"YES! I want to stay in touch!"

Executive coaching enlightenment from GDPR...

GDPR. Thank god it’s over.

The flood of emails over the last few weeks became a trickle on Friday, as the last few organisations got their privacy updates in, just under the wire. (Some were pretty big ones that I was surprised weren’t more organised - Tripadvisor, I’m talking about you.)

And I did notice a difference in the approach of big and small organisations. Big ones were often just informing you of your new rights, whereas small ones were begging you actively to opt-in. (I’m sure this is because the big ones were already GDPR-compliant and not because they are large enough to think they can get away with it…)

The kerfuffle did also include some unexpected contacts - a hotel I can’t remember staying in; a cufflink seller I used for my wedding six years ago. And that made me think about the value of networks.

We all have them - “our people”, those who have value to us in our careers - in GDPR terms, our email list.

These are the people who will support us when we need back-up: to get something done in our organisation; to advise us on how to deal with a tricky issue; or to neutralise a difficult person. They are vital to a successful career.

But these people have no value unless they are carefully and intentionally nurtured.

There is no point asking me to stay on an email list, if you have not once contacted me in ten years - why would I bother? There is no point asking one of your network to help you out in a sticky situation, if this is the first contact in months.

“Our people” will only be “ours” if they feel valued. They need to be helped out when they need it; they need regular contact, so you aren’t just getting in touch when you’re in trouble.

This requires a much more strategic approach to your network than most currently apply.

First, you must consider who your people are. Where do you most need support? Do you have allies in key places (Board level; HR; other teams in your organisation; people in the same position in other organisations)? If not, cultivate some.

Then ask, how can you be helpful to these people? Each will need a tailored approach to really maximise the value of the relationship. What kind of contact and at what frequency is optimal? Visualise what the ideal relationship looks and feels like - make it real in your mind. This will help you with the crucial part: taking the necessary actions to create it.

Implementing a more strategic approach to your network will help avoid the worst case scenario: a blank silence in response to an appeal for assistance when you really need it.

And instead you will develop and grow a powerful team of supporters that will not only advise, encourage and reinforce you; but will also help you achieve your career goals.

That is definitely worth more than a last minute panicked “stay in touch!” plea.