Successful leaders in companies tap so-called informal networks, says Richard Shediac, a senior partner at the consultancy Booz & Company. Mr Shediac speaks about where bosses can start if they do not already make use of certain connections in their firms.
What is an "informal network"?
Sometimes you have people in organisations who may not be the "A" players. But they relate to people well. They are respected for the way they deal with situations and what have you. These are important people to identify and leverage.
How important are informal networks in the workplace?
If you look at a particular organisation - and there has been some research done on [this] - 90 per cent of the information that key decision makers actually get, and more importantly act upon, comes from their informal network, so not from reports. Therefore, it is important that leaders take stock of how to develop their informal networks, so find people within their organisation, for example, who can influence others.
But surely there are pitfalls in making decisions based on what your friends think?
This does not suggest that this is the only channel by which you make decisions. The success is in combining the formal and the informal.
Can you be successful without being part of the club?
If leaders do not reach into the informal organisation, I do not believe they can be very successful in making change happen. Often what happens is when you have leaders, you have a CEO, a level-two kind of leader [who] would focus on … the individuals they consider to be the top performers. The fact is that in many organisations, the top performers account for 15 [to] 20 per cent of the workforce, so what do you do with the remaining 80 per cent? Maybe [they are] not the bottom performers, [but] make sure that you leverage that capacity to make change happen.
Certainly some people have personalities that do not naturally tap informal networks. Does that make them bad leaders?
It doesn't mean you cannot succeed, but you would not be as effective.
If leaders want to leverage these informal networks without having done so before, where do they start?
You listen. It is not that difficult to identify the centres of influence within an organisation, but I think you have to first accept the fact that this is an important dimension of leadership. You need to listen. You can listen by putting in place certain mechanisms. You can create certain committees or councils or whatever you want to call them.
So informal can be formal?
These are, in a way, informal set-ups. It's not the board, it's not the executive committee, it's a special council that is created around many things - a certain topic, a certain set of values, whatever you are trying to achieve within the organisation. It's informal and it's not permanent. You can create it to achieve a certain goal and then it gets dismantled.
* Gillian Duncan
iPad users can follow our twitterfeed via Flipboard - just search for Ind_Insights on the app.