There’s a phrase: It’s not what you know, but who you know. During a project, it’s critical to understand your network, your stakeholders and who can help you during the course of a project. When I first join a project or team, I try to make a list of everyone that might be a potential stakeholder but also any connections that may be important during the project. This may sound callous but it’s important to understand not only who you have available to you but what they may be able to help you with.
How can you do this?
- Set up a stakeholder analysis and make sure that it’s kept relevant throughout the duration of the project/engagement.
- Keep your LinkedIn / Professional Network up to date and tag people accordingly (e.g. stakeholder etc).
- If you use Business cards, make notes on the card to indicate their relationship to you and any relevant information (e.g. birthday, likes/dislikes, boss).
Looking at your internal network is one part of your network development but you also need to look outside of your organisation to see potential developments and opportunities that may exist for you. I do not mean just career opportunities but also learning.
How can you sustain a strong network?
One question that I am often asked is how Project Managers and leaders can realistically sustain a strong and productive network as well as do their day job. I recommend doing small activities every day or week with their network to sustain and build relationships. Here are some of the most successful activities which I like to use:
- Check in regularly* with your team/stakeholders/network with:
- Phone calls
- Text message/chats
- Be open and communicative about your project/status/current issues
- People appreciate honesty and it gives you respect
*Regularly depends on the project.
How often should this activity happen?
It’s an ongoing activity and will definitely need to happen more intensively before and at the start of projects.
Maintaining and building your professional network is not just a task for when you’re looking for a new job, it should be an ongoing activity for your career and maintaining your position in your network. What do you do to maintain your network? What works for your company and projects?