Our CEO Jeppe Vilstrup Hansgaard recently gave a presentation about ‘Managing Global Networks’ for more than 50 double degree students at Copenhagen Business School. This article summarizes some of the insights Jeppe shared with the students.
1. Everything is about the networks!
We started with a small exercise with the students. ‘’Are you sitting next to someone you know?‘’, Jeppe asked students. ‘’Next time you will come to the room, find someone you don’t know and sit next to them!’’ Everything is about the networks, we are meeting people every day, and every day we have a chance to connect with new interesting people. Do not be afraid to talk to new people, you can create strong life-lasting connections with them.
2. Networks are your value assets (and often forgotten)
Back to 1886, Germany, the year when the 2 automobiles were invented at the same time independently of one another. One in Mannheim by Carl Benz and the second one in Stuttgart by Gottlieb Daimler. Both founded their own companies, later the competition was rising, and they became two leading automotive manufacturers.
The idea of combining the expertise of the two pioneering German automobile companies came during the First World War, but the merger went through later in 1924.
With the expertise of both companies and the power of networks, Daimler-Benz AG (DBAG) was born. The value which came from the power of networks created a well-known and successful company.
Why is everything about networks and why are networks your valuable assets?
The typical organizational chart looks like the one on the left. You have the CEO at the top, marked as the solid black square, then top-management, management, and eventually the employees. All of us have seen an organizational chart like this, but actually the real organization doesn’t look like this. Surprisingly (or maybe also not) the leaders are not ‘at the top’, they are not the biggest influencers at the company. In reality, leadership teams are often the worst connected, even though they see the potential to collaborate.
We tend to collaborate with people just like us
One cannot dictate to another who they should collaborate with. We tend to collaborate with people who are just like us. We collaborate with the same gender, with the same nationality. People always prefer to collaborate with people that are just like themselves. With people who are the same age, or have the same cultural background, or education, or the same interests, or maybe they joined the company at the same time as we did. Always the same tendency.
Why is it often difficult for newcomers to fit in the group?
Probably all of us had this experience before. When we are new in a collective of people, many of us have problems fitting in the group. What is the reason? People tend to stick with their friends who they already know rather than talk with a new person. Moreover, research keeps proving that the human brain can build only 150 relations. So, when ‘our capacity’ is full, logically we need to ‘delete something to create new’.
What keeps people from connecting?
Many barriers keep us from connecting with others. Language, distance, life values, hierarchy, different personalities, age, culture, gender, interests .. you name it. All of these barriers are excuses for us to not connect to another person. Consciously or unconciously, we think about all of these things when we are entering the room!
What on the other hand make people connect?
How do we choose the people we want to work with? Why do we choose one person over another one? There are many reasons why we would choose one person over another, but there are two main criteria we are considering the most: likability and competence. When dealing with some issues in the workplace, who are you going to ask for advice? Would it be a more or less competent person, sympathetic or maybe even though less competent but more sympathetic? I think we can agree that most of us will choose a competent and sympathetic person. But what if that person is not available currently, what will we choose? Will we go to ask for advice to a competent but not sympathetic person or will we choose a sympathetic but less competent person. 70% of us will choose to talk with a sympathetic but less competent person rather than an unsympathetic but competent person (only 30% would choose this option).
Read more in an article from Harvard Business Review
We are not all equal
The below illustration is from an organization with more than 2000 employees.
One person influences 58 people in the acompany of 2000 people. If you take the 3% of the most influential people in your company, those who influence many and do not have overlapping networks, they can reach up to 90% of the whole organization. This is also known as the #ThreePercentRule. A surprising fact is that in this group, the leaders are missing. They would expect themselves to be included, but the reality is different.
Read more on in an article Why 3% decide if your change will make or break
At Innovisor we do a small ‘test’. Before we understand the informal networks through Organizational Network Analysis, we ask leaders to write down who they think are the influencers in their companies, to put it in the envelope and then compare with the results of the analysis.
Fun fact: Since 2006, no leader guessed who their most influential employees are!
Why introverts have more influence
Would you guess that the most influential people in your company would be extroverts? There are many reasons why you would choose extroverts as more influential. They prefer to communicate verbally; they are outgoing and learn the best by talking. They enjoy being in groups, being part of social gatherings. They are more visible in the company!
But are the extroverts your influential people in your organization? The opposite is the reality. Introverts have the most influence!
Even though they are less visible in organizations, they prefer communicating in writing and have a selected circle of friends. They are also very good listeners, especially in one-to-one talks where the trust is built. And this is the reason why they are the most influential.
Read more about the influence of introverts in our article: Why Introverts Have More Influence
How contagious are the emotions in the workplace
Emotions in the workplace is a very big and interesting topic. We cannot avoid all of the emotions we are bringing to work from outside. Something made you upset in the morning, the train was delayed, your alarm did not work, and you are late, you will probably bring these emotions to work. But how your emotions affect your colleagues? Are they contagious and if so, how much?
Let us compare two emotions – happiness and angriness. Which one do you think is more contagious? If you show up in the office happy, will you make others happy as well, will you influence their day more than if you walk in angry? The truth is that happiness is twice as much influence as angriness.
People tend to ignore, or better say avoid negative emotions and focus on positive ones.
It is very important ‘How you show up’ in the morning walking into the office.
Always think about the networks!
Always think about the networks. People are connected, and sometimes we would not except the size of the influence one can have.