Category Archives: Michele Wierzgac

Engaging the Power of Your Informal Networks

By Michele Wierzgac, MSEd

Michele Wierzgac-informal network

Networking is recognized as a major influence on one’s ability to achieve great success. The most successful people in the world possess the capability to influence and shape the opinions of others. However, there is a greater emphasis on the type of network one participates in.

Much has been written about successful executives and leaders and how they participate in formal networks, but very little is known about the substantial amount of time they spend within their informal networks.

What is known is that the impact is vast. It is imprudent for you to underestimate the power of informal networks by saying they are merely “nice-to-have.” These types of networks are increasingly having a major impact on organizational effectiveness.

More importantly, these types of networks provide major business advantages for the participants and thus are known to advance many careers.

Defining the Networks

The main difference between informal and formal networks is the effort of the individuals to create and maintain them. The formal network often has an organizational culture attached to it, such as a formal philosophy, mission, structure, leadership, membership, eligibility, and funding. 

These networks are easily identifiable—board of directors, economic clubs, affinity groups set up by corporations, executive talent pools, online discussion groups, management groups, professional conferences, and associations.

Informal networks are based on the objective of achieving a reciprocal exchange of information and favors—no rules—share advice freely, expand the network at will, inspire each other, achieve personal goals, and help each other obtain business and career advantages.  The “old boys network” is based on the informal network system, hence the phrase, “it’s a man’s world.”  Again, the emphasis is on a one-to-one networking effort, as opposed to an organizational system that characterizes the formal network.

People have always had the need to build and maintain a network that involves trust and respect for others. Click To Tweet

Informal Networks Are Hidden

The informal network may be a group of industry colleagues with a common interest or a shared philosophy getting together for a casual gathering away from the office.  Other networks may be created through people you meet while traveling, attending church functions, or simply completing errands.

The most effective informal network contains high-functioning people who are extremely skilled, knowledgeable, powerful, and who have strong personal networks. Research indicates that extroverts are the element that drives a successful network. People who are friendly, courteous, tolerant of differences, and respectful of cultures and different perspectives achieve the most success. The informal network without the hierarchy and bureaucracy encourages the most interaction and achieves the most positive results.

On the other hand, there are many skills one must possess before being invited to an informal network. The most important skill to acquire is not to treat everyone like a mass market, a machine, or a cold call. The success of this most prized network depends on respecting the commonality among one another and to help each other achieve their goals.

Reflecting On Your Informal Networks

Here are strategies for polishing your informal networking skills. What do you need to work on?

  • Do not treat your informal network like a mass market, machine, or cold call.  Be a genuine networker.
  • Do you have a great attitude? Are you positive?  Do you see the big picture?  The successful networker has a strong belief in themselves and in what they are pursuing.
  • Who makes up the network? What are their needs, company, and interests? Leaders listen to the needs of the network.
  • Who makes up your network? How can you connect your network with this network? Triumphant leaders are strategic—always thinking ahead.
  • Do not be a name-dropper unless you have permission. Be an honest networker.
  • How much have you given to your network?  Successful people have the ability to give back. Share information and opportunities with one another.
  • Does your informal network share the same philosophy about career, business, friendship, or family? Identify key people you can relate to otherwise move to another network.
  • Do you know your goals, strengths, and career direction backward and forwards? Educate the network on exactly what you do and what you are looking for—people cannot read your mind.
  • What is your personal brand? Are you unique? How will people remember you? Remember that generic brands encourage generic attention.  Write a 30-word brand statement of how you want to be described. A personal brand statement is a method of controlling what others are saying about you.
  • Are you believable and credible? Leaders are passionate about who they are and what they do.
  • What are your gifts? Leaders share their talents within the network without reciprocity.
  • Write and call on a regular basis each person within the network and exchange information. Successful leaders are organized.
  • Are you brave enough to ask questions? Leaders do not have all the answers—ask for directions, opinions, and ways to get around obstacles.
  • Develop the ability to ask the right questions—do not ask a lot of questions.
  • Do you have the ability to self-correct? Leaders ask for honest feedback and take criticism from those they respect as an opportunity to improve.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate; be proactive in initiating conversation—do not give the perception of being in a clique or an exclusive group; be sure to mix and mingle.
  • Training in and respect for etiquette, protocol, and cultural awareness is mandatory—poor manners and ignorance immediately damage your personal brand and reputation.
  • Do you write handwritten notes? Thank you notes remain a critical ingredient for maintaining a genuine reputation.

