Is It What You Know Or Who You Know?

Finding the keys to climbing the corporate ladder can be a complicated process. Many times leaders think they are doing what will make them more successful, just to find out later that someone else is passing them by. So the question is, “does your success depend more on what you know or who you know?” As much as we would all like to think the answer is what you know, most executives will tell you that your relationships are far more important than you knowledge.

Do you know of someone that just always seems to be getting recognition and promotions, and you really do not feel they are performing at a higher level than you? Can you think of examples where a new leader will bring in people from other organizations, later to find out that they used to work together? I can tell you from my personal experience that the best positions I have held in organizations came from people I reported to in another company. Why? I think there are a couple of reasons. One, because they know what you can do. They would rather stay with the a “known” performer than take a chance on someone that is great at building a resume and impressing you at an interview, but fails at the performance test. Second, a “relationship” has been created, and we like to maintain positive relationships as we move from one company to another.

Keep in mind that I am not saying that you can be a poor performer always be successful. You need to have a track record of success with this person, or they would not continue to hire you as part of their team (unless you are related to them). What I am saying is that you may not need to be the top performer to continue to benefit from these relationships.

So what should you be doing to benefit from the “relationship” factor? First, find influential people that you can begin to engage with. Choose people that have integrity and respect of others, and obviously someone in a position of authority. Next, find ways to support these people. Make a positive impression in meetings and in communications so they notice you. And finally, look for opportunities to get in front of them so you can begin to build a relationship. If they know who you are and what you can do, they will take the opportunity to bring you on board.

So the bottom line is, focus on building great relationships with the right people for your career growth.