Teaching Business Networking to Developers: 7 Myths

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Teaching Business Networking to Developers: 7 Myths

We asked Lynne Waymon, a co-founder and principal at Contacts Count LLC, to offer her perspectives on teaching networking skills to developers. Her thoughts are below.

You see it happening before your eyes.  The old “Command and Control” culture is disappearing.  In some organizations, it’s already a goner.  

But old ideas have a sneaky way of hanging on.  You may hear people around you give voice to one or more of the 7 talent development myths below.   But, you know, to stay in the game you need to speak up about new business strategies and new skills needed to work together.  

Be on the lookout for these misconceptions at your organization and be ready to take a stand in support of the new Network-Oriented Workplace.  In this new environment people in every job type and every level need skills to help them connect, converse, and collaborate –face to face –not just electronically!  That’s the way things get done, innovation happens, employees get more engaged, and businesses stay competitive.   

Myth #1: “Our people already know how to network.”

Really? I wouldn’t be so sure.  When 549 people from all walks of life took our Networking Competency Assessment, their employers were shocked. Only 32% said, “I know exactly who I need to have in my network.” Only 39% said, “I know the next step to take to make any relationship more useful.” Only 39% said, “I know questions to ask that will move the relationship forward.” And a paltry 41% said, “I tell stories that teach about my team’s or my organization’s capabilities.”

Myth #2: “Nobody can learn how to network. You either have it or you don’t.”

Not so. Networkers are made, not born. Contacts Count’s client research shows that only about 20% of people are “natural networkers.” We’ve identified 8 competencies that outline a multitude of skills for the other 80% to learn.  And the natural networkers also pick up new perspectives and tools.  Anyone can learn to put the tools of networking to work in the service of business goals.

Myth #3: “Everyone’s connected. Look at all the money we’ve spent on social media!”

Good! But, that’s like saying, “I have a phone, so I have lots of friends.” Having the ability to connect electronically is not the same as knowing how to build trust-based relationships that spark innovation, get things done, and bring in new clients.   Even in this electronic age, training programs need to focus on the face value of face-to-face contact whenever possible.   

Myth #4: “Networking is an expensive time waster.  All that socializing brings very little real value.”

Not so. Ben Waber a visiting scientist at MIT reports that, “Employees who ate at cafeteria tables designed for 12 were more productive than those at tables for four, thanks to more chance conversations and larger social networks.”  Imagine what happens when people are actually taught how to make conversations even more productive.  Value soars.  

Myth #5: “Collaboration and networking are the same thing.”

Not quite.  Networking skills are the tools and strategies people need to build the kind of trust that leads to collaboration.  When you trust someone it means you’ve decided there’s very little risk in relating to them – and the work can get done.

Myth #6: “We’ve told all of our people to collaborate.”

Sorry! It’s takes more than a decree from above to create a culture of collaboration. Savvy organizations get rid of the disincentives and roadblocks. And they put into place the systems, policies, procedures, and training programs that will develop, encourage, and support collaboration. 

Myth #7: “You can’t expect our attorneys (developers, software engineers, scientists, consultants, researchers) to develop business.  That’s why we have a marketing department.”  Time to give up that outdated idea!  In this competitive world, business development is everybody’s business, no matter what their function or level within the company.  As one CEO told us, “I want everybody who works here to be our ambassadors in casual conversations, at conferences and meetings, and even in their social circles! You can’t buy that kind of visibility in a million ads.”