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 achieve the most successes at work don’t just have the strongest networks because they actively and regularly reach out to others…they have the strongest networks because others actively seek them out.
And this is the number one predictor of individual performance at work based on over 20 years of research!
So, how can we become somebody who is sought in our organizations?
The Connected Commons suggests that those who create pull in their companies – and therefore win the most often – do so because they are energizers. They generate enthusiasm in their networks, and do so by creating energy, purpose, and trust in their relationships. This brings project opportunities to them, attracts better talent, and leads to more innovation and creativity in their interactions. As a result of creating pull in their networks, these individuals get to benefit in ways that are often invisible to those who are less sought in their networks.
Now, how can we become energizers?
First, and most importantly, we need to build a foundation of trust in all relationships in our networks. We need to be honest about what we don’t know, stay consistent in what we say and do, and engage with others in a way that shows that we have their best interests, and those of the company, in mind (rather than simply desiring a quick win for ourselves). We’ve discussed psychological safety extensively over the past few blog posts, but here is this construct coming up again. Only when others trust us can they feel enthused, energized, and therefore, give extra effort into their work.
Next, energizers help others gain a sense of purpose in their work. They regularly clarify with others why their work matters before getting down to the what or how, and they show appreciation for others’ efforts in addition to their wins. They value individuality, and aim to get every individual on the team involved in the project in ways that best aligns with their individual strengths, interests and aspirations.
Finally, they generate energy in their day-to-day interactions. They regularly communicate enthusiasm for their work, and capture others’ imaginations and hearts with realistic possibilities of what they can achieve together. At the same time, they don’t take their own ideas too seriously and genuinely seek others perspectives, with the goal of building off of them.
In a nutshell, in order to become an energizer who is sought in your network, you have to create trust, purpose, and energy in your relationships. It is these energizers, according to The Connected Commons, who are the highest performers in their organizations.
It is also interesting to note that the concepts of trust (or, psychological safety) and purpose once again come up in this research (they also emerged in Google’s own research on teams). Perhaps these characteristics are truly the keys to building great teams and relationships.
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