Share your network
I went to the Lead Developer Conference back in 2019. Pat Kau gave a fantastic talk called "Flavours of technical leadership". In the talk, he shared different ways that engineering leaders develop and make a difference to their teams. One of his thoughts really resonated with me:
“Share your network”
Different types of networks
Anyone who has been in an idustry for a while has a network of people that they know and trust. This builds up over time and expands the impact and opportunities you have.
There are differing networks you can be a part of. The Harvard Business Review's "How leaders create and use networks", Herminia Ibarra and Mark Lee Hunter suggest that there are three main types of networks:
1. Operation network
An operation network consists of people that help to fulfil your current responsiblities and day-to-day tasks. They may be people in your immediate team and direct managers or stakeholders.
2. Personal network
You can find people outside of your team, department, or company who can help you or you can help them. This is your personal network. They can be people with similar interests or thinking and you can leverage their help for your own success. Always remember that you should be helping them too.
3. Strategic network
A strategic network are people within or external to your organisation which will help you to find new directions for your team. They may be external stakeholders that you can work with or find support from. They'll help to open up interesting opportunities for you and your team.
These three networks will consist of different people who will be valuable to both you and others that you introduce them too. To help to build a high-performing team, you can make introductions to others in these networks and share your network.
Why leaders should share their network
I wrote a little bit about sharing your network in my article on lifting your team up. Most strong leaders use networking to develop relationships in their team and beyond. Talking to people is a good way to forge personal and professional relationships and enable you and your team to do your best work.
By introducing your team to others, you're creating new opportunities. These can help your team to grow and learn from people with different experiences than your own. You'll find the potential for mentoring and coaching outside of your own knowledge and this will help your own team to thrive. Networking with others is important for your own career so by sharing the network you have it helps to grow the careers of others. You will understand your team's needs and can help them to connect with relevant people.
An introduction to a senior leader or engineer is an endorsement or sponsorship from someone trusted. Hopefully you've gained a reputation within the company as being someone reliable. By encouraging your team to talk to people outside of the department, you're subconciously telling others how much you trust and believe in your team member. This goes much further than you think in helping to grow their careers.
What differentiates a leader from a manager, is the ability to understand who to talk to enlist the help that is needed. By sharing this with your team, you're unlocking their ability to become independent and grow their potential both with and without you.
Take a look at your own network today and see who you can share it with. Empower your team to be amazing.