The forgotten network

The forgotten network

The forgotten network

“Matrix” sounds like an uncomfortable mattress. Whether of the sleeping or organisational sort I think this is true. More muddled work results from matrices than from any other business cause. Don’t let the matrix get you down.

We know how important it is to build our networks. Most people work hard at doing so. Out and about, ‘seen to be seen’, busy most evenings socialising over connections, it’s a never-ending job. Let up for a moment and they’ll say ‘haven’t seen her about for a while. Is everything OK?’ Top of mind means top of view. If you’re not very tall get high heels.

In all of this, one part of the network is often sadly neglected – the bit of your organisation that isn’t instinctively your metier. Looking back I think it’s the area I paid least attention to. I was assiduous in cultivating my friends and, as I went up the ladder, supporters – in my company. External network was pretty good, too – about twenty-five thousand I call close.

But the group I missed out on was those in my organisation who were not supporters, didn’t work closely with me and some of whom were detractors. Not my favourite cup of tea, a palpable threat, I avoided them as much as I could. I should not have done so. They were the new scrublands of my network, unexplored, yet to be cultivated but potentially the most fruitful of all. Ripe for learning my value, powerful on my side, they were potential gold.

You have to acquire a taste for difficult people. Mostly we avoid doing so because we fear rejection. Our self-worth may be hurt, our confidence shattered. We forget that the problems that make other people difficult are their problems, not ours. They are in a worse place than us. Their very obstreperousness is a cry of help. Their sometimes brutish behaviour is a sad mask. They beg for care, for kindness. Show it to them and they will repay a thousand fold.

Not all of them, not always. You will have enemies even if you have the generosity of Mother Teresa. Everyone striving to make a better world is surrounded by opponents of good. We all say we want challenges. Well, that’s the challenge. It is staring us, sometimes literally, in the face. A colleague of mine was promoted over his deadly rival who took it very badly. For weeks they didn’t speak. Memos between them went unanswered.

One day one of them went to the other’s office, sat down opposite him and said “What’s eating you?” The rival talked non-stop for twenty minutes. What was eating him was that nobody had asked him “What’s eating you?” They became great friends and successful colleagues. It might never have happened, all for want of a question.

Can you make contact today with someone in your business who you don’t get on with? Engage, be interested, question in a friendly way. Share a soup.

The company that eats together beats the competition.