By Cody Hoyt (MBA ’14), Senior Manager for Marketing, Men’s UW, at Hanesbrands, Winston-Salem, NC
I have always loved being part of a team. I learned at an early age playing sports that being part of a team was equal parts motivating to and valuable for me. I found the accountability and camaraderie that came with being a team member drove me to excel and push myself further than I would individually. Understanding the value of leaning on others, learning from them, and seeking their guidance when I found myself in challenging scenarios has had a profound impact on how I have come to view the world.
Reflecting on these lessons learned early on, it makes sense I found myself enlisting in the United States Marine Corps at 18 years old. I began the journey with an understanding that teams are the foundation of the U.S. military structure. The smallest teams, comprised of four members, are combined into continually larger units. Conceptually, larger military units can only be successful if the smaller units are highly effective. So what then determines the efficacy of a team? One of my hopes when I enlisted was that during my time in the military I would find an answer to this question, refining my understanding of how to build and harness the value of effective teams.
When I left the military over 10 years ago, I took with me a deep understanding of team based culture. These lessons became the building blocks of how I have built my professional network over time. The most critical of these lessons is that effective teams are borne from bringing together a broad array of skills and viewpoints unified by a central focus.
So how can you use this lesson to create a strong and effective professional network?
First, shift your mindset to view your network as a team. This group of people with varying skills and viewpoints are all joined together by the central focus of your professional growth. This does not require you to hold team meetings or change your interaction with those in your network, it is simply a shift in your mindset. The change may seem subtle, but it is powerful. Rather than thinking about your network as a group of individuals to whom you are loosely connected, reframe your network as a team who has been brought together for a common purpose. As your mindset shifts, you will forge stronger bonds, drive more meaningful conversations, and gain more perspective from those on your team.
Second, think about who else you would like on your team. From what additional skills or knowledge areas could you benefit? It would be valuable to have someone on your team who has implemented a successful career strategy, just as it would be valuable to have someone on your team who knows how to navigate the leadership environment of your workplace. Who can you add to your team who does these things well? What other areas can you consider?
Finally, give back. It is great to have teammates you can lean on and learn from, but adding your own contribution to the team is critical. Are there two people on your team who would benefit from being connected with one another? You likely read an interesting article within the past week or two. Would someone on your team benefit from reading the same piece? It is important to remember that teams operate at their best when all members are willing to lend their voice and contribution.