Tag Archives: good old boys network

2 ways to exploit the good old boys network

My partner Karen was pointedly told, “We can’t use you as a recruiter.”  She went to the head of HR and said, “I was just told you can’t use me anymore.  Is that true?”  The answer was, “Of course we can still use you.  You bring us our best people.”

Karen was part of the good old boy network in several banks and other companies.  She knew who to call.  They knew they should call her when they have a particular problem.  Karen exploits them, and they exploit Karen. Actually, it is a case of mutual trust.

How to exploit the network

There are two ways to exploit the network.

1. Become part of it.

2. Get a couple of powerful players to trust you so you can use them.

By the way, number two is number one on a minor scale.

The way to exploit the network is to become part of it.  It isn’t a matter of becoming the chief string puller.  You need to discover two or three influencers and take them to lunch, help them out or get their help.  The manager 2 levels above you relies on the advice of a host of people.  Who does he rely on in cases you care about?  Which people have been able to shoot down your favorite projects?  Is there someone who always seems to be able to get a budget for little projects?  Those are people who are significant players in the good old boy network.  They can get things done. They have “juice.”

One more time: invite the folks in the network to lunch one at a time.  Do it after you have had a chance to compliment them about some project they got funded or finished on time.  Tell them you want to talk to them about how they did it.  Ask them to help you understand who influences projects like that. And if they don’t accept your invitation, be prepared to talk with them for a few more minutes about what THEY care about.  The invitation and the conversation are important, not the lunch.

Or you can help them out.  If they have a project, ask if you can help.  Volunteer to do research outside of work hours.  Do what you can. You can even ask them for help or an opinion on one of your projects.

Under capitalism, man exploits man.  Under communism it’s just the opposite. (John Kenneth Galbraith)

The way to exploit the good old boy network is to become a minor or major part of it. You can’t always do it, but it is worth trying.  Don’t worry, you don’t have to knife anyone in the back.  You have to be able to get things done.

Something to do today

Figure out who the “good old boys” are.  Ask them to help you with particular projects that will succeed.  Give them credit for their help.  Get a reputation for winning.

What the master of the good old boy network does

I wrote an ad for a perfect job networking guru a few years ago.

“I need to hire someone who knows how companies work.  He has to quickly figure out what really motivates people.  He has to walk into a room of executives and figure out which ones are the real decision makers, not just the ones with titles.  If he can’t figure out who the influencers and elephants are during a one hour group meeting, I don’t want him.”

That was one of the most difficult recruiting assignments I ever worked on.  That describes the perfect executive and the perfect salesperson.  The perfect team leader and assembly line worker can do the same thing. It really describes the master of the good old boy network.

The good old boy network is really a bunch of people, men and women, who have learned to trust each other.  They know what motivates the other people in the network.  They know the hidden agendas as well as the stated goals.  Some people want to be executives with a home life.  Others want to get away from their family as much as possible.  One guy wants money and another wants fame, a third just wants more people reporting to him.  Then there is the guy who wants most to be an influencer.

This ad hoc network offends many people.  It exists in most companies, even small ones. It is a major part of every industry and government. It is the groupings of people who rely on each other to really get things done.  The good old boy network is reality.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about some ways to exploit those good old boys.

Something to do today

The first step towards exploiting the good old boys is to recognize who they are. Get in the habit of asking people who put off a decision they should be able to make, “Who should we run this by before a final decision is made?”


Later: Exploit the good old boys

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