Networking has always been an essential social skill founded on the interdependence of people. We all rely on the support and cooperation of others to achieve our goals. Informal networking involves bonding, sharing expertise, and investing time and effort into others.

People have always had the need to build and maintain a network that involves trust and respect for others; the informal network connects people who perhaps otherwise would not have met.

Informal networks are hidden and filled with rich resources to drive you to your next destination.

Michele Wierzgac is a leadership expert, keynote speaker, and author of the forthcoming book, Ass-Kicking Women: How They Leverage Their Informal Networks For Success. With her high energy presentations, Michele conveys sound leadership solutions and promotes audience engagement and on-your-feet participation. Michele is also a certified Business Enterprise through the LGBT Chamber of Commerce. She promises her audience that they will leave her solution-driven keynotes and workshops with at least one passionate, life-transforming leadership tool. For more information on bringing in Michele Wierzgac for your next event, please visit https://micheleandco.com .

Strategies for Remaining Indispensable at Work: Proving Your Value

By Michele Wierzgac, MSEd

Michele Wierzgac-brand champions

The economy is booming—great! But wait—organizations continue to focus on cutting labor costs. Why? Labor costs comprise 80 percent or more of an organization’s operating costs. This fact clearly creates another problem among the workforceprotecting your job.

How then can you remain indispensable at work? By bringing attention to the value of what you do. How do you do that? By focusing on where the organization is going rather than on the procedural or day-to-day maintenance issues of your position. Begin thinking of how you contribute to the success of the organization. Do you know what the top business issues are within your organization?

1. See Their Point of View

Enhance your role as a team player by demonstrating a sincere interest in your company and looking at issues from the employer’s viewpoint. If it is the cost of labor that is forcing companies to cut back within your department, get together with your boss and figure out ways to merge systems, cut costs, negotiate spending, or merge tasks between departments. Often in companies where there are several departments duplicating efforts, redundancies can be eliminated.

2. Talk in Sound Bites

Concentrate on improving communication with your employer. Think about how your listener will receive the message. Put yourself in the listener’s shoes and anticipate how he or she might react. Learn to talk in sound bitesquick and fast. Bosses want the summary, not all the details.

Strive to be that one shining employee. Click To Tweet

3. Find a Mentor

To be the most indispensable employee you can be, get a coach. Surround yourself with mentors and coaches from inside and outside your industry. How do you get a coach? Look around your informal and formal networks and figure out who you would like to emulate. Whose skills and career path do you admire? Then just ask if he or she will mentor you. Most of the time, people are flattered that they have been asked. It does not take much time, perhaps just a 45-minute phone call once every three months. You tell them what is going on and they give you simple advice to get back on track.

5. Recruit Brand Champions

You are a brand! Who supports you? Who are the people that are always spreading the good news about you? These are your brand champions. It is critical that you update your friends, family, colleagues, parents at PTA meetings, and anyone else you know about what you are doing or what you want to do. Why? Because your networks are filled with the power and credibility to spread the word about you. To begin with you need to understand the difference between formal networks (professional organizations that you pay dues to, with regulations, meetings and guidelines) and informal networks (people you meet in the lobby of a hotel or on an airplane or through hobbies). Social networks are a hybrid of the two. Next, you need to communicate to your brand champions about your work, your talents, and changes you are thinking about. If you need a favor, ask, and reciprocate by asking what you can do for them in return. Send out regular alerts through your grapevine and share your success stories. Start a buzz and you will be amazed at what happens.

6. Safeguard Your Reputation

A brand creates an image of trust and loyalty over time. It takes years to build a name, reputation, and networksand takes a minute to lose it all. Always protect your name. See what others are saying about you. The key to leadership is listening to criticism and self-correcting. When a mentor gives you criticism about something you are perhaps not thinking about, it takes courage to change.  You must earn credibility, not expect it. Be prepared to spend years on earning credibility.

A Final Thought

Every workplace has that one employee that everyone goes to for answers to their problems. They know everyone and they know how to get things done. Strive to be that one shining employee by following these steps. Remember, being a key member of a team has the biggest benefit—job security.

Michele Wierzgac is a leadership expert, keynote speaker, and author of the forthcoming book, Ass Kicking Women: How They Leverage Their Informal Networks For Success. With her high energy presentations, Michele conveys sound leadership solutions and promotes audience engagement and on-your-feet participation. She promises her audience that they will leave her solution-driven keynotes and workshops with at least one passionate, life transforming leadership tool. For more information on bringing in Michele Wierzgac for your next event, please visit: https://micheleandco.com.

