IMPERSPECTIVE YOUR PEOPLE by Yael Sara Zofi and Susan Meltzer

IMPERSPECTIVE YOUR PEOPLE by Yael Sara Zofi and Susan Meltzer

Networking skills to make personal connections


Making contacts Promoting something of value

Long-term care (LTC) professionals are wellaware that our jobs, our facilities, and ourpatients’ expectations have radically changed in the past few years. .Although the technical and medical changes in the LTC environment have been profound, our social mechanisms have evolved more slowly. (This is not a unique phenomenon!) With the expanding networks of local regulatory agencies, healthcare providers, community organizations, and fellow providers, to name but a few, we communicate with a wide variety of organizations and individuals in the course of doing our jobs.

What can you do to break through these somewhat impersonal, bureaucratic, or frenetic organizations to get what you need quickly and efficiently? Not surprisingly, you’ll find most people are responsive when they have a personal relationship with you. That translates as building solid networks to draw upon to get results. Connections are the coin ofthe realm, and the secret is to know how to make those connections work for you. In other words, develop your networking skills to make personal connections that can make your job easier.

What is networking? Networking is really small talk with a target. Net- working is one of the critical skills necessary to be

successful on your job. Even if you would characterize


Selling Being impersonal

Asking assertively and offering graciously Manipulating

Giving with no expectation

Serving others

A way of life

Keeping score

Using others

A technique

your current n e t w o r k i n g abilities as ef- fective, you may feel that certain areas could be

improved upon. Some examples are: ways you com- municate, how you handle personality differences, or persuade others. The secret is knowing how to turn casual conversations into useful connections.

Networking is…

• …the deliberate process of exchanging infor-

mation, resources, support, and access in such

a way as to create mutually beneficial alliances

for personal and professional success.

• …building the right relationships with the right

people to provide information, support, influ-

ence, and development.

• …creating collective environments where

people learn from each other, share resources,

and build positive working relationships.

Types of networks Human beings are social animals and we engage in a variety of interactions with others. Therefore, we have several different types of networks to enhance our personal as well as professional lives. Here are the four types of networks that define our relation- ships with the many individuals on whom we rely, and who, in turn, rely on us.

1. Personal networks. Your family, friends, and close associates. You usually choose these types of networks through mutual interests, liking, and long-term connections. Personal networks are more social than other types of networks, and are based on exchange of help and support.

2. Organizational networks. Business teams, project groups, committees, and councils. These networks are focused on whom you need to know in your facility in order to meet objectives within a specific time frame. These networks are based on power, knowledge, and influence. Onestrategy when joining a new department or facility/provider is to identify as quickly as possible the organizational network—especially those with power (overt and covert) and influence.

3. Professional networks. Colleagues, peers. Professional networks are based on common work interests and tasks in the world of long-term care.


and are about what people know. They can be internal or external, such as professional network organizations.

4. Strategic networks. External contacts and connections. With increased complex- ity, regulation, and patient expectations, look to form or join alliances with indi- viduals from organizations as varied as community institutions, local regulatory agencies, nearby hospitals, or clinics.

To summarize, networks are…

• comprised of people and groups

• flexible and permeable

• powerful for generating solutions,

seizing opportunities, and getting

things done

• vehicles for professional development

• keys to dispensing high-quality care

Four stages of networking Now that you are familiar with the different types of networks, it is important to under- stand how your networking relationships get established. Networking is a process; it is the opposite of an instantaneous or isolated incident. Networking takes time, effort, and careful nurturing of the relation- ship to bear fruit. That is, after selecting a group of people who can contribute to your professional life—and to whose success you can contribute—you work on building the relationship.

Consider the networking process as consisting of four different stages: Get- ting, Exchanging, Understanding, and Mutual Benefit. This process is a building block of four steps, with Mutual Benefit being the highest step, or stage. Look at each stage:

• STAGE 1: Getting

Networking is not just about tak-

ing, although it is true that beginning

networkers usualiy focus on “what’s

in it for me.” Most people who begin

to network focus, at least initially, on

trying to get something for them-

seives. There’s nothing wrong with

wanting your efforts to pay off. But

that’s only part of the story. The best

networkers approach the process

from the point of view that they want

something and they want to be a

valuable contact in turn. Think of your

own experiences with people. When

someone helps you, don’t you want

to give back even more than you

got? That’s just human nature!

‘ STAGE 2: Exchanging

The point of networking is to ex-

change something of value. Trades

do accomplish that. The taking and

trading stage usually produces a one

time networking outcome—you gave

and got something. For example,

you may have created a simplified

checklist for your facility which may

be equaily useful at a state associa-

tion. The smart networker doesn’t

stop here—she or he works to create

a networking reiationship out of this

one-time trade.

‘ STAGE 3: Understanding

This phase builds the relation-

ship by teaching other people what

you need—and learning what they

need. Take the time to be inter-

ested in your person and his/her

concerns. Put your antenna up for

resources, ideas, tips, information,

or access that you could give to the

contact. For example, if your facility

hired a terrific design firm to create a

comfortable and practical recreation

room in a small space, why not invite

a peer with similar space challenges

to see it?

Remember the old adage, “It’s

not what you know, it’s who you

know.” This is too simple for a

savvy networker What you know

is important. It’s your skills, experi-

ences, knowledge. Who you know

is important, too. These people are

your resources for ideas, refer-

rals, references, and assistance in

general. More important than what

and who you know is who knows

you. Networking is about making who

knows you as important as what you

know and who you know.

• STAGE 4: iVIutual Benefit

This is the stage when the relationship

becomes most valuable. All relation-

ship networking aims for mutual trust,

so that when each party recommends

the other, it can be done knowing that

this contact will reflect well on the

individual making the recommenda-

tion. For example, you can establish a

relationship with an appropriate indi-

vidual who works at a neighborhood

hospital, perhaps working together on

an issue that affects both institutions.

Conclusion Now that you are familiar with the differ- ent types of networks, and the incremental stages that culminate in a win-win outcome for you and your networking partner(s), you’re ready to create powerful networks of your own. You, your facility, residents, and colleagues just may find some “angels” out there to lend assistance when it’s needed most. •

Yaei Sara Zofi is the Founder and CEO of AiM Strat- egies® (Appiied innovative Management®), a New York City-based people management consuiting firm focused on bringing appiied bebavioral science techniques to managing businesses in beaitbcare and reiated fieids. Sbe recentiy pubiished a bookiet on networking caiied, “Work YourNetwork:i/laking impactfui Business Connections” which is avaii- abie via Amazon or through the AliVI Web site. Her healthcare ciients inciude iarge pharmaceutical organizations as weil as hospitais and medicai f acui- ties. Before establishing AliVI Strategies® in 1998, she was the Giobai Vice-President of Performance Management, Leadership, and Organizationai Deveiopment for J.P. Morgan. As a Professor at New York University, she designed and taught the courses “Leadership and Business Transforma- tion,” “Leadership and Management Skills,” and “Management Principies and Ethical Practices.” Susan Meitzer has worked in the HR field for more than 25 years. For further information, visit www. To send your comments to the editor, e-mail


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