Hannah Wilson portrait

Hannah Wilson

I get asked a lot why I am so good at networking and it has become a theme I have thus run leadership training on over the years.

My answer to the question ranges from:

  • I am confident.
  • I am an extrovert.
  • I was brought up in a family where we were taken to a lot of social events.
  • I spent most of my teens working in hospitality.
  • I am outward-facing as a leader.

These are some of the reasons it comes to me quite naturally and some of the skills that I have developed over the years despite it being a barrier for a lot of women (according to research and anecdotally from my network).

In Giant’s Five Voices I am a Pioneer-Connector which means I like to break through boundaries and build relationships. i.e. I like to bring people with me on the journey:

  • The Pioneer is a future-oriented voice, with the ability to coordinate resources and people to turn big ideas into accomplishments.
  • The Connector thrives on spinning plates and making connections, as they seem to effortlessly remember details about what other people are working on and what they might need.

But on reflection I want to share with you some of the intentional things I have done over the years to build and grow my network as well as I don’t think people always appreciate the time, energy and resources that has been spent establishing and nurturing relationships.

I am very aware that I am currently picking the fruit from the seeds I planted several years ago and I think sometimes I make networking look easier than it is!

Joining social media – Twitter was my first foray into edu-networking as I was looking to find people outside of my organisation who were vision and values-aligned. I struggled with it at first and left, but then rejoined a few months later.

Attending teachmeets – by getting to grips with Twitter I began to connect with people virtually. I was living in London at this time and the grassroots scene was burgeoning so I started going to, then speaking at and then organising teachmeets.

Finding my tribe – co-founding #WomenEd was about finding leaders like me as I had just been appointed as a Vice Principal and I was the only female leader on the SLT. I needed to create a circle of support around me – existing women leaders and those who were very established in their career.

Following up from events – as we began to host and speak at more events, I made it a habit to follow up with new contacts on social media and email to stay connected. Sometimes it was as simple as a “it was great to meet you at the weekend”.

Being intentional at events – this led to me becoming more intentional before I went to events, especially conferences where there are so many sessions and speakers. I purposefully went to sessions to meet virtual contacts in real life. I also made sure I was following everyone on social media before I got there.

Expanding my digital footprint – I think it is LinkedIn which has been and continues to be the best platform to network on. As I relocated to Oxfordshire to take on my headship, I was networking 6 months before I arrived with peers in the county and with people I needed to connect with.

Becoming an introducer – I have a couple of nicknames that friends have given me including Del-Boy (I am good at negotiating a deal and leveraging the assets I have for what we need) and Cilla (I remember names, faces and find ways to connect people who are passionate about the same things).

Although my network can feel like a bit of a beast at times, and it does need a bit of pruning from time to time, I can say that the investment has definitely opened doors for me and created opportunities for me that I would never have dreamt of.

If it all sounds and feels a bit daunting, remember to take things one step at a time and be clear on what you are doing and why you are doing it. Other people will be finding it just as awkward as you are so don’t assume that the swans are not paddling madly under the water line to make it look effortless.