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Too busy to network! Too busy to improve! Too busy for success!

There is not a successful person out there who can say they are not busy or swamped. In fact, I can say that we have never brought on a new Paranet member who had extra time. Everyone has just 24 hours in the day. Why do some accomplish so much and others so little?

How are you spending time? Think about time as a currency. Will your ROI increase with the help of others? The term network is overused and undervalued. Just like most things, when you work at building a network, it gets better and increases in value.

People underestimate the value of a network. They may create a weak one without purpose. The strongest networks are diverse in thought, rich in experience, and empathetic to your world. It’s not always about who you know, but sometimes who knows you.

A good network is based on the premise that there will be a “give and take” relationship. When you consider an invitation to meet with someone, the decision should not always be motivated by what they can do for you. That question may not be answered for a while and it may not even come in the way that you would expect. Paying it forward can reap rich rewards.

Powerful and successful people have networks to match. When strategizing the creation of your network, there are four things to keep in mind:

1. Get a perspective outside of your four walls 

When your team settles on a solution, do you ever wonder if you’ve considered every possibility? Are you thinking outside the box and bringing creative solutions that are helping your company push the boundaries?

You likely work with a bunch of really smart folks. Some might even be considered experts in their area. But in the fast moving, rapidly evolving world of business, expertise grows stale quickly. And as the saying goes: You don’t know what you don’t know. The faster the world moves, the truer that is.

The best leaders recognize that there may be a limit to what they know, so they seek outside counsel and perspectives. That’s why it’s more important than ever to get outside of your four walls to see how others do things—the world of possibilities.

2. Establish accountability 

When you are the boss, how do you hold yourself accountable? It’s easy to push things off when there is no one holding us to a deadline. This can especially be true with more strategic initiatives. We tend to work in the business, feeling extremely busy, but do not move the dial when it comes to strategic direction. When this happens, by the time something or someone does question the initiative, it can be too late.

The best leaders surround themselves with those who do things better than themselves and challenge their ideas to drive success. Mutual respect establishes accountability because psychologically you don’t want to let these people down and they want you to do well.

3. Get feedback on your environment

In your own organization, you may have created a very safe and comfortable environment. However, it’s important to step outside your box and see your organization through the eyes of others.

You may not even realize that you no longer see your role and your organization in an objective view. At times, you may need to feel uncomfortable in order to learn.

A network of peers will understand your environment and help you to truly see it again. No rose-colored glasses!

4. Learn by helping others

You get what you give. Relationships need to be balanced. When you brainstorm with others, theories can be tested and plans are much more successful. Let’s be honest, in an organization it’s hard to be completely open to collaborate with your peers because you may also be competing for the same promotion and path. Wouldn’t you like to truly collaborate without this risk?

The next time you have a problem, need help or would like to have a conversation, take a hard look at your network. Things can change quickly and sometimes without warning; better to be prepared than to be alone. Make time now for a strong network tomorrow. Your ROI in this endeavor may just surprise you.

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Kelly Rudy is originally from Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, the state she has called home most of her life. Kelly graduated from Loyola University-Chicago with honors, earning a bachelor’s degree in communication and marketing. She earned her MBA from Marquette University and is a certified professional behavioral analyst. Prior to joining The Paranet Group, Kelly participated in sales and marketing at Olympus Group, formally Olympus Flag & Banner.

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