Networking for success - Canadian Government Executive
Best Practice
May 7, 2012

Networking for success

The TRIC model of leadership is enshrined in the Ontario Public Service’s core competencies for managers and executives. The T is for Transform, manage change; R is for delivering Results; I is for Inspire (rather than command and control); and C is for Connects: connecting across boundaries, working horizontally, networking with colleagues in the private sector, other levels of government and other ministries or departments.

As recognized by the TRIC model, networking is a critical component of good public sector leadership. There are number of key reasons to hone this skill: 

  • Expand you influence, to market yourself and your organization;
  • Increase your knowledge base, your knowledge network;
  • Meet your immediate or long-term career goals; 
  • Gather intelligence and best practices from colleagues in different walks of life;
  • Develop sustainable partnerships, alliances and friends; and
  •  Because it’s fun!

A network map

Lay out your network, not the important many contacts you have but the vital few that are important to you at any one time. A network map is personal and changes with time. You’ll notice that networks that were important at one stage of your life evolve to others that are more prominent. A network map will identify gaps in networks that you need to develop. 

Tools of the trade

Business cards: it’s basic to networking so always have a dozen handy. Keep three in your wallet, and the rest in your binder or briefcase. If you’re caught short on a trip away from your office, photocopy the last one at a hotel business center or photocopy outlet. Never be without.

Business card binders: keep your cards organized under type of contact, federal, provincial, municipal, suppliers, universities and colleges, professional organizations, various countries. Plastic business card holders are available at any business supply outlet. Write a short note on each card before filing such as: has wolfhound, Queen’s grad, drinks scotch. This tweaks your memory when you have to re-connect. Electronic business card software exists as do address files in email programs but I’ve never found them particularly useful. Then again, I prefer a paper copybook to an electronic book any day.

Useful networks

A few organizations stand out as important for young or new public sector professionals. One is IPAC, the Institute for Public Administration in Canada (www.ipac.ca). A special rate for new professionals or students helps ease you in. IPAC is the premier organization for federal, provincial and municipal public servants. Membership in IPAC always looks good on a resume. Local IPAC regional groups in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Hamilton, Toronto, National Capital Region, Montreal, Quebec, Fredericton, Halifax and Charlottetown exist to provide networking opportunities at a local level. The annual national conference is the event to be at. 

The other organization that MPA students and young professionals should join is the Canadian Public Sector Quality Association (www.CPSQA.ca). Their annual event is in Ottawa in February. 

Each provincial government has organizations that provide additional networking opportunities. In Ontario, the Provincial Interministerial Council and their regional and local community councils are great networks. TOPS, or Tomorrows OPS, is for new professionals and the Quarter Century Club is for public servants with 25 years of service and provides services, discounts, recognition events and opportunities for its 86,000 active and retired public servants. 

The federal government has federal councils in Ontario, Quebec, Eastern and Western Canada. APEX, the Association of Professional Executives of the Public Service of Canada, the National Managers Community and the Federal Superannuates National Association provide networking opportunities for federal government public servants. And of course, on a personal level social clubs, golf course memberships, scotch clubs and a variety of not-for-profits and volunteer organizations provide for expanded networks depending on your interests.

Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, whether you like socializing or not, networking is a necessary competency for public sector executives and the higher up you go the more critical it becomes. If you have trouble starting to develop your network, find one or two “super-connectors.” They are those people that network effortlessly, that will share their networks gladly and will introduce you to people you need to build your inventory; and in return, you’ll help the next new public sector professional develop their networks. Pay it forward.

 

Vic Pakalnis, P.Eng, is president of the Ontario Public Service Quarter Century Club and a member of CGE’s editorial advisory board.

 

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