How the Best CEOs Purposely Build Their Network
As CEO, managing the key relationships that matter most to your business is one of your top-level responsibilities. That includes the relationships in your own professional network who have a BIG impact on how you lead. Use these seven tips to improve the strength and breadth of your network so that your connections keep Making BIG Happen for your business.
1. Establish your objectives.
Any time a CEO coaching client is considering a new initiative, we point him or her back to the first question in our Make BIG Happen System: What do you want? An effective professional network is no different. Indiscriminately padding your digital rolodex isn’t going to improve your performance as CEO, and it isn’t going to improve your business.
- Do I need access to more diverse view points?
- Do I need to learn something new or catch up on the latest innovations?
- Do I need a third-party perspective on issues with my board or c-suite?
- Do I need people to challenge me and expose my blind spots?
- Do I need people with specific expertise who can help me solve a problem?
- Do I need to improve my access to resources and information to pursue a specific growth strategy, such as M&A or introducing a new product or service?
By answering these questions, you’ll be able to zero in on the people who can turn your network into a competitive advantage.
2. Reevaluate your current network.
If you still haven’t resumed your pre-pandemic networking schedule, it’s long past time you reconnected with anyone you lost touch with during lockdowns. Fill up blank spaces on your calendar with friendly meetings, meals, or a round of golf. When you’re scheduling your next business trip, call up locals who can grab a cup of coffee when you’re between meetings. Check your social networks to see if anyone you know is attending the next BIG industry conference and arrange to meet up. Click a little more and you might find an old college buddy or second cousin who’s made a BIG career leap in recent years. Send an email to an old college professor who made a difference in your life. Reach out, catch up, and talk shop.
3. Join a professional organization.
Many CEO Coaching International coaches and clients belong to YPO, including our founder, Mark Moses. Regular listeners to our podcasts have heard Mark talk about how much he values being part of a forum where he can share his experiences with other CEOs and, in turn, benefit from their expert wisdom as well. Organizations like EO and Vistage offer similar opportunities to their members. CEOs should also consider participating in local organizations, such as the Chamber of Commerce or local charities, alumni organizations, and trade organizations to network with other professionals you can learn from and who can learn from you.
4. Serve on boards.
Serving as a board member for other companies or nonprofits is a great way to connect with new people whom you might gel with. You’ll also get a behind-the-scenes look at how another high-performing organization does its business, which might reveal some best practices you’ll want to bring back to your own company. And if you give your time to an organization that’s dedicated to making a positive impact, such as a charity, your wider network might connect you to a larger mission beyond profit that can improve your company’s culture.
5. Attend events outside your industry.
In addition to the major industry conferences you regularly attend, consider going to a conference that’s outside your wheelhouse. Events in other industries can introduce you to new technologies and ideas that could change how you do business sooner rather than later. Hearing from leaders outside your industry can also broaden your ideas about how leaders lead and what kinds of sound business principles are universal. And in an era where more and more workers are open to major career changes, you might also be able to tap into a new talent pool.
Finally, don’t underestimate what kind of message putting an unorthodox event on your schedule will send to the rest of your executive team: “I’m not a finished product, I’m never going to stop being curious, and I’m always looking for ways to make myself and this company better.”
6. Give back.
In business, as in life, no lasting relationship goes just one way. Anyone you consider a part of your network who feels like you’re not there for them in return is going to cut the cord. Be as available to people in your network as you hope they will be for you. Give them the same level of attention and consideration that you’ve appreciated when you’ve reached out in the past. The investments that CEOs make in other people often provide the greatest rate of return over time.
7. Hire a CEO coach.
Helping CEOs enrich their professional network is part of what we do at CEO Coaching International. Our coaches often look to establish mutually beneficial connections between coaching clients, particularly at our annual Make BIG Happen Summit. When appropriate, our clients also have the benefit of their coach’s own network that they’ve cultivated over decades of successful executive leadership.
Many CEOs don’t realize how important their network and their relationships are until their backs are against the wall. Remember: your network is only as strong as you make it. And you’re going to need a strong network to Make BIG Happen.
About CEO Coaching International
CEO Coaching International works with CEOs and their leadership teams to achieve extraordinary results quarter after quarter, year after year. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 1,000 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 60 countries and 45 industries. The coaches at CEO Coaching International are former CEOs, presidents, or executives who have made BIG happen. The firm’s coaches have led double-digit sales and profit growth in businesses ranging in size from startups to over $10 billion, and many are founders that have led their companies through successful eight, nine, and ten-figure exits. Companies working with CEO Coaching International for two years or more have experienced an average EBITDA CAGR of 67.8% during their time as a client, nearly four times the U.S. average and a revenue CAGR of 25.5%, more than twice the U.S. average.