Be it an innie or an outie, I’m sure you have a perfectly lovely bellybutton. I had mine pierced for a time in my twenties. It was fun to look at. Maybe yours is too. The thing about navel gazing though, is that it’s a great way to fall flat on your face.
As it turns out, navel gazing is a very dangerous thing. Especially when it comes to our careers.
When we turn our attention inward, and decline to engage with the world around us, we put ourselves at risk, not only of a painfully stiff neck, but also of becoming uninformed, disconnected, and in the worst cases, completely irrelevant.
Navel gazers prioritize their needs for certainty and significance over truth. When we avoid outside input, we deprive ourselves of information that might cause us to question our knowledge, our beliefs and our biases. That’s never good.
We become unaware of what’s going on around us. We lack competitive intelligence. Who’s doing what? Who’s launching what? Who’s changing, who’s growing and who’s faltering? Due to this lack of comparative input, we misunderstand (and often overestimate) our personal competency, as well as our company’s competitiveness in the marketplace. We’re unable to sense what’s emerging, and we make faulty predictions. Our lack of knowledge causes us to chase red herrings, and to waste time and resources. We don’t improve. We don’t challenge ourselves. We dig in and hunker down. We stagnate. It’s a text book way to get stuck.
One of the first things I assess when working with a new client is their level of connection to their coworkers, those in their industries and communities and even their competitors. In other words, I want to know about their network. Because for Unstuck Leaders, connection, both within the organization and outside of it is imperative.
J. Kelly Hoey, author of Build Your Dream Network says that, “When you know people and those people know what you do, success knows how to find you.” Amen sister. Those who cultivate strong networks have the inside track not only on career opportunities, but on emerging trends, as well as new ideas and perspectives. And, they have access to advice and support when facing challenges. All this gives them the most important career edge there is – it gives them confidence.
Building a great network begins with curiosity and generosity. It does not necessarily begin with schmoozing at a network event, so if the idea of saddling up to a stranger while holding a cocktail fills you with dread, have no fear. Networking is really about being useful to people. And in time, they will choose to be useful to you. We meet people all the time – customers, suppliers, contractors, etc. Get curious about them. Ask about their job, their company, their industry, their challenges and interests. And then, when you come across an opportunity or piece of information that may be useful to them, send it their way. Over time, you may connect with them on social media, meet them for a coffee or a lunch, and bam, before you know it, you have a meaningful relationship.
All it takes is commitment on your part. I don’t care if you’re an introvert or an extrovert, a people person or a loner, you’ve got to get out there. And don’t tell me you don’t have enough time. Because as J. Kelly Hoey puts it, when we make that excuse, what we’re really saying is:
“I don’t have time for other people, and I won’t make the time to invest in myself.”
Neither is a good look.
So, heads up! Your bellybutton isn’t that great after all.