Last week I wrote a blog about the PIE model as a way of thinking about advancing your career and creating new opportunities for yourself. I've added a couple more, getting into detail on both the Performance and Image elements. Today, as the last in this four part series, I want to get a bit more granular on the final section, to help you think more deeply about how you might do something practical with it! Today's section is Exposure; most simply understood as 'who knows who you are and what you're all about?'
Not everyone wants to advance their career of course - many people are absolutely content where they are, doing what they're doing, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that - however it's worth considering what might happen if your circumstances change. A departmental restructure, a change of leadership, slashed budgets, altered priorities and goals, businesses failing, the economic or political landscape changing. Lots of things, many outwith your control can happen to an organisation which change your own personal circumstances. In these situations, having people who know who you are and what you're all about can be a beneficial thing.
So how can we improve our Exposure? In my outline blog I gave a simple plan which I'll elaborate on now. They say that there are many ways to skin a cat (although Harper would be devastated if I tested that out on Henry and Woodstock so I can't confirm it) so this isn't the only road to success, but it should give you some ideas to get started!
1. Who knows who I am, and what do those people say about me?
A sensible starting point - build a stakeholder map. These are often created from the perspective of a project, but we're talking about building one focussed on YOU. Take a blank sheet of paper, put yourself in the middle and create branches coming out from you which represent groups of stakeholders; perhaps have peers on one branch, business stakeholders on another, external contacts elsewhere, senior leadership on a further branch. This is your map, so design it however you like, using categories that are meaningful to you, in your work and with a view to where you'd like to get to. Now populate each of these branches with the people who fit in those categories. You might even create sub categories; perhaps one category is External Stakeholders. From there, this might branch into specific organisations; Fujitsu, Siemens, Accenture - whoever is relevant in the world you're in.
This might be hard for you to visualise, so fear not, I've invested in some world class graphics to help illustrate the point...
Now that you've laid down your network as it stands, take some time to consider each relationship in turn. A simple categorisation might help you here, like Broken, Basic, Brilliant.
Broken relationships are those which aren't where you'd like them to be. Perhaps you've had a falling out or a disagreement. Perhaps you know that the stakeholder has a poor opinion of you for some reason. Or maybe you know who they are but they don't yet know you.
Basic relationships are those where you know the stakeholder and they know you, and neither has a particularly strong view of the other. You're cordial and friendly but the relationship lacks depth, trust and reciprocity.
Brilliant relationships are those which are exactly where you'd want them to be. They see you as a trusted advisor, or they're a big advocate and cheerleader for you and how you work, and you are the same for them. These relationships can be fantastic in improving your Exposure.
Which of your stakeholder relationships fall into each category? Where SHOULD they be? Effectively you're carrying out a health check against each one - or certainly those that you choose to focus some more time and effort on in the first tranche. Ask yourself questions about the relationship, like 'what are the aims and goals of this person and how do they align with my own?' 'what resources, tools, or skills might I have that they would value access to, and vice versa?' to understand the relationship in a little more depth.
2. Who would I LIKE to know who I am and what'd I like them to say about me?
Within each category and sub category, start to think beyond your current network, to your aspiring network. Who at Fujitsu knows who you are? Get them on. Who doesn't know who you are, but it could bring benefit if they did? Get them on too. Have you got any blind spots here? Perhaps you don't yet know who the key decision makers are in these departments or organisations. Is there a trusted colleague who you can share your map with to fill in those blanks? Maybe a coach, sponsor or mentor could help you, if you have access to those (and if you don't, go and find them - particularly a mentor!). Use them. Explain that you're looking to grow your network in an authentic, meaningful but strategic way to develop your Exposure and profile and let them open their Rolodex to you.
3. Identify the gaps
Now that you've done the groundwork, you'll have a feel for where you need to apply yourself; building relationships with the individuals where those don't yet exist, improving the relationships which need attention to become brilliant, and maintaining the relationships with those which are where you'd like them to be. Make a list and schedule time into your diary to make sure that these happen. This week I'm focussing on that other internal department we work with. Next week it's this external provider. The week after it's senior leadership. Be methodical and make sure the time's in the diary, or this is unlikely to happen, particularly if it doesn't come naturally to you.
4. Do something about them!
One of the things I really stress here is that relationships need to be authentic and reciprocal. If you're just building a relationship with someone just so that you can get something from them, they'll see right through it, so think about what you can offer them. Support, resource, ideas, visibility of what you and your department do might be some starting points. Another is to flip the approach on its head and ask them for feedback on your work. Show you care what they think by asking how you can better serve and support them. Do you have a specific skill that they might require? What about offering them feedback or deeper insight into a topic that you know interests them. Think it through and then reach out. Perhaps you don't have a direct link to this person and don't feel comfortable making that leap. In that case, perhaps you can do it in increments, using the ideas I shared in my blog about influencing people via their network.
For many people, networking can be a challenge and something that brings a sense of dread, but that's often because their experiences of it involve a large conference room, a table of name badges and circling the room walking up to people saying "Hi, I'm [first name], [first name surname]!" like I was taught as a graduate - introducing myself like a Poundshop James Bond! I can tell you that is a technique I have NEVER employed. It's cheesy, unauthentic and it doesn't work for me at all. Think about the brilliant relationships you already have, consider how they were formed and use those learnings to help you expand your network. You'll be amazed where it takes you!