The best leadership development program for women will include the topic of networking. Women have innate skills they can use to their advantage when seeking a mentor and building strong alliances. Here are two:
Women build flat organizations.
In a business environment, men are friendly and women cultivate friends. While men tend to view loyalty as allegiance to the team they play on, women tend to stay loyal even if they are no longer on the same team.
This means a senior, female executive likely has strong, genuine contacts in many different organizations – ones who feel equally loyal to her and will readily accept her recommendations and referrals. The more senior and experienced she is, the more intricate and layered her matrix of power partners becomes.
She sees her contacts on an equal plane – it’s less like a silo and more like a field. Each contact is of equal value, not because of what they can do for her, but because she understands the power of access at any level.
The members in her network run the gamut of roles, from CEOs to secretaries. You know that Executive Assistant you were rude to in another company last week? She might be friends with your V.P.
A well-cultivated group of female colleagues, especially one that crosses multiple groups, levels, and platforms, is a powerful force in a networking environment.
Women are situationally aware in groups of people.
Because of the way the female brain processes information, women take in everything going on around them, even when focused on one individual. They run this information through their subconscious non-stop and log that information for later use.
If you’ve spent Saturday morning at the park with your kids, you’ve already seen this in action in a completely different situation. Even while talking with someone else, a mother is acutely aware of where her child is, who he’s playing with, what the other children are doing, and what other moms are arriving or packing up to leave. And all while carrying on a detailed conversation about changes in a school policy with another mom without losing eye contact.
At work, this skill allows her to easily leave one conversation about sales strategy, and jump instantly into another about budgetary constraints.
It’s not multitasking; it’s a capacity to sift different levels of information.
Much like the way those old transparency projectors used to work, it’s the ability to take in all the information at once while separated into layers that overlap.
As you might imagine, this works especially well in a networking environment.
She easily processes who’s who in the zoo, who needs to be rescued, and which groups are toxic. Because she has already processed this within the first minute after walking in the door, she can skillfully facilitate the right introductions and connections without missing a beat.
Next time you walk into a networking social, explore the opportunity to expand your own matrix by talking shop with the women.
My friend Richard ensures he spends time at every business event literally networking alongside his female colleagues. So far, it’s expanded his network in curious ways and given him access to contacts he’d had difficulty reaching before.
If you’re a woman in business, how have you built flat networks that advanced your career? If you’re a man, how have you seen this in action?