Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Currency of Networking

When retained executive search finally emerged onto the scene in the U.S. the names that really became the face of the industry were those of Tom Neff at Spencer Stuart and Gerry Roche of Heidrick & Struggles.  They were the mega stars of CEO searches. 

Their names became so well known in part, because of the high profile competition between the two.  They were in two of the top firms and they were the points of the spear when it came to the most senior searches.  It was something that was fun to follow.

I can recall reading many articles that were focused on one or both of these icons, and one in particular that was in Fortune some years ago called Clash of the Corporate Kingmakers stuck with me then and still does because it talked a great deal about how Roche had built his practice.  I thought it was another important example of just how important networking is both personally as well as professionally.

One of the aspects of the story that really struck me was when it was pointed out that even with people who turned him down, Gerry continued to make a real effort to build a relationship, and the key way in which he did so was by using the universal currency of effective networking (information) and giving it freely and with no strings attached.  We talk to ExecuNet members about this all the time.

One could argue, I suppose, given that Roche effectively worked only at the most senior level of the Fortune 500 that every player in that space would want to be his "friend." Could well be true once he became the face of Heidrick, but certainly that was not the case when he was building what his practice became. The relationships he built over the years came back time and again to help him as the years went on until he retired in '09.

Bottom line, when I read the article it reminded me yet once again that effective networking is a process not a pick up, put down activity.  Said differently, and I can't recall where I saw this phrase but I thought it captured the core of what truly effective networking is all about:

There's a difference between doing something part time, full time, and all the time.