Networking can curb shortage of skilled directors
02 April 2013
South African directors sit
on more boards than directors in other countries. According to research by
credit bureau Inoxico, on
average, board members of SA’s 20 biggest companies also sit on 14 other boards
– around twice the average of seven board positions in Europe.
"Part of the reason for this
is that traditional networks are perpetuated by the current incumbents on
boards when board positions are filled,” says Ansie Ramalho, Chief Executive of
the Institute of Directors in South Africa (IoDSA).
"However, the IoDSA believes
that by learning networking with others, would-be directors will be able both
to access business skills and raise their profiles in the business community –
thereby enlarging this sought after pool of qualified directors.”
Build mutually beneficial
Taking charge of one’s
career path may begin by simply attending a networking event where one is
likely to meet with others and form mutually beneficial relationships.
According to author Helen
Nicholson (Networking: How to get your black belt in business success),
who addressed IoDSA members at a recent event, the secret to effective
networking lies in putting effort into building authentic relationships with
those to whom one might add value, and vice-versa.
"The best networkers are
curious about others and regard networking as a long-term career strategy,” she
says. "Strive to nurture relationships even if there isn’t an instant
connection. It’s not about big-game hunting, it’s about farming.”
Also, Nicholson says the best
networkers operate from an ‘abundance’ mentality. "Networking is not about
50/50 exchange, but if you’re not getting anything back from a business
relationship, you’ll eventually stop giving.”
Build your personal brand
As Nicholson explains, more
doors open in business for those with the most powerful personal brands.
"Survey colleagues and friends to find out what you’re already famous for – and
tweak and change if necessary. The more clarity you have about who you are, the
more confidence you’ll inspire in others.”
When it comes to consistency
in one’s personal brand, Nicholson recommends paying attention to everything
from one’s personal appearance to tone and timbre of voice. She also cautions
regarding the careful use of social media.
Pay attention to those
you’re networking with
Given the difference between
men and women in terms of their communication styles, Nicholson says it’s no
surprise that men generally network better than women.
Although women are naturally
relational beings, "Women’s natural reserve can get in the way of networking,”
she says. This is true for example where women may feel awkward about
contacting a mere acquaintance, whereas men – whose business networks are on
average five times the size of women’s – are less likely to feel sensitive
about making such a contact.
Build your networking
Nicholson says it’s
important to have your networking resources on hand at all times – and to know
how to use them properly. "Keep business cards neat, clean and available!” she
says. "Learn to treat others’ cards with respect, paying particular attention
to cultural practices, especially when dealing with business people from other
Nicholson also recommends
perfecting a short, sharp summary of who you are and what you do. "One’s 10
second ‘elevator speech’ should include just enough information about yourself
and how you solve others’ problems through what you do to secure their interest
Working the room
Finally, when it comes to
networking events, it’s important to practice the skill of ‘working the room’.
Nicholson suggests approaching groups of three people, listening to hear if
what they’re talking about interests you, and then using one’s body language
(nodding, smiling, eye contact) in an attempt to be invited into the group.
"Make sure you have
something to say, as small talk leads to big talk,” she says. Reading widely,
especially publications that don’t target people like you, is particularly
"Arrive early and stay late
– that’s when the best networking happens,” concludes Nicholson. "And most
importantly, follow up your records of people you’ve met with the intention of
giving; adding to their lives. It’ll only be a matter of time before they