Updated: Oct 16
"When you find people who not only tolerate your quirks but celebrate them with glad cries of “Me too!” be sure to cherish them. Because those weirdos are your tribe." - A.J. Downey
Finding your tribe as a leader is essential for building a supportive network of like-minded individuals who share your values and goals. I am going to share with you five ways to help you do just that. But before we dive into those, I want to talk a little about that dreaded word – you know what it is – networking:
Regardless of whether you are a student, a working professional, a job seeker, or a business owner, networking is one of the most important activities that you can engage in. But why does networking get such a bad rap and make most people experience a repulsing cringe? I think it boils down to the perception that we hold about networking and the beliefs that we have about what it takes to be an effective one.
I have heard many clients and colleagues use the following adjectives when describing an exceptional networker. Someone who is:
· Highly social and engaging and
· Incredibly interesting.
The belief that you must possess all those qualities to be an effective networker can create barriers and avoid doing it. My hope is that you will adopt a new perspective on networking and have one takeaway action step to use to become a better networker.
So, let us start with a definition of what networking is. According to businessdictionary.com, they state that networking is about “Creating a group of acquaintances and associates and keeping it active through regular communication for mutual benefit. Networking is based on the question "How can I help?" and not on "What can I get?”
Networking is about creating and sustaining relationships. It involves establishing relationships with people who you can help and can help you advance your career and business.
Leading with that definition, networking does not need to be or feel like a transaction – a salesy exchange. Rather if you translate networking into being a way of helping and serving others, you remove a self-serving mindset and “taker” approach.
When you lead your networking efforts with the notion that you are there to “take”, you will not be successful because most likely it will turn people off. But when you focus on giving to others you will naturally reap the benefit.
One critical ingredient to giving and serving others is knowing what they need. And how do you best know what someone needs? You ask them and you listen for it.
Building and creating your networking community takes someone who is astute and an active listener. Exceptional networking is more about being interested in others rather than being interesting to them.
I am going to repeat that: if you want to be an effective networker you want to be more interested in others than being interesting.
So, the next time you are talking to a friend, colleague, or stakeholder I recommend that you dial up your listening antennas, stay attentive to listening for their needs, and store that information. You might even want to write it down. Listen for someone or something that they may need and reflect if you currently have any resources or connections to help. If not now, then in the future.
For example, do you have a friend who is interested in pursuing a certification in project management and you realize you work with a project manager in your organization? If so, connect your friend and your colleague with one another by making an email introduction to them both so that your friend can ask your colleague questions about the field. It also allows them to grow their networking communities.
Connecting and linking resources to people in your community to help them achieve their goals is the essence of networking.
Although, most people that I encounter shudder at the notion of networking here is a shift I would like you to take:
· Remember – networking is about building and sustaining relationships.
· Adopt a service mindset – networking is about how you can help others.
· The foundational ingredient to serving others is to be an active listener and be attentive to their needs and wants.
· Connect people together so they can thrive and grow.
Embracing the activity of networking to give and serve others will aid you in finding a new meaning and purpose to it. As Anne Frank said, “no one has ever become poor by giving.”
So, one way to find your professional tribe is to network:
Here are 4 ways to find your professional community of support and belonging:
1. Networking Events and Conferences: Attend industry-specific conferences, seminars, workshops, and networking events. These gatherings are excellent opportunities to meet people who are passionate about your field or industry. Engage in conversations, exchange ideas, and identify those who share your vision and values.
In 2016, I attended a coaching conference in Boston and met my coaching BFF Lupe. You never know who you may meet at an event or conference that may be lasting and lifelong connections. In addition, if you are working on enhancing your presence in your industry and community, you may look for opportunities to speak at events. Most events have speakers – keynote speakers and speakers who facilitate mini workshops in breakout sessions. This is a great way to network, get exposure, and practice your public speaking skills.
Certainly, networking is not just attending in-person events – we have a host of online communities:
2. Join online platforms and communities relevant to your leadership role or industry. Websites like LinkedIn, specialized forums, and social media groups can connect you with people who are interested in similar topics. Actively participate by sharing your insights, asking questions, and connecting with potential tribe members.
Since I am in the coaching and HR arena I try to engage in those communities as well as with entrepreneurs in all fields.
3. Professional Associations: Many professions have their own associations and organizations. Joining such groups can help you connect with peers who are committed to their careers and share your interests. Attend their meetings, conferences, and workshops to network effectively.
For example, I am part of SHRM – Society of HR Management – if you are not aware of the professional associations in your industry that would be a great homework assignment for you.
4. Volunteer or Mentorship Programs: Volunteering your time or participating in mentorship programs within your industry or community is a great way to meet like-minded individuals. People who are passionate about making a difference often gravitate toward these activities, making it easier to find your tribe.
This past year I mentored a student at UCONN who is interested in going into the field of HR and established a great relationship. We met for 8 weeks once a week and she was just a joy. It was a great way to give back.
5. Start Your Own Group: If you can't find an existing community that suits your needs, consider starting your own. Create a meetup group, an online forum, or a local club based on your interests and goals. This allows you to attract individuals who resonate with your leadership style and vision.
I started an LGBTQ+ social and hiking meetup group in my community and although the purpose was not intended for professional networking, it does happen organically.
Remember that building your tribe takes time and effort. Be genuine, open, and patient in your interactions with potential tribe members. Authenticity is key to attracting people who genuinely share your values and will support your leadership journey. Networking both in person and online, joining professional associations that you connect with, mentoring and volunteerism as well as starting your group will bring you closer to your tribe.
"A great person attracts great people and knows how to hold them together." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe