Networking is an essential part of leadership. In this series we chat to leaders in our industry about how, and why, they network with others.
In this article we speak to John Devine, General Manager City Development, City of Unley.
Hi John. What’s your opinion of networking in local government?
In my view all sectors of the economy/ society network. It’s a part of doing business. It’s hard to survive in business if you don’t build & use your network, either as customers, suppliers, or business partners.
The best in local government do it as well as anybody, but many don’t use it well.
Local government tends to take a more collegial or family approach to its networking rather than using it as a deliberate strategy to doing business. Many people have networks mostly focussed on similar disciplines and are more social in nature when they meet at conferences or forums rather than improving business outcomes.
A good network can ensure that you get improved accessibility within other organisations to help with obtaining information, or getting decisions made.
How has networking been of benefit to you in your career and/or in your job role?
I believe that two or more heads are better than one, when thinking about solutions or how to do things. I don’t pretend to have all the answers but probably know someone who might be able to shed a light on the topic.
It’s important to learn from others experiences, rather than relearn something others could have told you about. Networks are an excellent way of learning from others.
For example in Procurement – it’s important to find out “who knows who” in the market rather than rely on information from contractors and consultants. This also extends to potential staff recruitment.
What approaches, techniques and ideas for effective networking can you share? For example, the national congress has just been held in Hobart. What was your approach for networking at the congress?
My style at conferences is diverse. I tend to talk to a number of the exhibitors, to learn more about their product and service and gauge the type of company they are. I’m more interested in relationships than transactional style so I try and get them off their sales pitch and learn about their clients who can be a testimony to them.
Interstate leaders are important to meet as they in many cases have similar issues and opportunities to ourselves and may have a new approach, or know someone who has done it well, or know someone who can help. Often they can be at a different stage of this issue/ opportunity, or we might be ahead of them and can share our experiences.
In addition – it’s often very useful to be on the program as a speaker at a conference, because after the session it’s common to be approached by a different range of people that you may otherwise have missed.
For those just dipping a toe in the water of networking – how would you advise to get started?
Associations such as LG Professionals – and their networks - are excellent vehicles for building your network. Join your local state body and get involved.
Recognise the value of networking – and approach it strategically. Network for information – or for relationships that can lead to better outcome – or even your next job.
Don’t fear networking – and remember that while social networking is important – strategic business networking will provide even better results.