Two favorite questions we often ask clients are “With whom do you spend most of your time, and how do these people make you feel?”
Many of us spend time with people out of convenience – the people we work with, parents of our kids’ friends, our neighbors and family. Often, these relationships are ones to cherish. However, most of us have experienced the relationship drain; the person who exhausts us, takes more than gives, and brings us down. A great exercise is to take your emotional temperature over the course of several weeks when you engage with the different people in your life. Who leaves you inspired? Who creates worry? Who teaches you? Who exhausts you? Sometimes a simple tweak in the way you manage these relationships can produce dramatic results in terms of your energy and outlook.
How you manage your relationships takes on heightened importance when you’re in the process of transition and making significant changes in your lives. It’s imperative to be strategic regarding who you spend time with when facing critical crossroads. We’re not talking about social climbing and looking to buddy up with someone who can advance your cause. We’re talking about building a Team of Titans that can support and energize you during challenging and ambiguous times.
Imagine you are running a corporation and going through a major growth period. Who would you choose to serve on your board of directors? You’d most likely want people who possess different skills and perspectives than you, people ‘bought-in’ to the company’s mission, courageous people who ask the difficult questions, and people who’d champion the organization’s efforts along the way. So, if you are considering significant changes in your life, who do you want on your personal board of directors? It might be your circle of best friends, and then again, it might not.
How you build your network and create your Team of Titans during transition can make or break opportunities for your growth and development. And while networking is a nasty word for some women, the ability to reframe this activity can be powerful. Perhaps you think of networking as going out to meet strangers who can help with professional aspirations. If you share this perspective, what would happen if you shifted to view networking as an opportunity to meet someone interesting, to be curious about his or her life, and learn about the choices they’ve made over time? What questions would you like to ask this person? What could you learn about these people?
This approach takes the edge off of networking. Instead of the focus being on a specific result (i.e. job connection), it becomes a process of learning about someone. Brian Grazer, the celebrated movie producer of Apollo XIII, Friday Night Lightsand other blockbuster sensations, talks about his lifetime passion of engaging in “curiosity conversations’ with people every week of his life. His form of networking has impacted his personal, creative and professional life in unimaginable ways. You can learn more about reframing networking in his book, A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life. It’s a great and inspiring read!
In addition to creating comfort in networking, it’s also helpful to think of what type of network you’re building. It’s long been believed that having a broad, sweeping network opens doors and helps you advance professionally. The research supports this – for men. Interestingly, a new study published by Brian Uzzi from the Kellogg School of Management shows that this doesn’t necessarily hold true for women.
Uzzi’s team of researchers studied the networks of women in their late 20s and early 30s at a top performing MBA program to see how their networks impacted the women’s employment in top leadership roles. The women who had only wide and broad networks, that prove successful for men, did not benefit from their networks in the same way. In fact, these women had the lowest placement in leadership roles of all the women studied. It was the women who also had a small and deep network with a few specific females that fared the best and ended up landing top leadership positions across industries. The research goes on to illustrate how a small, tight network of other females helped women learn more about organizations’ cultures, specific professional practices, and obstacles to anticipate. The small network of support was critical to help these women scale hurdles and land in top leadership roles.
This research is one of the reasons at RRR we encourage women to consciously build a small and intentional Team of Titans, along with building a more general network during any transition period. Think of it as an opportunity to intentionally appoint people to your transition team who:
· Provide honesty and support
· Reveal blind spots
· Ask the tough questions
· Go to bat for you, and
· Amplify your efforts
To learn more about strategies for women in transition and how current research supports best practices you can engage in, explore our website. We offer articles, courses and coaching to help women create their next life chapters. Visit us online. We’d love to hear your transition story!