfortunately, many new hires and newcomers take the opposite approach, using push strategies when they enter new roles. Often unknowingly, they stay in “interview mode” sharing what they did at their previous employer or group, making sure others are aware of their knowledge, experience or brand. But these practices drain energy, undermine credibility and discourage established people from giving their time and energy. When people promote themselves too rapidly or forcefully, or neglect the needs and interests of others, they often are rejected rather than accepted by the network.
In contrast, when newcomers engage in ways that build energy, credibility and reciprocity, they are pulled into valued networks. Early, positive interactions begin to establish their reputation as someone others want to work with. In turn, established colleagues begin to include them in conversations, ask for their ideas and refer them to others. Newcomers get pulled into networks when they do four things:
- Position expertise to contribute to others’ goals.
- Simultaneously build the network and cultivate reputation through early accomplishment.
- Co-create mutual wins early with stakeholders and teams.
- Rapidly establish three forms of trust through network interactions.
REFINE: Foster long-term success by re-calibrating networks.
During the early months of a transition, new hires and newcomers have a valuable window to create broad ties, gain perspective and build relationships. As they initiate and engage a disproportionate number of relationships compared to other times in their career, they smooth the initial transition and create the foundation for success.
Yet, the network strategies to establish essential ties and engage people early on can lead to burnout, disengagement or derailment if people do not adapt 9-12 months into the new role. To make this shift, newcomers will want to refine their network in four ways that are associated with long-term performance and well-being:
- Refresh enterprise and external networks for long-term performance and growth.
- Craft your role and create network connections to help you thrive.
- Proactively manage collaborative overload.
- Avoid common career-derailing network traps in transition.
Many of the practices and examples we identified are counter to common advice about starting a new job or are easily overlooked. Notably, top performers realize that this game is not won in the first 100 days. Targeted actions over the first year and beyond are critical to ongoing success.
Find out more about our Fast Movers research and the 12 practices in our white paper, Accelerating Transitions: Initiate, Engage and Refine Networks for Success in New Roles and read, The Best Way to Connect in a New Job in the Harvard Business Review. And explore our Accelerate Role Transitions courses, tools and videos.Share!