10 Commandments for the Inspirational Leader: The Foundation of Business Solutions

By Michele Wierzgac, MSEd

Michele-your personal brand

There are so many theories in leadership ranging from vision to self-awareness to service. The simplest way to develop your leadership skills is to have a work ethic mixed with a solid foundation of core values.

Inspirational leaders have commandments they work and live by. Commandments, or guidelines, lay the critical foundation for the development of leadership and business solutions.

All of you have your own commandments that you work and live by. These Ten Commandments will work as a guidebook to inspire your staff, increase workplace morale, and lay the foundation for a successful company.

1. Be truthful

Any leader aspiring to greatness must do two things all the time—listen and tell the truth. Inspirational leaders own up to their mistakes and correct them as soon as possible. Do not blame others for your error. And when someone comes up with a brilliant idea, give credit where credit is due. Do not take credit for the idea. You will be respected by your team.

2. Be consistent

Leaders are always performing like an actor on a stage. You must consistently and authentically act out your part in front of your audiences. You must lead with high energy, all day, every day. You must protect your personal brand.

3.Be empathetic

To start using empathy more effectively, put aside your viewpoint, and try to see things from the other person’s point of view. Then validate the other person’s perspective and examine your own attitude. Perhaps you are more concerned with being right rather than finding a solution or accepting others as they are. Listen with your heart to determine what the other person feels.

4.Be generous

Business and personal relationships are everything. Every relationship needs to be a two-way street. However, before a relationship can be formed, you need to give with zero expectation of receiving anything.

5. Be strong

Inspirational leaders bring a light to someone’s life. You become the message of hope and encouragement to your staff. Encouragement comes from focusing on the strength of another person to drive their motivation and perform at a higher level which adds value to the organization and your personal brand.

6.Be articulate

Effective leaders put words together based on the thoughts and needs of others. You must create the whole story out of words you have collected. Inspirational leaders are able to articulate and clarify what many of us have been thinking on the subject for a long time. Inspirational leaders seek and inspire excellence, not perfectionism. Go out there and learn so that you can return to your team members and inspire a culture of learning and accountability.

7. Be approachable

Are you accessible? Do you have appropriate body language? How you appear to others is key to being an inspirational leader. Some people have a fear of authority, but it is your responsibility to remove the barriers and establish an environment of trust. By using proper verbal communication and listening skills, you will become much more approachable and inspirational. You are in control of how approachable you are.

Your name can open and close doors for you. Guarding your personal brand needs to be a priority. Click To Tweet

8. Be a brand champion

If you are passionate about a common interest, you create a very attractive personal style of interaction, and inspire your team to become involved and take an interest in you. They become a brand champion, a supporter, and a cheerleader of sorts for you. In return, you become a brand champion for them. Because we share a bond, we naturally support one another no matter the situation because of our passion. Remember, passionate people are attuned to the five senses, taste, touch, scent, sound, and sight. Passion for a common purpose brings people and ignites warmth.

9. Be a genuine spirit

Talk to people—listen to what they have to say and what they actually mean. Sometimes those two can be completely different things. There is a beautiful story in everyone, so listen intently with an open mind; try to add value to the conversation wherever you can. Everyone has a gift—bring the best out of everyone. Among many other lessons of the heart, Leo Buscaglia reminds us “love is open arms. If you close your arms about love you will find that you are left holding only yourself.” Remember, some people are unreasonable and self-centered….love them anyway. Inspire them. Bring the best out of them.

10. Be credible

Reputation is about earning credibility, not expecting it. You must work hard at building credibility so others are confident about doing business with you. One way to earn credibility is to keep your promises. Another way is to be honest. Actions speak louder than words. If you are credible and honest, your personal brand will sell naturally. So make your brand work for you. Most people agree that there is a direct correlation between a person’s reputation and his or her success. How effectively you represent yourself in public often determines what you will accomplish in your life. Your name can open….and close….doors for you. Guarding your personal brand needs to be a priority.

As an inspirational leader do you have commandments that you work and live by? What do they look like?

Michele Wierzgac is a leadership expert, keynote speaker, and author of the forthcoming book, Ass Kicking Women: How They Leverage Their Informal Networks For Success. With her high energy presentations, Michele conveys sound leadership solutions and promotes audience engagement and on-your-feet participation. She promises her audience that they will leave her solution-driven keynotes and workshops with at least one passionate, life transforming leadership tool. For more information on bringing in Michele Wierzgac for your next event, please visit: https://micheleandco.com.