Principles - Network

Nurture Your Network

Some people find it hard to network. I think it’s because they think of networking like cold-calling: “Hi, I’m Gavriella. Would you like to be in my network” But that’s not how it works, right? Networking is constant. It happens every single day in every interaction we have from the moment we meet someone. So you have to nurture your network.

Every time I get an email or a call from Peter Boit, a former Microsoft co-worker, I’m reminded how important it is to make a good impression. 

Years ago, when Peter was the VP of eCommerce at Microsoft, I worked on a project with his team (I don’t even remember what it was now). I apparently made a good impression, because several years—and several roles later, Peter remembered the impact I had on that one project.  Peter became a great sponsor for me. And even after he left Microsoft, our paths continued to cross. After stops at Juniper Networks and Smartsheet, and as the Executive Vice President of Business Development for Icertis. He remains an integral part of our partner ecosystem, and I am thankful for our strong partnership. But I wonder if the relationship would be as strong, if I hadn’t made a good impression so many years ago.  Peter is just one example and I could give you hundreds. 

Every engagement you have with somebody is an opportunity to create a relationship and establish yourself as a trusted, engaged, and valuable person to them. If you take the time from your very first interaction to develop trusted relationships, your effort will pay dividends throughout your career.  You never know—five years from now your co-worker today may be your manager, a customer, or a pathway to your dream job.  Every job I have earned at Microsoft started with a door that opened from a connection in my network (and typically not from a leader level). 

Five key ways you can nurture your network:

  1. Be a great participant or leader in every project you work on
  2. Live up to your commitments – Do what you say you’ll do
  3. Value those around you – Understand the value every person brings
  4. Publicly credit people for every contribution that they make
  5. Be gracious and make others feel included

Over the years, my network has fueled my career and brought me inspiration. I can’t tell you how many great ideas I’ve been graciously given by co-workers and colleagues. And just as importantly, my network is filled with deep relationships and friendships that extend well beyond my work life. Nurturing your network is one of the best things you can do for yourself.

PRINCIPLES: C – Courage to soar

Principles - Courage

What’s the most courageous thing you’ve ever done? Something that makes your stomach hurt just thinking about it? Bungee jumping? Skydiving? Delivering a presentation in front of a packed room?

No doubt all those scenarios require courage.  But when I think of that word courage, my mind doesn’t first go to those big, nausea-inducing moments. Instead, I think of the everyday experiences we find ourselves in that demand courage.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, courage is the “mental or moral strength required to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”

Principles - Courage

When you’re sitting in a meeting and you have an idea that might be challenged, it takes courage to share it anyway. Conversely, when someone says something you disagree with, it takes courage to share your opinion with the group.

When I first started attending meetings with the Senior Leadership Team at Microsoft, it took all the courage I had to jump in and share my thoughts. In a group environment like that, it’s easy to feel vulnerable. You’re letting your guard down and opening yourself up to new teammates and new types of feedbacks. It takes nerve to put yourself out there.

Know yourself—and practice stepping outside your comfort zone

So, how do you muster the courage in situations like that? You need to know yourself, be unwavering in your beliefs and have an opinion. You also need to practice having courage.

Before you go into a situation where you think you might need to muster some courage, ask yourself a few questions:

  1. How do I feel about the idea being proposed?
  2. What experiences have shaped that opinion?
  3. How can I help others look at things from a new perspective?

When you’re able to consider and answer those questions, it’s easier to overcome the fear of feeling foolish, embarrassed or being incorrect. But you have to practice and be willing to put yourself out there.

Although It may feel uncomfortable, you need to embrace that energy and use it to become emboldened and courageous in whatever environment you find yourself in. The more you force yourself to step out of your comfort zone, the less nerve-wracking it becomes.

Share and listen

Having courage is something you owe yourself and the people you interact with. If someone says something that makes you feel excluded or disrespected, you need to stand up for yourself and share how their words made you feel.

By speaking up, you give others the opportunity to understand your thoughts and how their statements or actions have impacted you. If you don’t speak up, you rob yourself of the chance to deepen your relationships, to feel proud of yourself, and to honor yourself with the respect you deserve.

Now, courage isn’t just about speaking up or taking action. It takes equal courage to be a good listener too. You need to understand that other people in the room may be feeling uneasy too. You can help them by being a courageous listener.  Ask yourself:

  1. Am I open to opinions other than my own?
  2. Am I able to make space for people courageously contributing to the conversation?
  3. Do I have the courage to learn from critical feedback and push ahead with new perspective?

Courage is a core principle that takes confidence, willingness, and practice. We all have it within us to overcome our fears and help each other be courageous.

PRINCIPLES: I – Inclusive Behaviors Big and Small

Principles - Inclusive

I spent time testing out some gadgets at Microsoft’s flagship store on 5th Avenue, which was a blast! They have a ton of interactive experiences and hands-on learning opportunities for the public that showcase how Microsoft technology enables a range of users and abilities.

The work our product and engineering teams have done to create a world of inclusive and accessible technology is something I’m incredibly proud of. As Microsoft’s Accessibility team says, “There are no limits to what people can achieve when technology reflects the diversity of everyone. Our products and services are designed for people of all abilities.”

If you’re not already familiar with some of the incredible tools, technologies, and capabilities product teams have created, you can explore them here!

The power of praise and 3 claps

In addition to the awesome experiences at the flagship store, there was something else I witnessed that filled me with inspiration. Every morning, just before opening, the NYC Flagship team gathers for a rally. They stand in a big circle and team members lead a discussion on each event scheduled in the store that day—gaming sessions, community events, and customer groups coming in. It’s a chance to get everyone on the same page and excited about the diverse community they would be hosting.

Then, to wrap-up the meeting, there was a “praise session” where team members could give shout-outs for something great they saw happen at the store the day before. After each recognition, the whole team would give three-claps in appreciation. I loved this! It was super energizing!

Eventually, the rally would end with a special recognition. A team member from the previous day was singled-out as the Most Valuable Player for going above and beyond. I remember being filled with pride for these people I hadn’t even met. There was so much positive energy from creating an inclusive and empowering team moment for every person on the team!

Principles - Inclusive

Generating strength through inclusivity

The whole scene got me thinking—what are some small things I can do with my teams to drive energy and inclusivity in our organization? As leaders, we can get caught-up thinking we have to create big, elaborate exercises to build team unity.

But simple acts of inclusivity can be much more impactful. Taking the time to acknowledge individual or team contributions can go a long way. Even something as simple as listening intently as a group and recognizing someone else’s perspective is a powerful way to build team strength.

Here’s a challenge: What is one thing you can do today to promote inclusivity on your team?

Chime in below; maybe you’ll find ideas from others that would be perfect to integrate into your team!