In Culture

Last week, I wrote about why it’s so important to have a dedicated, sustained focus on social capital in the workplace. Any good leader knows they are only as good as the people on their team. In the past they led us to focus on human capital (the skills, knowledge, and experience and the value people with those qualities bring to the organization).

But in today’s world, social capital (cooperative and productive benefits we get from our social relationships and networks) is just as important as human capital. Arguably, that’s always been true, but the trends of a decentralized workforce, more remote workers, and an increase in the use of freelance workers add even more importance to social capital.

In fact, I think leaders should focus just as much on social capital as they do on human l capital and even financial capital. After all, good social capital can help solve many financial and human capital issues anyway. We are going to need to excel in all three areas in order to become successful and sustain that success.

So as leaders, how do we encourage and sustain a focus on social capital for ourselves and on our teams? Networking is part of the answer, but that’s not a word that gets many people excited. I don’t know about you, but when I used to hear “networking,” I envisioned standing around at cocktail parties making small talk. But it is so much more than that.

You can find lists with dozens of practical ideas for building social capital (have lunch in the common area! Ask someone how their day was!), but I came up with a few overarching themes or principles. These ideas will help you guide you and your team in building social capital.

  1. Offer help: The best and fastest way to build trust within your network and to expand that network is to offer help. Help could be in the form of your time, your advice, an offer to make an introduction, a referral, an answer, or an outside perspective. Being known as a willing helper strengthens your existing relationships.
  2. Ask for help: Believe it or not, but asking for help is just as important for building social capital as offering help. Your networks want to help you as much as you want to help them, and giving them an opportunity to do so cements social bonds.
  3. Be a “giver”: So much of the advice around building social capital is oriented around what you can get from other people and how to maximize what you take. I can see it from a mile away when someone is getting close to me just to benefit themselves. Approach all new contacts from the perspective of “what do I have to offer this person?” instead of “what’s in it for me.” You can read Adam Grant’s book Give and Take for a far more nuanced view on the personal and career advantages of being a giver, a taker, or a matcher.
  4. Show gratitude: I’m not suggesting you overdo it and fall over yourself to thank someone for sending you a file you need. But make sure they know that you appreciate their help when they give it. It can be as simple as a quick email or note of appreciation for a small favor or introduction, acknowledging them publicly in a team meeting, or in the case of a special favor, a handwritten note or small gift. Be a person that people enjoy helping.
  5. Listen: My goal is to listen more than I talk in meetings, especially as a leader. If I’m invited to a meeting to contribute my expertise, I do so willingly, but I also make sure I sit back and listen thoughtfully to the issues before jumping in.
  6. Be a good role model: We all know the very best way to foster new practices in our teams is to model these principles ourselves. If your team sees you as an effective leader who values and prioritizes the social network appropriately, they will follow suit.

Give and Take has a knowledge collaboration platform called Givitas that makes it easy to accomplish all of these fundamental principles of improving and increasing social capital. Schedule a demo today if you’d like to learn more.

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