If you’ve read some of my recent posts, you know I’ve been chatting a lot in the past couple of months with executives and officers at local financial institutions, especially credit unions. During those conversations I’ve discovered something interesting…

Executives need to network.

No, really. They need to network more than just about any other position in an institution. Front line staff? Yes, it’s nice if they’re connected to the customer and certainly useful if they have an awareness of the needs of their coworkers, but they can complete their jobs without it – though they may not be an effective employee.

Salespeople? Referrals are definitely one of the best, most effective ways to get new customers, but there are many successful sales professionals out their who make their living through cold calls – no prior relationship required. I wouldn’t want to be them, but it certainly is possible.

The executives, though, that’s where the networking rubber really hits the road. Several of the CEO’s I’ve chatted with told me that everything they do is accomplished through some other person. The work they have to do to assemble and manage strong teams, to create strategic partnerships, even to be the face of the institution to the community, that all comes about as a result of building great connections.

While all those reasons should be enough, the most important reason of all is to develop a support network of their own. As Tina Dix, CEO of OUR Credit Union told me, “When I became CEO, suddenly everyone wanted to talk with me and I found I had no one to talk to myself.” Without a network of peers with whom they can share best practices or simply share war stories, many executives find themselves isolated and quickly burn out.

If you find yourself on the track to an executive office, of course, you need to develop the skills for the position, but be sure not to neglect the one skill you need to become truly successful in your new position…

The ability to connect.

As an executive, officer, or business owner, what steps are you taking right now to be more connected?