How Investing in Network Building can Boost Your Company’s Bottom Line: Part 5

As we approach the end of our five-part blog series based on the research conducted by Rob Cross and Rebecca Garau from the Connected Commons, it should be fairly clear at this point that personal relationships and networks at work are critical to innovation, execution and wellbeing at work. The research project that we’ve been exploring over the past four posts, however, is just one of many studies conducted by The Connected Commons. Having spent more than 20 years mapping networks and individual performance in over 300 organizations, the insights that the researchers at The Connected Commons are able to draw based on their findings across numerous projects are even more powerful than the conclusions they’re able to draw from a single study. Based on the two decades of research, the researchers at The Connected Commons have concluded that building a diverse network across location, roles, and expertise is, in fact, only the second biggest predictor of individual performance at work. Now, this isn’t to say that building a diverse network isn’t important. I mean, we’ve spent the past few posts covering exactly why having a wide and diverse network is important. The point here is that there’s a quality that high performers embody that predicts performance even more so than the diversity and strength of their networks. The number one predictor of individual performance at work, according to The Connected Commons, is being sought by others. Contemporary wisdom tells us that the best way to build our networks is by actively reaching out to others and extending our networks. The Connected Commons tells us something different: those who...

How Investing in Network Building can Boost Your Company’s Bottom Line: Part 4

“What we found in our research is that thriving at work often is as much or more about the relationships and quality of interactions with others as the type or pace of work.” Based on the research that has been reviewed in the past few posts, it’s clear that networks may be the key to successful innovation and execution in organizations. Building broad and diverse networks can help employees gain understanding, access information, create solutions, and accomplish important work. But today, we turn our attention to something that may have an even greater impact on the health and success of an organization – employees’ wellbeing. The financial impact of employees’ well being has been increasingly recognized by organizations around the world in recent years. As a result, companies are now investing more than ever before on their employees’ health. According to an analysis by IBISWorld, the workplace wellness industry has ballooned from $1 billion in 2011 to $6.8 billion five years later. According to the Society of Human Resource Management, almost a quarter of employers in the United States increased their wellness offerings last year. And guess how much employee wellbeing programs are costing American employers annually? Research by the Rand Corporation suggests that it’s $6 billion a year. Employee wellness matters – and employers know it. That’s the good news…but here’s the bad. According to new research published by the American National Bureau of Economic Research, workplace wellness programs aren’t working. This research looked at a program that offered employees biometric screening, a health assessment and various services and classes, such as chronic disease management, tai chi and...

How Investing in Network Building can Boost your Company’s Bottom Line: Part 3

                            “You can’t think, how can I do this, how can I solve it? You have to ask, Who do I know who can do this? Where is the expertise? Who else can I bring in because they have the skill or the time or the resources? Who wants the opportunity or needs the experience?” Another critical insight that Cross and Garau’s recent research project revealed is that high performers’ ability to successfully execute a project or plan directly relies on their informal networks. Often, we hold the belief that execution is all about having the right plan, strategy, and talent to put a project into motion. Surprisingly, though, the research suggests that it’s not that simple – whether a leader fully leverages his/her network can determine whether the project is successfully executed. Let me give you an example to illustrate the idea here. Picture a highly connected leader in an organization, who regularly keeps up with her connections outside of her own company, and blocks time each week for network development. In other words, this is someone who regularly grabs lunch with a number of different people in a variety of roles in different companies, and often sends industry articles or blogs that she’s read to those in her network who would find it valuable. When her company wants to expand, taking over smaller organizations or forming partnerships with others, this leader is put in charge of managing the integration. With a solid network as a foundation, and relationships that have already been established with...

Learning – The Foundation of Team Performance

In my previous post, I explored why a learning environment is one of the most critical components of high performing teams, based on a recently published study by a group of researchers from Belgium and the Netherlands. Today, I’ll discuss the one key ingredient to building a learning environment within teams – leadership. Alright, so we’ve established that according to research, high performing teams are teams that are always learning. This is a very nice ideal, I’m sure you’re thinking, but when it comes to the real world, it’s not always as easy to implement as it sounds. Well, I would completely agree with you. Taking the risk to share your personal ideas with the team can make you vulnerable, while ensuring that ideas and strategies are “co-constructed” often requires usual protocols to be modified. Seeking constructive conflicts means that we need to override our natural tendency to harmonize our differences, while offering honest feedback during reflections can harm team relationships. All things considered, it’s easy to understand why most teams struggle to create a culture of learning. Yet, it’s essential to team performance…so what do we do? We lead. According to the data from Koeslag-Kreunen and her associates’ study, leadership within a team positively influences the extent to which members engage in learning behaviors (e.g., sharing ideas, reflecting, taking action, etc.). It’s undeniable that leadership can facilitate team learning – at least, according to the research. Because team members usually don’t engage in team learning behaviour automatically, leaders have to guide their team as they pursue the process of learning. Leaders have to establish learning as a norm...

How Investing in Network Building can Boost Your Company’s Bottom Line: Part 2

“If I hadn’t bumped into Nick out of the blue that day, if he hadn’t been curious and taken interest, my project would have been just another project. Instead, it became a huge win…Literally, this fix saved us thousands of dollars every time we ran a similar process – when we scaled it, the savings were dramatic.” One of the most important insights that Cross and Garau uncovered in their recently published study is this: strong personal networks play a key role in the success of the highest performers across organizations because they produce innovative solutions and ideas. Now, you may have noticed that I phrased the above sentence in a very particular way. I could have said that “networks help produce innovative solutions and ideas”…but instead, I intentionally aimed to emphasize that it is these high performers’ networks themselves that generated the innovative ideas. Networks don’t just support innovation…networks are usually the source of innovation. When faced with major organizational challenges, such as cost reduction, leaders need innovative solutions. The traditional approach that comes to mind when we think about innovation is that a leader brainstorms and comes up with a brilliant solution to the problem, then implements it and the rest of the organization follows suit. Well, we may just be dead wrong in assuming, and perhaps expecting, that this is how innovation happens. Surprisingly, the high performers that were interviewed in this study tapped into their broad and diverse network early on to help them clarify the problem and explore solutions. They didn’t feel the need to perfect their ideas before exposing it to others –...